Hepatitis C is curable, reads the script; time and time again I hear this said, have read it, and say it myself. This is great news and a reality for more people than ever before.
Does this mean that the job is done? I suppose it depends on one’s perspective. As I listened to members of the science research community speak recently, it is “done and dusted.” “Problem solved,” the headlines will read. Okay, maybe no headlines but a mention on page 4 with a minor piece in the late evening news, even though this may be the biggest news in medical science in decades.
There is a quiet tension that exists surrounding HIV and infant feeding. Although practices and recommendations vary around the world, breastfeeding is not recommended for infants born to an HIV-positive woman or trans man in Canada. Instead, HIV-positive parents are counselled to feed their infants with formula.
But I don’t think it is by any means a closed case, even in Canada. The truth is, the debate about HIV and infant feeding (particularly in Canada) has never been more complex. Like so many discussions related to HIV today, scientific advances are changing the way we talk about and consider possibilities. New questions about treatment as prevention, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and even levels of ‘risk’ seem to emerge every day.
On December 1, World AIDS Day, The Hon. Dr. Jane Philpott, Canada’s Minister of Health, declared that our country endorses the UNAIDS treatment targets that look to seeing an end to the global AIDS epidemic by 2030. On the same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement that, in part, declared “we are now at a point where we can envision a future free of this terrible disease.”
How many people are infected with HIV every day in Canada? What do HIV infection rates look like in specific populations?
Every year, surveillance reports tell us how many Canadians have been diagnosed with HIV. But since a large fraction of HIV-positive Canadians have not been diagnosed, these numbers don’t give us the full picture.
A test is a test, right? I’ve struggled with the issues of why HIV testing matters over the last 25 years, and over that time I’ve seen the ebb and flow of debates and discussions on why testing is still an important issue for Canada. I’ve also seen the frustration among those who do not have access to testing and why that matters. Yes, knowing your HIV status is still an important health issue for Canadians. However, with the complex array of debates on the pros and cons of testing, including the very real concerns about confidentiality; the need for pre- and post-test counselling; limited access to testing innovations such as point-of-care testing (POCT); the gendered nature of testing along with some popular misconceptions about it, there is definitely room for improvement moving forward. Simply put: We can and must do better in our national leadership around HIV testing issues in this country.
The CATIE Blog hosts the views and opinions of people and organizations working and volunteering in Canada’s response to HIV and hepatitis C.