HIV in Canada: An Update

Canada has committed to meeting global targets for HIV: the 90-90-90 targets for 2020, and the 95-95-95 targets for 2025.  Health officials around the word have agreed that if we can achieve these targets we can end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

The 2020 data is in. Do we get a “pass” on our achievement for 2020? Mostly.


The Targets Explained.

The three targets refer to the number of people living with HIV who:

  • Know their status (have been diagnosed)
  • Have started treatment
  • Have achieved viral suppression (the treatment has worked and HIV levels in their blood is extremely low)

The 2020 targets – also known as the 90-90-90 targets – called for 90% of people living with HIV to have been diagnosed, 90% of people diagnosed to have started treatment, and 90% of people who have started treatment to be virally suppressed.

Target 1 – Diagnosis:

90% Canadians living with HIV in 2020 knew their status. 

Target 2 – Treatment:

87% of Canadians living with HIV in 2020 who had been diagnosed had started treatment.

Target 3 – Viral Suppression:

95% of Canadians living with HIV who had been diagnosed and had begun treatment have achieved viral suppression. 


While we did well overall, we did not fully meet the targets for 2020.  This is worrisome as people who are not in treatment are putting their wellbeing at risk, may suffer long-term health consequences, and may pass the HIV virus on to others.  We need to close this gap and ensure we meet the higher targets set for 2025.


How is HIV being transmitted?

There are huge discrepancies between the provinces. In Alberta the majority of HIV transmissions occur during sex between men and women, while in the Atlantic provinces, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia we see the opposite with most transmissions occurring during sex between men. Saskatchewan and Manitoba, however, see shared drug injection equipment as the main vehicle for transmission.


What about the 95-95-95 targets for 2025?

While we are well on track to meet the 2025 targets, we cannot be complacent. The complexity of HIV transmission requires a comprehensive approach sensitive to local realities, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Racism, stigma around drug use and sexuality, and socio-economic inequities all create barriers to accessing treatment and to staying in treatment.  Organizations like Bruce House exist to assist people living with HIV surmount some of the challenges they face to maintaining health and wellness—which includes HIV treatment—but funding is grossly insufficient and the growing costs of housing, food, and other essentials pose a direct threat to this work.


We can achieve the 2025 targets, but only if we as a society have the will to do so.


All data and graphics from CATIE – (

Graphic showing the 90-90-90 targets in Canada.

Infographic showing new HIV infections in Canada/