What I learned from teaching an HIV and hepatitis C testing course

HIV treatments are a literal lifesaver and help people to live long and healthy lives, while also preventing transmission. There are also highly effective hepatitis C treatments that cure more than 95% of those living with the infection. But none of the advancements in hepatitis C and HIV treatment are being realized for the 13% of HIV-positive Canadians and 44% of Canadians with hepatitis C who don’t know their status. Testing is the first step towards connecting people to treatment, care and support, and no matter the result, it can also be the gateway to prevention services like harm reduction...

Read more

Hepatitis C reflex testing in Canada: from theory to practice

Hepatitis C testing in Canada can be complicated. Until recently, hepatitis C testing through provincial labs across the country was standard two-step testing. This approach uses two separate blood samples collected at two separate times. The first blood sample is for the screening test that looks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. This screening test determines if a person has ever been exposed to the virus. If this test result is positive, a second blood sample is taken to conduct the confirmatory test that looks for the presence of the hepatitis C virus in the blood. This test confirms...

Read more

Helping harm reduction programs move towards best practices

For harm reduction programs across Canada, the distribution of injection, smoking and snorting/sniffing supplies remains a crucial activity to reduce drug-related harms. While estimates of the number of people who use drugs from unregulated markets are imprecise, the evidence that does exist suggests that more than 170,000 Canadians inject drugs and 730,000 used cocaine or crack in the past year (1). Population estimates of the number of Canadians who used crystal methamphetamine are not available. The rates of needle/syringe sharing in Canada have dropped in the past 20 years to just over 10% among people who inject drugs, but more...

Read more

Spotting for people who use drugs: What, when and how

With an increasingly poisoned drug supply and criminal laws that make the consumption of drugs more dangerous, people who use drugs rely on each other and their service providers to spot an overdose and get help as needed. But what if a person is using drugs on their own? This dilemma has become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, as public health guidance has discouraged gatherings and promoted physical distancing.

Read more

Changing policies and addressing inequities: The health and wellbeing of people who use drugs

The International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU) expanded its mandate in 2020 beyond viral hepatitis to include the holistic health of people who use drugs, and from October 13 to 15, 2021, the organization hosted its first conference with this expanded mandate. Held virtually, this year’s conference brought together people with lived and living experience, healthcare and social service providers, researchers, advocates, policy-makers and community leaders to discuss promising practices, emerging trends, new research and what’s needed to support the health of people who use drugs around the world. An overarching theme of the conference related...

Read more

How Rwanda is eliminating hepatitis C and what Canada can learn from its successes

Rwanda is a country situated in sub-Saharan, eastern Africa with a high population density: 499 people per square kilometre in 2018 and a population of 12.6 million people in 2019, an increase of 2.64% from 2018. Although it is among the poorest countries in the world and experienced a genocide against the Tutsi people in 1994, Rwanda has made immense progress in the fields of public health, achieving its Millennium Development Goals for population health, such as reduction of under-five mortality and maternal mortality.

Read more