In Ontario, there is high quality HIV medical care available. If you are new to Ontario, you can access health care through your private insurance, the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP), the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), or the Ontario Temporary Health Program, depending on your immigration status (e.g., immigrant, refugee, student, temporary worker, or visitor).

If you are not entitled to public health care coverage, you may be able to access health care by going to a community health centre free of charge. To find a community health centre near you, click here.

Important: In Ontario, health care is confidential under the Personal Health Information Act. Doctors are required by law to maintain patient confidentiality. Do not be afraid to ask your provider(s) questions about their privacy and confidentiality policies.

You can also contact the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) for advice on accessing health care.

If you need urgent medical care, you can go to a hospital emergency room. A hospital is required to admit you, if your life is endangered. If you do not have an OHIP card, you will get a bill for the services provided by the hospital. If you cannot pay the bill, speak with your worker at your local AIDS service organization (ASO) or a lawyer. Do not let the prospect of a bill prevent you from going to a hospital emergency room if you are in need of urgent medical care.

Not just any doctor or nurse practitioner can provide the high quality care needed and that you have a right to. To find high quality HIV care contact your local ASO or community health centre. You can also contact Health Care Connect.

In some cases, the care is provided by a person who specializes in treating infections like HIV. To access their services you need a referral from a family doctor.

To find an ASO near you, contact the Ontario AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario), and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario).The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

In Ontario, you can also dial 211 on your phone or visit 211 Ontario to find an ASO or community health centre near you. To find a family doctor, you can also go to Health Care Connect or call 1-800-445-1822 (toll-free).

You can also go to Health Care Connect to find a doctor.

Key Information Directory

Living Healthy

Living with HIV can be difficult and stressful. With the right HIV medication and help from a doctor, you can stay healthy for a long time. In Ontario, there are many doctors who specialize in treating people with HIV.

Taking your HIV medications and seeing a doctor regularly are two important things you can do to live a long, healthy life. Other things you can do to take care of yourself include:

  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising a few times each week
  • Sleeping 6-8 hours each night
  • Managing your emotional, mental and spiritual health
  • Accessing social supports

If you want to speak to a counsellor, call the Ontario AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine. They can assist you to find a confidential counsellor, an AIDS service organization (ASO) or other HIV/AIDS programs near you. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario)and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario).The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

Accessing Support

If you are living with HIV or want to talk to someone about HIV/AIDS, you can visit an AIDS service organization (ASO) in your city or town. ASOs provide free programs and services. They are located across Ontario, and serve many different people from different countries and cultural backgrounds. ASO workers are prepared to answer your questions and will keep your information completely private and confidential.

Each ASO in Ontario offers different services based on the needs of their clients. Depending on what services you need, ASO workers will help you find another service provider in your city or town who can help.

If you want to speak to a counsellor, call the Ontario AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine. They can assist you to find a confidential counsellor or to find an AIDS service organization (ASO) or other HIV/AIDS programs near you. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario)and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

Accessing Medications

HIV medication is not free in Ontario. Finding a program to pay for HIV medication can take some time. As a person who is new to Ontario, you may not yet qualify for health care services and insurance. If you do not have an insurance plan to cover the cost of HIV medication, you can apply for government financial support programs that can help you pay for medication.

  • People with HIV live longer, healthier lives if they take HIV treatments as soon as they can after learning they have HIV.
  • HIV treatments today are much easier to take and have fewer side-effects.

Ask your doctor or nurse practitioner, or get help from your local community health centre, settlement agency or AIDS service organization (ASO) to find out what compassionate or financial support program you may be eligible to apply to. Your doctor, nurse practitioner or a support worker at one of these organizations can help you fill out the paperwork and apply.

To find a community health center near you, call ServiceOntario, INFOline at 1-866-532-3161 (toll-free).

To find a settlement agency near you, visit Settlement.Org.

To find an ASO and other HIV programs near you, contact the Ontario AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario)and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario).The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

In Ontario, you can dial 211 on your phone or visit 211 Ontario to find an ASO and other HIV/AIDS programs in your city or town. Use your location to find services near you.

