Living with HIV

Getting a diagnosis of HIV will be life changing. It can be a time of fear and uncertainty. The important thing to remember is that HIV and AIDS are no longer a death sentence in Australia. We are fortunate to have access to effective treatments that can help to suppress the virus and minimise damage to the immune system.

The health effects of HIV can take years to appear without treatment. This is why if not tested many people do not find out they have HIV for many years. A late diagnosis and a delay in treatments can make long-term health harder to achieve. A diagnosis within 12 months of becoming HIV positive and treatment uptake shortly after provide the best results for health.

If you are newly diagnosed with HIV, the Next Steps PDF resource is an easy to use and comprehensive guide for understanding your diagnosis and how you can prepare for changes and challenges you might encounter from living with HIV.

HIV support in the ACT

For people living with HIV in and around the ACT, the AIDS Action Council offers a range of support and social services. You can find out more about those here.

You can call us on 02 6257 2855 and ask to speak to the Senior Client Services Coordinator or the Senior Counsellor. You can also email us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Community Pharmacies

Since July 1 2015, HIV medication has been available for collection from pharmacies. Prior to this, HIV medications were only available from the Canberra Hospital Dispensary. This is called Community Dispensing or Community Pharmacies.

If you would like to collect your HIV medications from your chemist you will need to check that the chemist is willing to supply HIV medication. You will also need to discuss immediate supply or if you will need to leave your prescription and collect the medication at a later date. If you have concerns about privacy, talk to your chemist about your concerns. You can always ask to speak to them in private.

In the unlikely event that your privacy is breached or compromised by staff employed by a chemist, you will need to raise the complaint with the chemist. If you feel your complaint and/or concerns are not resolved to your satisfaction, you can lodge a complaint with one of the following agencies:

Community pharmacies also include online pharmacies. This can be a useful way to have your medications delivered to your door. If your chemist is unable to provide a postal service there are a number of options to purchase HIV medications online. Below are some examples of online pharmacy services:

  • Pharmacy Direct
  • Chemist Warehouse
  • ePharmacy

If you have any questions about delivery time and your privacy please contact your online pharmacy of choice.

If you have questions, talk to you doctor, nurse, sexual health centre, pharmacist or the AIDS Action Council.

Reproduced in part from Positive Life NSW

HIV and the Law

In the ACT you do not need to disclose your HIV status to your sexual partners as long as you take ‘reasonable precautions’ to mitigate the risk of HIV transmission. We encourage where it is appropriate that everyone have open discussions about their HIV and STI status.

If you have a legal question around HIV and employment, insurance or other issue please call and we will endeavour to find the answer for you or make an appropriate referral.

You may also like to try the Legal Aid ACT Help Line: 1300 654 314.

The telephone helpline is an immediate option for people who want to find out more about their legal choices. It's open Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 5.00 pm.

For a range of reasons, a person living with HIV might find themselves putting other people at risk of HIV. This is not going to be the case with the vast majority of people living with HIV. When it does happen it is referred to as ‘knowingly infect’.

In February 2007, the Chief Health Officer issued a set of guidelines to be followed by doctors, nurse practitioners, counsellors and those responsible for the care and support or education of a person with HIV if they become aware that an HIV positive person appears to be knowingly placing others at risk of infection with HIV. These guidelines are not intended to put full responsibility for limiting the transmission of HIV onto positive people, (this responsibility rests with both positive and negative individuals), but may help to change the behaviour of those positive people who repeatedly put others at risk.

The process is based on the ACT Public Health Act 1997 and involves counselling, education and support in the first instance, leading to further measures if this fails. Legal orders would be used as a last resort.

If you require more information about HIV and the law in Australia try these useful resources:

National Guidelines for the Management of People with HIV Who Place Others at Risk

HIV Legal Centre NSW

ACT Health Guidelines for the Management of People with HIV Who Place Others at Risk

HIV and Ageing

HIV can cause a range of complications as you get older that you might not otherwise experience, or ageing conditions that occur earlier than expected. You can get a better understanding of the long-term effects HIV and HIV medications at and Ahead of Time PDF for HIV and ageing.

HIV Resource Links & Downloads

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AIDS Action Council acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders both past and present.


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