World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to reflect on and refocus Canada’s collective efforts
On World AIDS Day, 1 December, the Canadian Public Health Association calls upon all levels of governments, non-governmental organizations, service providers and citizens to reflect on and to refocus our collective efforts to reduce the number of new HIV infections every year, and tackle the barriers—including stigma—that hinder HIV prevention, testing and support.
Government statistics show that despite years of investments and committed efforts across sectors, the number of new infections remains relatively unchanged. “The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that there were 2,570 new infections of HIV in 2014. That’s equivalent to seven new infections a day. And that’s way too many new infections,” said Ian Culbert, Executive Director of the Canadian Public Health Association. “The status quo is not good enough.”
In addition to nearly static rates of new HIV infections, the rates of some other sexually-transmitted or blood-borne infections (STBBIs) have skyrocketed in recent years. Between 2003 and 2012, rates of reported cases of chlamydia increased by 57.6%, rates of reported cases of gonorrhea increased by 38.9%, and rates of reported cases of infectious syphilis increased by 101%.
“Based on most recent data, an estimated 21% of people living with HIV in Canada are unaware of their infection,” said Culbert. “We need to aggressively tackle all barriers – especially stigma and discrimination – that prevent people from accessing HIV testing and support services.”
Stigma is one of the greatest challenges associated with Canada’s response to HIV and other STBBIs, and frontline health and social service providers must continue to play a crucial role to help reduce new infections and support people living with HIV by continuing to create more welcoming, non-stigmatizing environments.
“The offer of testing for HIV and other STBBIs, and the conversation about sexual health, needs to become normalized in Canada,” said Culbert. “We need to approach people in a holistic manner and not just focus on a single infection, or a particular behaviour.”
In an effort to support frontline service providers, the Canadian Public Health Association has developed a number of resources that underscore the individual and organizational factors required to enhance services and reduce stigma, and ultimately improve health outcomes for those affected by or living with HIV and other STBBIs.
- Discussing sexual health, harm reduction and STBBIs: A guide for service providers, Canadian Public Health Association, 2017
- Organizational assessment tool for STBBIs and stigma, Canadian Public Health Association, 2017
- Reducing stigma and discrimination through the protection of privacy and confidentiality, Canadian Public Health Association and Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 2017
- Other resources focused on STBBIs and the reduction of stigma can be found on the Canadian Public Health Association’s website.
For more information contact:
Ian Culbert, Executive Director
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769, ext 142