You can also visit HIV411.ca and search for an ASO using your postal code, or the name of your city or town.

You may also be able to get coverage through one of the programs listed below:

Caring for the whole you

Getting settled in your new home may seem overwhelming. You may not be sure how or where to find help. If you are worried about HIV or if you are living with HIV, you can get help and services from different organizations in your city or town.

There are organizations in Ontario that can help you with:

  • Mental health and emotional wellness counselling and support
  • Financial and employment services
  • Food and day-to-day living
  • Harm reduction
  • Sexual health
  • Housing
  • Legal support and referral
  • HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing

Contact the Ontario  AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine to speak to a counsellor who can help you find an AIDS service organization (ASO) or other HIV/AIDS programs and services in your city or town. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario)and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario).The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

In Ontario, you can dial 211 on your phone or visit 211 Ontario to find an ASO and other HIV/AIDS programs in your city or town. Use your location to find services near you.

You can also visit HIV411.ca and search for an ASO using your postal code, or the name of your city or town.

Finding a good HIV Doctor

In Ontario, there is very high quality HIV medical care available. But, not just any doctor or nurse practitioner can provide the high quality care needed and that you have a right to. To find high quality HIV care contact your local AIDS service organization (ASO) or community health centre. You can also contact Health Care Connect.

In some cases, the care is provided by a person who specializes in treating infections like HIV. To access their services you need a referral from a family doctor.

Important: In Ontario, health care is confidential under the Personal Health Information Act. Doctors are required by law to maintain patient confidentiality. Do not be afraid to ask your provider questions about their privacy and confidentiality policies.

To find an ASO near you, contact the Ontario AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario), and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario).The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

To find a family doctor, you can also go to Health Care Connect or call 1-800-445-1822 (toll-free).

Testing positive for HIV is stressful. It is normal to feel scared and overwhelmed. No matter what you are feeling, try to remember that with proper care, treatment and support, you can live a long, healthy life with HIV.

If you test positive for HIV, it is important to see an HIV-experienced doctor as soon as possible. If you are not sure if your family doctor can give you HIV care, your local AIDS service organization (ASO) or a public health nurse can help you find an HIV doctor.

All doctors in Ontario are required by law to keep your medical information and anything you tell them private. Some people worry about their privacy and do not get medical care as a result. Try not to avoid getting medical care because of this.

You are not alone. Connect with your local ASO or other HIV/AIDS programs to find support and information in your community. Call the Ontario  AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine to speak to a counsellor or to find an ASO near you, where you can seek advice. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario), and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario).The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

There is support available in Ontario. If you know someone living with HIV, it is important to take care of your own health and well-being as well. To find the support you need, contact the Ontario AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario), and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario).The InfoLine is a free and anonymous.

Finding a Good HIV Doctor

There is support available in Ontario. If you know someone living with HIV, it is important to take care of your own health and well-being as well. To find the support you need, contact the Ontario AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario)and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

There are many ways to prevent HIV when it comes to sex. These include:

Condoms testing

Condoms are an important tool in preventing HIV. There are many types available in Ontario. You can buy these, or you can often get them at health care offices, AIDS service organizations, or other public health sites.

Condoms come in both internal (sometimes called female) or external (sometimes called male) forms. Condoms are best used in combination with a water-based or silicone-based lubricant during anal, vaginal or oral sex. For more information about condoms and preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, click here.

Treatment (Undetectable Viral Load)

Viral load refers to the amount of HIV virus present in the blood of a person living with HIV. If a person’s viral load is “undetectable,” it means that the virus is still present, but below the level that tests can detect. For people living with HIV, an undetectable viral load greatly reduces the risk of HIV transmission.  In fact, recent research is suggesting that if somebody is undetectable the risk is considered negligible and that somebody who has an undetectable viral load may not be able to pass on the virus. However, people’s viral load can also increase without any clear symptoms.

