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.
Three decades of awareness campaigns have instilled a very clear and consistent message to the public: condoms are the most effective way to prevent an HIV infection.
So what happens when a new prevention method emerges – and it is also highly effective?
In recent years, multiple studies have confirmed that maintaining an undetectable viral load through the consistent and correct use of antiretroviral treatment (ART) by people living with HIV dramatically reduces the risk of HIV transmission. The reduction is so great that ART can now be offered as a highly effective HIV prevention option.
I recently had the fortune of attending the annual event of the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), combining their annual meeting, caucus of Aboriginal people living with HIV/AIDS (APHA Caucus), skills-building conference and “Wise Practices,” the research conference of CAAN’s Aboriginal HIV & AIDS Community-Based Research Collaborative Centre. The event brought together Indigenous people from across Canada involved in the response to HIV and hepatitis C. Although I attend most years, these gatherings never cease to enthrall and move me.
Vancouver is in the limelight again. This year’s International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference may have marked a watershed moment in our HIV response, with some similarity to the 1996 Vancouver AIDS conference when highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) hit the world stage.
In response to mounting evidence of the prevention benefits of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use by HIV-negative gay and bisexual men, a discussion recently emerged on social media about the perceived exclusion of trans men1 who have sex with men from PrEP research studies.
In fact, trans men participate in many HIV prevention research studies, whether or not they are identified as trans when results are reported. Some do not identify as trans, but rather as men of trans experience or transitioned men, and are happy to check the “male” box without qualification. Other studies have explicitly included trans men and allowed them to self-identify. Regardless, some were upset that when results were reported, PrEP effectiveness among trans men was not addressed. In response, a number of well-intentioned non-trans men voiced their support for greater inclusion of trans men in biomedical and other HIV prevention research. While these statements are a testament to the progress gay and bisexual men’s communities are making in embracing men of trans experience, I feel compelled to offer a reality check about the inclusion of trans men in HIV prevention research.
The CATIE Blog hosts the views and opinions of people and organizations working and volunteering in Canada’s response to HIV and hepatitis C.