Alarming rise in HIV cases in Canada

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The HIV epidemic is experiencing a resurgence in Canada as cases across the country record an “alarming increase” of 24.9% in 2022, according to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR).

The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported 1,833 new cases of HIV in 2022. Men aged 30 to 39 are the category with the highest rates.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the worst-affected provinces, with 19.0 and 13.0 cases per 100,000 residents, respectively. “This increase in new cases has not been seen for more than a decade,” CANFAR said in a press release.

Quebec is slightly higher than the national average, which is 4.7 cases per 100,000 residents, with a rate of 4.9.

Remember that if they get adequate treatment and care, people living with HIV can live long, healthy lives.

CANFAR believes it is possible to end the national HIV epidemic in Canada by the end of 2025. To achieve this, the Foundation proposed in its most recent strategic plan to improve access to testing and HIV care.

Alex Filiatreault, CEO of the Canadian Research Foundation, explained in an interview on AIDS that the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed great strain on the health system, has changed access to screening in many areas of Canada. According to him, this could impact the 2022 results, further isolating communities that already have difficulty accessing the health system.

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Even though it is far behind Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Quebec finds itself in third place among the provinces with the highest rate of cases per 100,000 residents.

The situation is complex, especially in urban centres, whether in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada. We believe there is good access to screening, but this is not always the case.

Alex Filiatreault, CEO of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research

For example, in Canada, it is possible to get a home screening kit, but if the public does not know it exists and how to access it, the tool is useless.

PrEP should be accessible to everyone

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis,” commonly referred to as PrEP, is an excellent prevention tool, but access to it remains difficult in Canada. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that taking PrEP every day resulted in a 92% reduction in the risk of HIV infection among high-risk men.

Alarming Rise In Hiv Cases In Canada
Photo by Daddo Galdieri, New York Times Archives

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis”, commonly known as PrEP

“Each province has a specific health system. (…) PrEP is a proven prevention tool, which is excellent for limiting transmission, Mr Filiatreault said. The challenge is that there is sufficient funding available for this equipment from one province to another. As soon as the costs are not covered 100%, and if you do not have the necessary medical insurance to pay the difference, you find yourself in a situation where you still have to put the financial burden on your health every month. It is not easy for everyone to afford it. ,

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Without public or private insurance, the monthly cost of continuous PrEP (one pill per day) is between $907 and $995, according to the Montreal organization RÉZO. When covered by the Quebec Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ), the monthly cost of PrEP in 2021 was $95.31.

“It has been proven that communities who have access to PrEP help a lot. It is an extremely effective tool that can help in the medium term in all new preventions,” Mr Filliatreault confirmed, adding that we must ‘collaborate with different levels of government to get to a point where it Tools should be accessible to everyone. ,

most affected group

HIV can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. However, some populations are disproportionately affected.

In its strategic plan, CANFAR, in addition to maintaining investments, calls for “the health and well-being problems faced by indigenous peoples, African, Caribbean and Black people, racialized women, and people who use substances and inject drugs.” “highlights the importance of funding research focused on the issues.” In scientific research in general.

“These groups are those who have always had difficulty getting easy access to the health system. (…) Lack of access has an impact on the health of these communities, which we have identified and aim to provide greater access to screening,” Mr Filliatrault explained.

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He said investment in research and science has greatly helped improve the lives of people living with HIV in the past, but has not achieved the same level of success in preventing new cases.

For access to screening, awareness campaigns and tools should be promoted by local organizations and agencies. This is one of CANFAR’s proposals to end the HIV epidemic in the country.

There is no vaccine against HIV, but there are several ways to prevent infection or transmission of this virus.

“We know that the tools we have in Canada right now, that are approved, can have a huge impact in reducing new cases of HIV. If we do not provide access to these tools, we will not be able to have an impact,” Mr Filiatrault declared.

Its objective is to successfully reach out to the concerned individuals and provide them with information so that they can take decisions about their health.

It is estimated that approximately one in 10 Canadians living with HIV is not aware of their status and therefore may not benefit from antiretroviral treatment. Local, provincial and national campaigns are necessary to stop the epidemic.

The Canadian Press’s health content is funded through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial choices.

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