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Statement from the Ministers of Health, Mental Health and Addictions and of Indigenous Services to Mark World AIDS Day and Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week
December 1, 2021 Ottawa, ON Public Health Agency of Canada
December 1 marks World AIDS Day and the beginning of Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week. Today we commemorate the loved ones we have lost to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS-related-illnesses), and by showing our support for people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Together we can do our part to raise awareness, increase our knowledge, and put an end to the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV.
HIV continues to be a public health concern in Canada. In 2018, it was estimated that one in eight people in Canada living with HIV were unaware of their status. Getting tested is key to knowing your HIV status and to accessing prevention, treatment, support and care. Recent survey data shows that COVID-19 has impacted the delivery of and access to services for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, including testing.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is: End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.
To end inequalities and inequities, we need to acknowledge that HIV disproportionately affects certain populations as a result of health inequities and social determinants of health. We recognize the disproportionate impacts of HIV on communities struggling with social and economic challenges, especially amongst First Nations, Inuit and Métis as well as gay, bisexual, other men who have sex with men, and people who use drugs. The communities and organizations that work with those who are affected by HIV continue to show tremendous leadership in addressing the social and health needs that will assist in eliminating HIV and AIDS in Canada.
We know that there is an intersection between the COVID-19 pandemic and the HIV response in Canada. COVID-19 has impacted groups at higher risk for HIV, including Indigenous peoples. Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week calls on us this year to recognize the Indigenous Response to Intersecting Pandemics.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states “… Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programs affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.” As such, we will continue to work with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders, communities, and partners, as well as provincial and territorial governments, to prioritize holistic community- and distinctions-based approaches to addressing sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections. In doing so, our collaborative efforts work to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities including communicable diseases.
We are supporting national and regional Indigenous organizations to develop and implement strategies and approaches to address HIV and AIDS. Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada is working to implement the tavva: National Inuit Sexual Health Strategy to promote and protect Inuit sexual health. The Native Women’s Association of Canada continues to develop trauma-informed care and strength-based approaches to sexual health, recognizing health and social inequities and preventing sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
In addition, the Government of Canada continues to support the Communities, Alliances & Networks (CAAN) in their efforts to identify community readiness in First Nations communities in relation to best and wise practices with prevention, education and culturally safe testing, treatment and support around sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
Regional community specific initiatives such as “Know Your Status” in Saskatchewan are also in place to support Indigenous Peoples, in which 74 communities have partial or full access to the programs.
To end AIDS, we need to recover from the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our efforts to address HIV and continue to accelerate our progress toward eliminating AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. Canada’s endorsement of the 95-95-95 targets set out by the UNAIDS global interim ensures our progress forward. Initiatives that help increase knowledge, change attitudes and behaviours, and support the uptake of existing and emerging prevention technologies are essential to reducing the number of new infections in Canada.
In 2020, the majority of newly reported cases of HIV were attributed to sexual contact and to injection drug use. Safer sex methods, such as using condoms and lubricants correctly and consistently, can help prevent HIV or other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections from being passed. Not sharing needles is also an effective way to prevent HIV and hepatitis C. People who are HIV-negative can take medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help prevent them from getting HIV. We are encouraged to see a significant increase in the number of PrEP users in Canada between 2016 and 2020.
For individuals who are HIV-positive, highly effective treatments are available to manage the infection. When an individual is being treated for HIV and maintains a suppressed viral load, there is effectively no risk of sexual transmission. This is otherwise known as Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U).
We are proud that Canada will be hosting the 24th International AIDS Conference in Montréal in 2022, from July 29 to August 2. This conference will bring together scientists, clinicians, community leaders, advocates, people with lived experience of HIV, health providers and others from around the world to advance HIV research, shift evidence into action, and accelerate progress toward the shared goal of ending HIV and AIDS. To end pandemics, strong international collaboration is needed.
As we recognize World AIDS Day and Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week, we must remember that HIV is preventable. When treated early, it allows individuals to go on to live long and healthy lives. We encourage you to learn more about the facts of HIV and join in raising awareness and challenging HIV-related stigma. Together, let’s put an end to AIDS.
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Public Health Agency of Canada
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
Indigenous Services Canada
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