If you are having sex with somebody who has a different HIV status than you, here are some things to keep in mind about undetectable viral load:

  • Viral load can and does fluctuate for some people – a single “undetectable” viral load test result does not mean that HIV will be undetectable in the future, so regular testing is important. An undetectable viral load sustained over six months greatly reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
  • Adherence to HIV medications (i.e., taking them as prescribed) is key to maintaining an undetectable viral load.
  • Having an undetectable viral load does not reduce the risk of transmitting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and it is possible that having STIs increases the risk of transmitting HIV. If you are having sex without a condom because you have a low viral load, it is important to test for other STIs regularly.
  • Currently, an undetectable viral load does not protect an HIV-positive person from criminal prosecution for HIV non-disclosure. In Canada, if you are living with HIV and have sex without a condom with someone who is not HIV-positive, the law says you have to disclose your HIV status to your sexual partner or you could face criminal prosecution. For more information on the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, go to the Disclosure and Criminalization Section.

For up-to-date and emerging information on viral load and other HIV prevention strategies, please visit CATIE.

Same HIV status sex

Having sex with people who are of the same HIV status as you, whether positive or negative, can help reduce the risk of HIV transmission. This is sometimes called “serosorting”.

The idea behind this strategy is that if people living with HIV are only having sex with other people living with HIV, and HIV-negative people are only having sex with HIV-negative people, then HIV-negative people are not going to be exposed to HIV. While it seems simple in concept, there are factors that can make it more complicated in real life. In fact, some organizations recommend serosorting for HIV-positive people and discourage it for HIV-negative people as it can be more difficult to be sure of an HIV-negative status. If you are considering serosorting as an HIV prevention strategy, there are some things to consider:

For HIV-negative people: You cannot be sure your partner is HIV-negative. They might not know their status: 20% of people in Ontario who are HIV-positive do not know that they are. They might have had sex without condoms or used another HIV prevention strategy (like PrEP) since their last HIV test, or they might have been infected within the window period before their last HIV test (up to 12 weeks). They might not understand how testing works, or assume they are HIV-negative because they have no symptoms. If you are going to have “condomless” sex (sex without a condom) with other people you think are HIV-negative, here are some strategies to consider:

  • Get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on a regular basis.
  • Talk to your sexual partner(s) about their HIV status, and do not make assumptions. If they are a regular partner, do not assume their status or sexual health has not changed since the last time you discussed this with them
  • If you cannot have an open and honest conversation, or cannot be sure of their HIV status, consider what information you do not know and whether you are comfortable having condomless sex in this situation.

For HIV-positive people: There is still the possibility of getting or passing on other STIs, like syphilis and hepatitis C. If you are going to have condomless sex with other people living with HIV, here are some strategies to consider:

  • Get tested for STIs and hepatitis C on a regular basis.
  • Talk to your partner about their HIV status, STIs, and sexual health strategies. If they are a regular partner, do not assume their status or sexual health has not changed since the last time you discussed this with them

For tips and strategies, click here.

Sexual activities and positions

There are sexual activities and positions that pose a lower risk of HIV transmission. For tips and strategies, talk to a worker at your local AIDS service organization (ASO). To find an ASO and other HIV/AIDS programs near you, call the Ontario AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine. For information in English and many other languages at 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario), and in French at 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

In Ontario, you can dial 211 on your phone or visit 211 Ontario to find an ASO and other HIV/AIDS programs in your city or town. Use your location to find services near you.

You can also visit HIV411.ca and search for an ASO using your postal code, or the name of your city or town.

PrEP

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a long-term medication prescribed to HIV-negative people who may be at risk for HIV. PrEP may be useful for people who have sex with people who are HIV-positive, or who do not know their sexual partner’s HIV status. It is important to be informed about PrEP, including possible side effects. Talk to a doctor to learn more about PrEP. For more information on PrEP, click here.

PEP

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a medication you can take if you think you have been exposed to HIV. If you think you were exposed, see a health care professional right away. There is a 72-hour window to take the medication after exposure however it is best to start PEP as soon as possible. When you are speaking to the health care professional, inquire about cost and coverage. There is coverage in some cases, but not all cases. For more information about PEP click here or call the Ontario AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine for information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario)and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

Communication

You may be able to reduce your risk of HIV through communication and/or relationship agreements regarding abstinence, HIV status, monogamy, condom use, etc.

