At the same time that federal Justice Minister, David Lametti—at a national symposium on HIV criminalization in Toronto organized by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network—was announcing his Liberal Party platform for a new HIV law should they get re-elected this fall, David Bennett Hynd was being arrested and held in custody by police in Vancouver.
“Chasing the new is dangerous to society.” I read this quote at an activist art exhibition and it got me thinking about Halifax, my city, and of the group that I belong to. What if the old way of healthcare is actually dangerous to society at a whole?
We are in the midst of an incredibly dynamic moment in the world of medicine and public health. Hepatitis C research has progressed so rapidly that the virus could be eliminated as a public health threat only 40 years after its discovery in 1989.
On June 14, I travelled to Toronto to meet with leading activists, researchers and experts working to end the criminalization of HIV in Canada for the 8th Symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights. Organized by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the annual forum for the past few years has focused solely on advocacy to end Canada’s position as a global leader in the criminalization of people living with HIV for alleged non-disclosure, exposure and transmission.
Why do First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada carry such an unfair burden of hepatitis C in Canada? It is estimated that hepatitis C among Indigenous people is five-times higher than non-Indigenous Canadians. In particular, Indigenous women represent almost half of all hepatitis C cases in their communities, a much higher proportion than among the non-Indigenous Canadian population. Young Indigenous people (24 years and under) represent 70% to 80% of hepatitis C infections among people who inject drugs in Canada.
Canada has signed on to global targets to eliminate HIV and hepatitis C as public health threats by 2030. While ambitious, these targets are now a realistic possibility thanks to the effectiveness of modern medications. HIV treatment can suppress the virus so successfully that HIV-positive Canadians who start treatment early can have life expectancies similar to their HIV-negative peers. This also prevents the transmission of HIV to their sexual partners. And most Canadians treated for hepatitis C are now cured within weeks.
The CATIE Blog hosts the views and opinions of people and organizations working and volunteering in Canada’s response to HIV and hepatitis C.