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A Welcome Turning Point

 Fall 2016 saw a welcome turning point from the federal government on their stance on HIV prevention and treatment. Ottawa started looking towards an AIDS-free future, embracing more evidence-based approaches, harm reduction and an increased investment in the Global Fund.

In September 2016, Canada hosted the Fifth Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, an event dedicated to raising funds and supporting the Global Fund in ending these three devastating epidemics by 2030.

Dr. Julio Montaner, director, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), applauded Canada’s increased investment in the Global Fund and the country’s commitment to bringing an end to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

“Research evidence from BC and across the world has shown providing treatment is a viable path to ending AIDS. On sustained treatment, an individual living with HIV can achieve levels of virus that are undetectable by standard blood tests. When this happens, the likelihood of HIV transmission becomes negligible,” Dr. Montaner explained. “However, in spite of many victories, social and economic inequities can hinder our progress. In low-income countries, the challenge to address inequities can be even greater and can require building programs from the ground up. It takes investment in change to meet social and economic needs, to make improvements in people’s overall wellbeing, and to build infrastructure to support health. Canada’s support is part of the critically needed funding to globally expand HIV treatment.”

A first for the BC-CfE

Later the same year, for the first time since the establishment of the BC-CfE, the Centre was invited to mark the World AIDS Day ceremony on Parliament Hill.

Dr. Montaner joined several MPs and officials, including Minister of Health Jane Philpott and Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, in an HIV testing event on December 1, 2016. He then joined Prime Minister Trudeau and HIV organizations from across the country in the raising of the flag for World AIDS Day.

 

In a World AIDS Day statement, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized the government’s $804 million pledge to the Global Fund to support international efforts to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, promising that Canada would lead by example and called for an end to the persistent stigma facing those living with HIV.

The Minister of Health Dr. Jane Philpott emphasized Canada’s commitment to the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Target, which is based on the principles of Dr. Montaner’s Treatment as Prevention (TaSP®) strategy — 90% of people living with HIV to know their status, 90% of people diagnosed with HIV to be in treatment, and 90% of people in treatment to have undetectable viral loads — in conjunction with the announcements about Canada’s own standing in relation to the goal: an estimated 80% of HIV-infected persons know their status, 76% of those diagnosed are on treatment, and 89% of those on treatment have suppressed viral loads. There is a clear need for our country to be doing more in this area.

Hope to Health

In further support of the BC-CfE’s work in ending HIV/AIDS, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accompanied by Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, visited the Centre’s recently expanded Hope to Health Research Clinic in March 2017.

The BC-CfE hosted a roundtable discussion with the Prime Minister, first responders and community partners on the overdose crisis. The Hope to Health Research Clinic, located on the Downtown Eastside, supports research to adapt, evaluate and expand Treatment as Prevention® (TasP®) to other contagious diseases. Under the leadership of Dr. Julio Montaner, the clinic’s initial focus will be on three pillars: HIV, addiction and viral hepatitis.

The BC-CfE celebrates the federal government’s renewed commitment to support HIV and AIDS domestically and internationally, and look forward to working together.

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