For tips and strategies, talk to your doctor, a counsellor at a sexual health clinic, or a counsellor at an AIDS service organization (ASO). To find a sexual health clinic, ASO and other HIV/AIDS programs near you, call the Ontario AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine. For information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario)and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

In Ontario, you can dial 211 on your phone or visit 211 Ontario to find an ASO and other HIV/AIDS programs in your city or town. Use your location to find services near you.

Getting tested

Get tested to know your HIV status. You should also get tested for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs), because they can increase your risk of getting HIV. To find a sexual health clinic near you, call the Ontario AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine at 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario).

There are three ways HIV can be passed (transmitted) from one person to another:

  1. Sexual transmission (the most common way is through “condomless” vaginal or anal sex)
  2. Blood transmission (shared needles or other drug use equipment)
  3. Vertical transmission (formerly referred to as “mother-to-child transmission”).  HIV can be transmitted during pregnancy, labour and delivery, or through breastfeeding.

There are only five fluids in the body that contain enough HIV to infect someone. These are:

  1. Blood
  2. Semen (including pre-cum/pre-ejaculatory fluid)
  3. Anal fluid
  4. Vaginal fluid
  5. Breast milk

You can have HIV and not know it. The only way to know for sure is by getting tested.

For more information about HIV, visit CATIE. To find out where to get tested for HIV, call the Ontario AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine for information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario), and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get an HIV test. Testing is free in Ontario and you do not need a Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card to get tested.

To find out where to get tested for HIV, contact the Ontario AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine to speak to a counsellor at 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free, anonymous, and available in English and many other languages.

HIV testing is part of the regular immigration or refugee claim process in Canada. If you have tested positive for HIV during your immigration process, please contact the InfoLine above.

Your sexual health is just as important as your overall physical health. According to the World Health Organization, “sexual health is a state of physical, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

Ontario has many resources to support you in maintaining your sexual health. To learn more about sexual health in Ontario, call the AIDS and Sexual Health InfoLine for information in English and many other languages: 416-392-2437 or 1-800-668-2437 (toll-free in Ontario), and French: 1-800-267-7432 (toll-free in Ontario). The InfoLine is free and anonymous.

In Ontario, there is help for people living with HIV who want to have a baby. With the right medication and help from a doctor, most women or men living with HIV have healthy HIV-negative babies. If you are living with HIV and are interested in having a baby, talk to your doctor.

Prenatal HIV Testing
If you are pregnant, the doctor will recommend that you take an HIV test early in your pregnancy. This is to make sure that you get the right care and can make informed decisions about your health and the health of your baby.  Prenatal HIV testing is free in Ontario. These services are confidential under the Personal Health Information Act.  If you want to learn more about each provider’s privacy and confidentiality policies, feel free to ask them directly.

Breastfeeding
In Ontario, breastfeeding is not recommended for mothers living with HIV, because breast milk is one of the body fluids that carries the HIV virus. This may be a different practice than in other countries. It is important to work with a health care professional to get support about this. In Ontario, you can access free formula (breast milk substitute) and other supports through the Teresa Group or by calling 416-596-7703.

 

Other Resources

Teresa Group

You Can Have a Healthy Pregnancy if You Are HIV Positive

Supporting Mothers in Ways That Work: A Resource Toolkit for Service Providers Working with Mothers Living with HIV

Using drugs safely can help prevent HIV. Many agencies in Ontario work to promote safer drug use, thereby reducing the risk of HIV transmission, overdose or negative side effects.

Here are some brief facts about drug use:

  • Drugs may be prescribed (legal) or they may be purchased outside of pharmacies from friends or acquaintances (illegal).
  • Drugs can be smoked, swallowed, snorted and injected.
  • Drugs include uppers, downers, and hallucinogens.

