HIV/AIDS Testing

How many cases are there of HIV in Canada?

At the end of 2014, the estimated number of persons living with HIV in Canada was between 54,000 and 76,000.

It is estimated that 1 in every 5 Canadians infected with HIV has not been diagnosed.

Why to test for HIV?

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that, 25% of people living with HIV in Canada are unaware of their infection.

However HIV testing process offers:

  • an opportunity to relieve any anxiety about an unknown HIV status
  • a negative test result is an opportunity for clients to take an active role in remaining HIV negative and have conversations about risk reduction strategies
  • an opportunity to receive information, counseling, care, treatment and support in the management of HIV infection as well as to receive information about how to avoid possible re-exposure and how to prevent onward transmission of HIV. Early detection of HIV, especially at the acute stage, can improve outcomes for individuals and prevent further transmission of HIV

Who should get tested for HIV?

  • Individuals who are/have been sexually active and have never been tested for HIV;
  • Individuals presenting with symptoms and signs of HIV infection or with illnesses

associated with a weakened immune system;

  • Individuals who have shared drug-using equipment
  • Pregnant women, or those planning a pregnancy, and their partners as appropriate:
    • Pregnant women who test HIV negative but who continue to be at risk of acquisition of HIV during pregnancy
  • Victims of sexual assault; and,
  • A diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, or other infections known to be associated with HIV infection;

 Where to test for HIV

Standard HIV testing can generally be accessed through any health provider across the country. In Toronto several sexual health clinics provides HIV testing service for those without referral or OHIP coverage.

Types of HIV tests options available in Canada

Nominal HIV testing

The most common mode of testing is using the full name of the patient at all stages of the testing process. In this case, the provider has the name of the individual, and testing is carried out with the patient name on the requisition. If positive, results are reported nominally to Public Health officials where required.

Non-nominal (coded) HIV testing

In this case, the provider knows the individual’s identity, but uses a code for the HIV lab test requisition, so the lab does not have the person’s name. In this case, if HIV is reportable, the lab forwards the positive reports to Public Health officials who can then contact the provider to determine necessary follow up.

Anonymous HIV testing

Anonymous testing is done in specially designated clinics that use codes to carry out testing; no identifying information is collected or recorded. Positive results are reported to Public Health officials in jurisdictions where this is required; however, no personal identifying information is included.

Types of HIV testing services

To test for HIV, a sample of a person’s blood is taken (either a vial of blood from a vein or a couple of drops of blood from a finger prick).

  • Standard

The majority of healthcare venues carry out “standard” HIV testing. This means a tube of blood is collected in the clinic, hospital or physician’s office and sent to the medical laboratory along with a requisition ordering an HIV test. Test results are generally available within one week.

  • Point-of-Care or rapid testing

The test is carried out at the site and results are available immediately. If the POC test is non-reactive and the client is not in the window period, post-test counseling can be carried out and the client can leave with the knowledge that they are HIV antibody negative. If the client is potentially in the window period, a standard lab test is also done to preclude possible acute HIV infection and the client is counseled to return for test results. If the POC test is reactive, a standard test should be conducted to confirm the reactive result, and the client should be counseled appropriately and advised to return for test results.

If you find out that you have HIV, there are things that you can do to maintain your physical, mental and emotional health. A health care provider who is knowledgeable about HIV can monitor your health and help you decide when to begin taking medications that can help fight HIV and refer you to other services in the city.
* No home-based tests have been approved for sale in Canada

To find out more information on HIV testing, call the AIDS and Sexual Health info line at 416-392-2437 or Toll Free at 1 800 668-2437 or Ethiopian Association at 416 694 1522 ext. 27 or 58.