Adam Cook is a policy researcher at the Canadian Treatment Action Council.
The development of treatment for the cure of hepatitis C (HCV) is moving at a dizzying pace. Indeed, the entire HCV story is one of an unusually fast trajectory, not only the speed of treatment development, but also the spread of the virus. While early cures were injection-based, difficult to tolerate, and boasting a mere 50% success rate after a year of treatment, there now exist cures that involve one pill, once a day, for a regimen that often doesn’t exceed twelve weeks. There are clinical trials being conducted presently to evaluate the efficacy of new treatments at eight and 10 weeks.1 Over 300,000 Canadians are infected with HCV, with many of them unaware of their status.
For those of us who work in HIV and Hep C prevention, the advent of new prevention approaches has made us increasingly dependent on evidence for making informed decisions about the best strategies to use with a particular client or community.
In Canada and in much of the Western world, thanks to the advent of combination antiretroviral therapy, there has been a clear improvement in health status and increased life expectancy of people living with HIV approaching that of the general population. However, despite these medical advances, negative public perception about HIV has yet to catch up to the reality that most clinicians encounter. The reality for the most part is of healthy and conscientious patients looking to improve their quality of life.
While HIV does not discriminate and can affect anyone, Canada’s HIV epidemic is concentrated in key populations – a result of both biological risk factors and the social determinants of health.
While roughly one out of every 10,000 Canadians is newly infected with HIV every year, the HIV incidence rate is much higher among Aboriginal peoples, Canadians born in countries where HIV is endemic, people who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men.
As AIDS Awareness Week begins and with World AIDS Day coming up on Monday, December 1, people and organizations across the country are talking about HIV at home and abroad. This week, one of the questions we’ll be asked most frequently at CATIE is: “What does HIV look like in Canada today?”
The CATIE Blog hosts the views and opinions of people and organizations working and volunteering in Canada’s response to HIV and hepatitis C.