HIV Testing Outcomes in Ontario

Ontario and the rest of the developed world are at a tipping point in our efforts to stop the HIV epidemic. Over the past 10 years, we have made significant progress. We now have highly effective treatments and new approaches to HIV prevention. Very few people diagnosed with HIV develop  life threatening illnesses associated with AIDS (<0.5%). When people living with HIV receive effective treatment, most can reduce the amount of the virus in their blood to undetectable levels. This protects their health and allows them to live long, healthy lives. Treatment can also reduce the amount of HIV in the body,  so that it is not infectious to sexual partners.

In 2021, there were 485 first-time HIV diagnoses in Ontario, down from 534 in 2020. It was estimated in 2020 that an additional 11% were not diagnosed, putting their health and the health of their partners at risk. The Ontario government  is working across the province to reach people living with HIV to promote testing and to connect people to timely effective care.

In 2021, 610,493 HIV tests were conducted in Ontario. 381 first-time diagnoses were among males and 97 among females. (Trends in HIV testing and diagnoses in Ontario, 2021)

The Ontario government continues to work to expand testing in ways that will more effectively reach those most at risk. New Guidelines for Providers Offering HIV Testing were released in spring 2023. The guidelines reduce the HIV window period from 3 months to 6 weeks and promote earlier identification of people at-risk and infected with HIV through awareness of acute and chronic symptoms of HIV. The guidelines recommend routine annual testing of populations with higher rates of HIV, and works to expand outreach to at-risk communities through the HIV point of care testing program. These strategies are contributing to our efforts to reach those who are undiagnosed and provide quality HIV care.

HIV infection is considered a condition of “public health significance” under Ontario law. An HIV-positive result on a standard laboratory HIV test (a “nominal” test that uses the client’s name) is automatically reported by the Public Health Laboratory to local public health authorities. This reporting enables the local public health unit to follow-up with the client to offer support, linkage to care, and ensure that a client’s former partners (sexual and drug use) are notified, without revealing their identity.  HIV screening is also offered nominally to all pregnant people in Ontario. However, if individuals do not wish to be reported to local public health, they can choose to test for HIV anonymously. Anonymous testing is offered at designated sites across the province for clients concerned about confidentiality and stigma.”

The Ontario HIV Epidemiology and Surveillance Initiative (OHESI) gathers information about diagnosis and testing outcomes in Ontario. To learn more, visit the OHESI web site.

The latest OHESI testing report (2020 data) is available here.