Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on World AIDS Day and Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

December 1, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

December 1 marks World AIDS Day and the beginning of Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week. This is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, support those living with HIV, and remember the people we have lost.

The theme of World AIDS Day this year is: End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics, and the theme of Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week is: Indigenous Response to Intersecting Pandemics. As evidenced by these themes, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted HIV responses in Canada and around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected populations at higher risk for HIV, including Indigenous Peoples. Recognizing that each community has unique health needs, we will continue working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, communities, and partners, as well as provincial and territorial governments, to prioritize community-led and distinctions-based approaches to addressing HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections among Indigenous Peoples.

HIV continues to be a public health concern in Canada. In 2020, 1,639 newly diagnosed cases of HIV were reported. Of these, the age group with the highest proportion of reported cases were people aged 30-39. The total number of newly reported cases in 2020 represents a 21% decrease compared to 2019. On the surface this decrease may seem like a positive shift in trend; however, in all likelihood there is a degree of under detection affecting these numbers. During the pandemic there has been an observed negative impact of COVID-19 public health measures on the delivery of, and access to, services for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI), including testing. Recent survey data indicates that during the pandemic one in five (21%) providers of support and treatment services for people living with HIV and/or hepatitis C experienced both a decreased demand for, and decreased ability to deliver their services. Getting tested is the gateway to both prevention and treatment services. It is the only way to know your HIV status.

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