HIV/AIDS in Canada

Canada’s HIV and Hep C epidemics are growing while Harper cuts funding
HIV prevalence in Canada is now the same as it was in 1982, and is now rising among Aboriginal people, people who use drugs, newcomers to Canada and gay men and other men who have sex with men. There are currently 65,000 people living with HIV and 250,000 people living with Hepatitis C. A quarter of people living with HIV are also co- infected with Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is now becoming the leading cause of hospitalization and death of people living with HIV.  Hepatitis C is making its greatest inroads amongst Aboriginal people, people in prison, people who use drugs, and street involved young people.

2010 is the year that the 5-year Canadian AIDS strategy “Leading Together” is to be completed. During Harper’s term in office the government has pulled money out of “Leading Together” and has rescinded on promises of increased funding to support our country’s growing epidemic. Concerns are rising about how Canada’s next national AIDS plan will be funded and implemented with a government who actively denies the rights of people living with HIV, Hepatitis C and those most affected including people living in poverty, people who use drugs, Aboriginal people, young people, LGBTQ people and newcomers to Canada.

Harper denies science-based drug policies
The Vienna declaration was of primary focus at this year’s XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna. The declaration calls on scientists, health care practitioners, policy makers, governments, and the public around the world to commit to science-informed drug policies, instead of policies based on ideology.

At the Vienna conference, the Canadian Government refused to support the declaration and said it was not inline with the Government’s Anti-Drug Strategy “Given that some of the recommendations outlined in the Vienna Declaration are inconsistent with Canada’s National Anti-Drug Strategy and current federal drug policy, Canada will not support the document,” Charlene Wiles of the Public Health Agency of Canada writes in an email. Harper’s policies focus on crime and punishment, pouring money in to law enforcement and cutting funding to harm reduction, health and social programs that could support people who use drugs and stop the growing epidemics.  The “war on drugs” is widely acknowledged as a failure and is only fuelling the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics.

Harper’s Bill S-10 will only fuel the HIV and Hep C epidemics
The pending Bill S-10, considered Harper’s “tough on crime” bill will increase mandatory minimum sentencing for drug related crime. This bill will only increase the number of people in our already over crowded prison system, and will target the most marginalized communities in our country, fuelling the HIV and Hep C epidemics.

HIV and Hepatitis C prevalence rates in federal prisons rival those of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and are greater than the HIV prevalence rates in all other regions of the world. The rate of HIV infection in federal prisons is 15 times greater than that in the community as a whole. The rate of Hepatitis C is 39 times greater than the population as a whole. Incarcerated women and especially Aboriginal women are disproportionately infected with HIV and hepatitis C, 11.7 percent being infected with HIV.

Putting more people in jail will only increase the number of people with HIV and Hepatitis C as prisons widely lack needle exchange and harm reduction programs, condom distribution and HIV prevention programs, and safe tattooing initiatives to support the prevention of HIV and Hepatitis C infection.

Canada is number 2 in the world for criminalising HIV exposure and transmission
Canada is now the number 2 country in the world for incarcerating people living with HIV on charges related to the transmission and exposure of the virus. There are now at least 54 people are in jail as a result of the Canadian judicial system’s war against people living with HIV.  The United Nations and public health experts around the world acknowledge that the criminalisation of HIV exposure and transmission is poor public health policy and only serves to fuel HIV. Despite this, our country has the shameful record of being only second to the United States in criminalising people living with HIV.

Harper continues to fall back on global commitments
The G8 and G20 leaders recently met here in Southern Ontario and rescinded on their promises to support universal access for HIV treatment, prevention, care and support by 2010 and to fund the Global Fund on AIDS, TB and Malaria. Guided by Harper, global leaders decided on an agreement to cut global deficits. Our communities will be the most affected by these austerity measures as we see a decline in funding to health care, education, and social programs.

The world is watching as Canada goes back on its’ commitments and demolishes its progressive support for health, harm reduction and human rights. Once a global leader, we as residents of this country, shamefully watch as this government actively destroys our communities and embarrasses us globally. If Harper can find 1.3 billion dollars to spend on security for the G8/G20 meetings, he most certainly can find the money to invest in our communities and stop the growing epidemics of HIV and Hepatitis C!

How many more lives need to be lost before we take action? It’s time to take action!
Through a combination of grass-roots activism, public demonstrations, lobbying, collaborative work with other community organizations, research, and related activities, AIDS ACTION NOW! will:

  • Improve access to treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS in Canada and around the world.
  • Fight for effective HIV/AIDS prevention that respects human rights.
  • Work to improve the social determinants of health for communities struggling against the AIDS epidemic.