Know your status

You can’t rely on symptoms to know if you have HIV

Tremendous progress has been made in the response to AIDS/HIV since the virus infection first emerged in the 1980s, but not enough.  While HIV treatment now allows people to live much longer, healthier lives and is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission, many people living with HIV don’t know they have it.

Know your status, get tested

Worldwide, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with HIV in 2017, according to the UNAIDS, a United Nations program leading the global effort to end AIDS/HIV as a public health threat by 2030. Of those, about 21.7 million (59 per cent) were receiving treatment. 

For World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the Infectious Diseases Care Program (IDCP) of St. Joseph’s Health Care London is asking a critical question – do you know your status?

In Canada, HIV prevalence increased during the 1980s, slowed down in the mid-1990s, but began to rise again in the late 1990s. About six Canadians are infected with HIV every day.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada 86 per cent of the estimated 63,110 individuals living with HIV by the end of 2016 were diagnosed. This means that an estimated 14 per cent of people with HIV were undiagnosed at the end of 2016.

For World AIDS Day, the focus is on reaching people living with HIV who do not know their status and ensuring that they are linked to quality care and prevention services. HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives.

“You can’t rely on symptoms to know if you have HIV,” says Brenda Done, registered nurse with the IDCP. “Getting tested gives you the knowledge you need to protect yourself and your partners. Starting treatment as soon as possible will help you stay healthy and live longer.”

In London, testing for HIV is provided by family physicians, Middlesex-London Health Unit and the Options Clinic at London Intercommunity Health Centre, which offers anonymous testing.

For those with HIV/AIDS, St. Joseph’s has been providing care since the mid-1980s. The IDCP meets the outpatient needs of HIV-infected and affected populations across the region, providing medical, nursing, social work, pharmacy, and nutrition services. The focus is on both medical as well as psycho-social aspects of HIV/AIDS.  In total, St. Joseph’s currently cares for about 600 patients with HIV/AIDS, from infants to patients in their 80s.  Care is provided either through partnership outreach initiatives or at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The program also provides care for patients with a broad range of other acute and chronic infectious diseases.

Related:

Did you know…Aids Awareness red ribbon

The following are estimated HIV/AIDS facts and stats:

  • 36.9 million people globally were living with HIV in 2017.
  • 21.7 million (59 per cent) of people living with HIV worldwide were accessing treatment in 2017.
  • 1.8 million people worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2017.
  • 940 000 people globally died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2017.
  • 77.3 million people worldwide have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic.
  • 35.4 million people worldwide have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
  • In Canada an estimated 63,110 people were living with HIV by the end of 2016. This represents an increase of 2,945 people (5 per cent) since 2014.
  • Every day in 2016, six Canadians were diagnosed with HIV.

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