Ottawa injects $17.9 million to increase HIV testing in Canada | AIDS: on the trail of a pandemic

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Ottawa injects $17.9 million to increase HIV testing in Canada | AIDS: On the trail of a pandemic

Discreet, quick, easy to do at home… HIV self-testing will become more accessible in Canada, where thousands of people are living with the virus of human immunodeficiency without knowing it; a factor that contributes to continuous transmission.

In 2020, Health Canada authorized the use of the first HIV self-test kit.

On the penultimate day of the International AIDS Conference, Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced a $17.9 million budget for the targeted distribution of HIV self-test kits , as well as other screening methods, in the hope of making them easier to access and use.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the advantages of home tests, argues the Public Health Agency of Canada, which recognizes their great usefulness to communities remote areas, where access to screening is more complex.

The Agency cites systemic barriers as impediments to testing, citing in particular the stigma and discrimination experienced in health care settings.

This is true for Indigenous communities, remote communities, those who are racialized, cited Minister Duclos as an example, during a press briefing which was held Monday afternoon in Montreal.

These communities should therefore benefit from better access to screening kits, because this is where the individual and collective results are the most important, justified Mr. Duclos without however being able to quantify the number of kits that these new investments represent.

Also invited to speak at the press briefing, the executive director of COCQ-SIDA indicated that an HIV test kit currently costs $35 in Canada, plus shipping costs. Only one company provides them and the arrival of new players could improve the quantity available, argued Harpreet Kochhar, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“Proximity to home testing is critical to ensuring equitable access to testing and addressing testing capacity gaps in remote communities.

— Public Health Agency of Canada

Community-based organizations already committed to distributing HIV self-testing kits since their approval in 2020 will distribute new ones on a larger scale, including to populations affected by HIV, thanks to funding of 8 million of dollars.

Canada will also invest $9.9 million to support the work of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, the Minister of Health added.

< p class="e-p">HIV incidence rates are 60 times higher among people who inject drugs, about 40 times higher among “gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with sexually active men” and almost four times higher among Indigenous populations, according to Public Health Agency data in 2020.

Some 63,000 people are living with HIV in Canada, 10% of whom have not been diagnosed, estimates the federal agency responsible for public health.

“The rate of HIV in Canada remains high. »

— Jean-Yves Duclos, Federal Minister of Health

In 2021, an observational study funded by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network mentioned the various obstacles to current methods testing: fear of results, concerns about confidentiality, stigma and reluctance to test, among others.

Canada is committed to achieving the global goal of eradication of HIV and AIDS as public health threats by 2030.

As part of the 95-95-95 targets of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, the Canadian government must help ensure that 95% of people living with HIV in Canada are aware of their situation, that 95% of people diagnosed with the infection receive antiretroviral treatment and that 95% of people treated have their viral load suppressed.

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