If you are living with HIV, drugs can interact with your HIV medications. To learn about how certain drugs may interact with HIV medications, visit HIV Drug Interactions.

For more information about safer drug use in Ontario, please visit:

These services are confidential under Ontario’s Personal Health Information Act. If you want to learn more about each provider’s privacy and confidentiality policies, feel free to ask them directly.

Other Supports
The Drug and Alcohol Helpline provides free information about drug and alcohol addiction services. Contact them at 1-800-565-8603 or to chat or email. Someone will be there to answer your questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) offers a range of services to people who want to reduce or change their drug use. For more information about CAMH services, click here, or contact their Assessment Service at 416-535-8501 and press the number 2 to talk to someone.

African, Caribbean and Black Communities

African, Caribbean and Black people are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. According to the Ontario HIV Epidemiology and Surveillance Initiative’s 2015 data, while representing about 4% of the population of Ontario, African, Caribbean and Black people represented approximately 25% of new HIV diagnoses. In the same year, African, Caribbean and Black women accounted for about 58% of new HIV diagnoses among all women in the province. The main mode of transmission of HIV in African, Caribbean, and Black communities is through heterosexual sex.

For more information, visit the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario.

Aboriginal

Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by HIV. According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Aboriginal people represent under 4% of the Canadian population; however, they represent 12.5% of new HIV infections. Aboriginal people in Ontario are 1.7 times more likely to contract HIV than the overall population. Aboriginal women are disproportionately affected by HIV, making up 40% of new HIV diagnoses among Ontario’s Aboriginal population, compared to 17% of all newly diagnosed cases amongst women in Ontario.

Evidence also shows that Aboriginal people acquire HIV at a younger age, on average, than non-indigenous people. Research shows that the primary modes of transmission among Aboriginal communities include heterosexual sex and injection drug use.

For more information about HIV and Aboriginal people in Ontario, visit the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy or Indigenous People and HIV in Ontario: An Overview.

Women

Statistics show that there are between 5,100 and 8,000 women currently living with HIV in Ontario, and 1 in 6 new diagnoses are women. The majority of new HIV cases are among African, Caribbean and Black women, as well as Aboriginal women. Primary modes of transmission include injection drugs and heterosexual sex.

For more information about women and HIV, please see the Women & HIV/AIDS Initiative.

For more information about HIV, women and pregnancy, please visit here.

People who use drugs

People who inject drugs are one of the populations in Ontario disproportionately affected by HIV. Of all new HIV diagnoses in Ontario, 8% contracted HIV through injection drug use. This rate is higher for women than men.

If you inject drugs, you can protect yourself against contracting HIV by using new needles, not sharing drug use equipment, and using condoms during sex.

In Ontario, there are 21 outreach programs that specifically focus on injection drug use, and a range of other programs that provide services to people who use drugs. To find a harm reduction program in your region, see the Ontario Harm Reduction Distribution Program(OHRDP) Find a Needle Syringe Program or call 1-866-316-2217.

For more information about HIV and injection drug use in Ontario, visit the Ontario Harm Reduction Distribution Program and the Ontario HIV & Substance Use Training Program.

Gay men and other men who have sex with men

Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in Ontario, gay men and other men who have sex with men have been one of the groups most impacted by HIV. Every year, over half of new infections in Ontario are among gay men. According to the Ontario HIV Epidemiology and Surveillance Initiative’s 2014-15 data, 63% of all HIV diagnoses in the province were gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Also, In Ontario, 55% of all people living with HIV are gay and bisexual men.

To find out more about gay men and HIV, visit:

  • Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance (GMSH)
    An information hub for gay and bisexual men’s sexual health.
  • The Sex You Want
    A website that explores sexual desire, pleasure, and newer information on sexual health and HIV prevention (including information on condom use, undetectable viral load, PrEP, and PEP).
  • Our Agenda
    This is a website for gay men that explores the link between mental health and sexual health.
  • The Guide
    This is a website for gay and bisexual newcomers to Canada.
  • QueerTransMen.Org
    This is a website by and for gay, bi, queer trans men.