According to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR), Canada’s HIV epidemic is growing, with the number of cases reported across the country increasing by an alarming 24.9% in 2022.
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports 1,833 new reported cases of HIV in 2022. Men aged 30 to 39 years are most affected.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the hardest-hit provinces, with 19.0 and 13.0 cases per 100,000 population, respectively.
“Such an increase in the number of new cases has not been observed for more than ten years,” CANFAR said in a press release.
Quebec is slightly above the national average of 4.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with a rate of 4.9.
Remember that if people with HIV receive adequate treatment and care, they can live almost as long and in good health as HIV-negative people.
Despite this bad news, CANFAR still believes it is possible to end Canada’s national HIV epidemic by the end of 2025. To achieve this goal, the foundation proposes in its latest strategic plan to improve access to HIV testing and treatment.
The context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put great pressure on the health-care system, has changed access to screening in several regions of Canada, Alex Filiatreau, CEO of the Canadian Research Foundation, explained in an interview on AIDS.
He said this “may have impacted the 2022 results by further isolating communities that already struggle to access healthcare.”
Although Quebec lags significantly behind Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it has the third-highest number of cases per 100,000 residents.
“The situation is difficult, especially in urban centers, whether in Quebec or anywhere else in Canada,” commented Mr. Filiatreau. “We think there is good access to screening, but that’s not always the case.”
For example, in Canada, a screening kit can be obtained at home, but if the public does not know it exists and how to access it, the tool is useless.
PrEP should be available to everyone
A medicine called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or more commonly PrEP, is an excellent prevention tool, but it remains difficult to access in Canada. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of HIV infection among high-risk men by 92%.
“Each province has its own healthcare system. […] PrEP is a proven prevention tool that is excellent for limiting transmission,” said Mr. Filiatreau. “The problem is that from province to province the funding for this tool is significant.
Once the cost is not 100% covered and if you do not have the necessary health insurance to help [à payer] The difference is that you end up in a situation where you still have to add financial stress to your health every month. Not everyone can easily afford this.»
According to the Montreal-based organization RÉZO, the monthly cost of taking PrEP continuously (one tablet per day) ranges from $907 to $995, excluding public or private insurance. If covered by the Quebec Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ), PrEP will cost $95.31 per month in 2021.
“Communities having access to PrEP have been proven to help greatly. This is an extremely effective tool that can help in the medium term with any new prevention.confirmed Mr. Filiatro, adding that it is necessary
work with different levels of government to get to the point where this tool is available to everyone.“
More Affected Groups
HIV can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. However, some populations are disproportionately affected.
In its strategic plan, CANFAR emphasizes the importance
“Fund research that addresses the health and well-being challenges faced by Indigenous, African, Caribbean and Black people, racialized women and people who use substances and inject drugs, and support investment in research more generally.”
“These groups are those who have always had difficulty accessing the healthcare system easily. […] Lack of access has health implications for these communities, which we have identified and are committed to providing greater access to screening.“, Mr. Filiatro explained.
He noted that investments in research and science have done much to improve the lives of people living with HIV in the past, but the same level of success has not been achieved in preventing new cases.
To have access to screening, tools must be promoted by awareness campaigns, organizations and local agencies. This is one of CANFAR’s proposals to end the HIV epidemic in the country.
There is no vaccine for HIV, but there are several ways to avoid transmitting or contracting the virus.
“We know that the tools we have now in Canada that have been approved can have a huge impact on reducing new infections. HIV. If we don’t provide access to these tools, we won’t be able to make an impact.“,” said Mr. Filiatrault.
The goal is to successfully reach target people and provide them with information that will enable them to make decisions regarding their health.
It is estimated that approximately one in ten Canadians living with HIV are unaware of their status and therefore cannot benefit from antiretroviral treatment. Therefore, local, provincial and national campaigns are necessary to stop the epidemic.