Many people who are living with HIV on treatment stay healthy and live a long life.

Most people with HIV can stay healthy and live a long life with proper care and treatment. Learn about your options and the medication used to treat HIV in Canada, as well as any side effects.

How is HIV treated?

HIV is managed with prescription viral suppression medications called Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). Taking medication has become much easier over the past few years. New treatments include two or three medicines combined in one pill. Many people living with HIV are treated with just one or two pills a day.

Living well with HIV

Living well with HIV is influenced by a person’s physical, sexual, mental and emotional health

Review CATIE’s guide for managing health for people living with HIV and their care providers:

Managing Your Health | CATIE - Canada's source for HIV and hepatitis C information


The newer HIV drugs are much easier to take. Also, research now shows that if people start treatment soon after getting HIV they can expect to live a normal lifespan.

Treatment has many benefits such as:

  • It supports people staying healthy by stopping HIV from making copies of itself in the body, and can prevent other health problems.
  • Treatment reduces the amount of the virus in the body to levels that would not be picked up by HIV tests; this is called “undetectable”.
  • Having an undetectable viral load eliminates the risk of passing HIV to your sex partners.
  • When a person starts treatment before getting pregnant and maintains an undetectable viral load throughout their pregnancy, there is no risk of them passing HIV to their baby during pregnancy or childbirth.

For more information about HIV treatment see: Your Guide to HIV Treatment | CATIE - Canada's source for HIV and hepatitis C information

Treatment side effects

With the newer HIV medications, many people experience no side effects after starting treatment. Even with new advances in HIV medication, some people still experience side effects.

For more information on HIV medication side effects see: A Practical Guide to HIV Drug Side Effects | CATIE - Canada's source for HIV and hepatitis C information