If you just found out you are HIV-positive...

Published 16, Mar, 2017
Author // CATIE - HIV and Hep C Info Resource

CATIE's must-read information for the newly diagnosed.

If you just found out you are HIV-positive...

Finding out you have HIV may be a shock. You do not have to go through this alone: There is help. With ongoing treatment, care and support, HIV can be managed. You can live long and well with HIV.

You’ve already taken the first step by getting tested. Now it is important to get care and treatment as soon as you can.

1. HIV can be treated. Talk to the person who gave you your test result about finding a doctor who treats people with HIV. If they cannot give you the name and number of an HIV doctor or a clinic that specializes in HIV, call the HIV hotline in your area or visit HIV411.

2. HIV treatment might be simpler than you think. Newer HIV medications are easier to take and usually cause few side effects. Treatment can help you stay healthy and greatly reduces your chance of passing HIV on to others.

3. You may be contacted by a public health nurse who will provide you with basic information about HIV. The nurse will also talk to you about informing your current and past sex partners and (if you use drugs) people you have shared drug equipment with that it is important for them to have an HIV test. This can be done anonymously, without giving your name to these partners.

4. You don’t have to tell everyone you have HIV, but you do have a legal duty to tell your sex partner(s) before having sex if there is a risk of transmission.

5. Find out how you can keep yourself and others safe. HIV can be passed to others during sex or by sharing equipment for using drugs (such as needles). But there are things you can do to practice safer sex—for example, you can use condoms and take HIV medications to maintain an undetectable viral load. If you use drugs, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of transmission, such as using new equipment every time you use.

To find out more about safer sex and safer drug use, talk to a public health nurse or other healthcare worker or call CATIE.

6. Getting support is important. HIV organizations can provide information and counselling and connect you with other services in your area. To find an HIV organization in your area visit HIV411.ca or contact CATIE.

For more information:

If you have questions, you can call the HIV hotline in your area or talk to one of CATIE’s Regional Health Education Coordinators at 1-800-263-1638. Your call will be treated as private and confidential. Please note that we accept collect calls during office hours.

Lines are open Monday to Thursday from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

You can also e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (E-mail is not private or confidential. For your protection, our responses will not include any confidential information.)

Here are some resources to help take you through the next steps:

Finding help in your area

To locate an HIV organization or other HIV-related service in your area, visit HIV411.

For the HIV hotline in your area see HIV hotlines.

Coming to terms with your diagnosis

Healthy living

  • The Positive Side, CATIE’s health and wellness magazine for people living with HIV

Safer sex and safer drug use

HIV treatment

  • When to start from A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Treatment, CATIE’s guide to antiretroviral therapy

HIV and the law

This article previously appeared at CATIE, here.

Une version française est disponible ici.

About the Author

CATIE - HIV and Hep C Info Resource

CATIE - HIV and Hep C Info Resource

CATIE is Canada’s source for up-to-date, unbiased information about HIV and hepatitis C. We connect people living with HIV or hepatitis C, at-risk communities, healthcare providers and community organizations with the knowledge, resources and expertise to reduce transmission and improve quality of life. For more details, please visit www.catie.ca or call 1-800-263-1638.

CATIE est la source d’information à jour et impartiale sur le VIH et l’hépatite C au Canada. Notre but est de partager les connaissances, les ressources et l’expertise avec les personnes vivant avec le VIH ou l’hépatite C, les communautés à risque, les fournisseurs de soins de santé et les organismes communautaires afin de diminuer la transmission des virus et d’améliorer la qualité de vie. Pour plus de renseignements, veuillez consulter www.catie.ca ou appelez le 1.800.263.1638.

Decisions about particular medical treatments should always be made in consultation with a qualified medical practitioner knowledgeable about HIV-related illness and the treatments in question.  CATIE’s full disclaimer

Toute décision concernant un traitement médical particulier devrait toujours se prendre en consultation avec un professionnel ou une professionnelle de la santé qualifié(e) qui a une expérience des maladies liées au VIH et des traitements en question. Déni de responsabilité de CATIE