The ‘epidemic’ of misunderstanding about HIV

Protection, treatment and pre-exposure treatment reduce risk for HIV spread

Many Canadians likely think of HIV as a challenge experienced by other parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa – and they’re correct.

But it’s also true Canada faces its own HIV epidemic – a reality to be reminded of on World AIDS Day today (Dec. 1) and throughout the year.

The most visible face of our HIV epidemic is the 75,500 Canadians living with the virus. Less visible, but perhaps equally significant, is the widespread lack of knowledge about new advances in HIV prevention. If more of us knew about these new ways to prevent HIV, we would have fewer new infections in Canada.

Let’s start with how HIV treatment is actually a form of HIV prevention. Did you know that, for people living with HIV, being on successful treatment can virtually eliminate the chance of HIV transmission? This year, clinical studies provided convincing evidence that if an HIV-positive person on treatment has an “undetectable viral load” (meaning the amount of HIV in their blood is so low that routine tests can’t find it), they have a negligible risk of passing HIV on to sexual partners.

Reaching and maintaining an undetectable viral load requires good adherence to treatment and regular medical visits.

For people with HIV (and their intimate partners) this news will likely have a positive impact on the way they view themselves and their sex life. It also provides a further reason why we need to end the stigma and discrimination people with HIV still face in our society.

Next up is oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which involves an HIV-negative person taking HIV drugs in order to lower their chance of getting HIV.

In February 2016, Health Canada approved a drug called Truvada for use as oral PrEP. It is recommended for daily use by HIV-negative adults at high risk for HIV infection, to reduce the risk of sexual HIV transmission, in combination with safer sex practices.

Finally, condoms and harm-reduction programs continue to be the cornerstone of HIV prevention. Condoms help to prevent not only HIV but also other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies.

Harm-reduction programs, like needle and syringe exchange programs and safer injection sites, are also highly effective strategies for preventing HIV transmission (as well as hepatitis C transmission).

To maximize the impact on the HIV epidemic, we must increase our awareness, uptake and proper use of these approaches. Increased knowledge of these highly effective HIV prevention approaches has made health professionals optimistic that we can turn the tide on HIV.

In this 20th year since the advent of effective HIV treatment, there is renewed hope and excitement that we will see the end of this disease.

Let’s get out the word as broadly as we can. People’s lives depend on it.

Laurie Edmiston is executive director of CATIE, Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information.

Just Posted

Do you agree with the NDP government’s approval of Site C Dam?

100 Mile Free Press took to the streets to ask community members what they think

Schools face off in volleyball tournament

Tourney gives students a chance to compete

Dec 13: Compact snow, slippery roads across the South Cariboo

The roads and weather for the South Cariboo

Annual bird count to be held on Dec. 30

Wildfires probably good for some birds, bad for others

Driver pulls into the wrong lane of Hwy 97

The weekly police report for the South Cariboo area

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

More than 20,000 pounds of garbage removed from riverside homeless camps

Two camps taken down last week on the banks of the Fraser and Chilliwack rivers

Suspect in Revelstoke standoff killed himself: RCMP

Mohammadali Darabi, suspect in the Calgary homicide of his roommate, was stopped in Revelstoke

Clinton visits Vancouver, applauds Trudeau, celebrates Democrats’ win in Alabama

Clinton told crowd she cheered when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

VIDEO: Salt Spring Islanders ferry piano to their floating home

Everyone enjoys a little music on the water, but not everyone has a piano on their boat

Bomb detonated in Kamloops neighbourhood

Kamloops RCMP are investigating after an improvised explosive device was detonated Wednesday morning

No More Shootouts: Strong defence will be Canada’s backbone at world juniors

Head coach doesn’t want a situation where a hot goalie or a lucky bounce can determine a team’s fate

Proposed snowmobiles along Sicamous roads concern RCMP

RCMP, ICBC and province not yet on-board with proposed off-road bylaw in the B.C. Interior

‘Assemble your own meal’ kits grow into $120M industry in Canada

Kits offer a middle ground between eating out and grocery shopping

Most Read