Canada needs to step up to fight HIV and AIDS

Canada can once again be the world leader in fighting the spread of HIV, but it needs to rethink some of its antiquated systems before it can properly reduce the spread and stigma of the virus.

Health Sexual Health Koelen Andrews

This article was published on January 1st, 2020

As new advancements in modern medicine continue to make HIV less of a concern for society, the latest findings about HIV are disturbing. While a progressive nation in most issues, Canada falls completely flat in keeping up to date with proper protections and services for the community—HIV+ and negative. With new HIV infection rates up in the last few years, it’s becoming clearer that Canada needs to step up its HIV game plan. Here are the issues most pressing for Canada and the HIV community.

HIV care and prevention needs more federal funding. While the government initially promised $85 million dollars annually, only $70 million was spent in 2017 and $117 million dollars previously committed to HIV care, prevention, and response was never properly allocated. A recent 5 year action plan falls short of solidifying targets and dates for delivery. The House of Commons Standing committee recommends an increase of $100 million annually to properly address the issues surrounding HIV and Hepatitis.

Canada is still unjustly prosecuting and inprisoning HIV positive members of society. The sweeping criminalization of people who don’t disclose their HIV statuses has shown statistically to be more detrimental than helpful. The lifetime designation as a sex offender is unjust, cruel, and inhuman when there is little to no risk of transmission from an undetectable person to a negative one. While three provinces have lifted their severe punishments of non-disclosing HIV Undetectable people, more federal laws and protections need to be extended to this community and the sex offender status needs to go.

Needle and syringe exchange programs work and need to be updated. For nearly three decades, prisons have had accessibility and have supported needle exchange programs to Gault the rampant spread of HIV and HCV. While the Correctional Service of Canada acknowledges that a needle exchange program is needed, these services are only available in select few prisons. A pending lawsuit for prisoners rights is set for early December, but until then, Canada could use further implementation of these plans.

Canada technically decriminalized sex work in 2013 by a Canadian Supreme Court decision declaring it an unconstitutional violation of sex worker’s rights. One year later, the conservative government passed the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which virtually criminalized all sex work and irradiated the Supreme Court decision. Sexy workers are then, therefore, often forced into precarious situations without benefits. Ample research suggests that laws banning the sex trade are negative and harmful to society, including aiding in the spread of HIV, Hep C, and AIDS.

The opioid crisis is becoming more of a problem and is reminiscent of the AIDS crisis in the early years of the plague. Canada’s current laws banning drugs and placing strict punishments on users only helps to solidify the stigma and does nothing actually suppress drug usage. Canada needs to re-evaluate the current laws and systems in place, and utilizing science and modern data, needs to create real solutions for the 12,800 people who have died in the last four years from drug overdose and those currently addicted to opioids. Supervised consumption services need to be installed around the country to help end the crisis. Canada needs to produce safer, cleaner alternative medicines for these hazardous, highly addictive drugs.

Canada can once again be the world leader in fighting the spread of HIV, but it needs to rethink some of its antiquated systems before it can properly reduce the spread and stigma of the virus.

Learn more about the fight on HIV and AIDS from the The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

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