November 30, 2017
Government of Canada
Every year on December 1st, we come together to mark World AIDS Day and the start of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week. There was a time not long ago when many lives were lost to AIDS in Canada. Thanks to advances in treatment, the situation today is vastly different. With timely interventions and supports, people living with HIV can manage their illness and live a healthy life.
In Canada, there are an estimated 65,040 people living with HIV. Unfortunately, the number of people living with HIV continues to grow. An estimated 2,500 individuals are newly diagnosed with HIV each year, despite the existence of knowledge and resources to prevent transmission. And about 13,000 people (or 20% of those living with HIV) are unaware that they are HIV positive.
The Government of Canada and the provinces and territories are committed to taking action to prevent new HIV infections, to increase testing, and to achieve better health outcomes for those living with HIV. Canada has endorsed global goals to eliminate AIDS and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections as public health threats by 2030. Canada has also endorsed the 90-90-90 global target for HIV, which calls for 90% of people living with HIV to be diagnosed, 90% of these individuals to be on treatment and 90% of those on treatment to be virally suppressed, by 2020.
Currently in Canada, it is estimated that 80% of people living with HIV are aware of their status, 76% of these individuals are on treatment and 89% of those on treatment are virally suppressed. We can do better. Achieving 90-90-90 in Canada will be dependent on our ability to encourage people to get tested and know their status, and to make better use of evidence-based approaches to testing, treatment and support.
Across studies to date, there have been no confirmed cases of sexually transmitted HIV to an HIV-negative partner when the HIV-positive partner was continuously on antiretroviral therapy (ART) with sustained viral suppression. We have known for some time that ART is critical for maintaining and improving the health of a person living with HIV. It has also become evident that when a person living with HIV is on ART, takes their medications consistently as prescribed and maintains a confirmed suppressed viral load, there is effectively no risk of their passing the infection on to their sex partners.
It is important that we collectively ensure that the latest scientific information is used to strengthen our efforts to improve and protect the health of Canadians. This includes information regarding the risk of sexual transmission of HIV, supports for people who use drugs, and the importance of being tested and treated. It also includes paying attention to those factors that contribute to preventing new infections such as harm reduction and safer sex. For example, we know that using a condom correctly and consistently reduces the risk of transmission of all sexually transmitted infections. And we know that if we do not address stigma and discrimination and reach out to those who need to be tested so that those individuals living with these infections can take advantage of available treatments, we will never succeed in our goal to prevent new infections.
As Canada's Chief Public Health Officer and Provincial and Territorial Chief Medical Officers of Health, we appreciate the important work being done by all of you, including by partners and stakeholders who are participating in efforts such as the Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) campaign and the Indigenous Know Your Status program to improve public awareness of the importance of culturally-safe HIV testing and treatment.
Together, as federal, provincial and territorial partners, we will work with health agencies, health care providers, and people with lived experience to continue to find ways to make HIV prevention, testing and treatment more accessible. We would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank all those in Canada who devote their time and effort to ending HIV as a public health threat.
Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Dr. Heather Morrison
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Prince Edward Island
Chair, Council of Chief of Medical Officers of Health
This statement previously appeared at the Public Health Agency of Canada, here.