Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, has issued the following statement in recognition of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, 2021:
“Today, on World AIDS Day, and during Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week, we show our solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS here in British Columbia. We mourn those we have lost and we celebrate their lives. We also renew our commitment to supporting those who live with HIV, and to ending this epidemic and the stigma that surrounds it.
“British Columbia has done much to establish itself as a global leader in addressing HIV and AIDS, thanks to the BC Centre for Excellence’s (BC-CfE’s) Treatment as Prevention Strategy (TasP), health authority partners, community-based organizations and people living with HIV working on the front lines. Working together we have made many gains, but there is still more work to be done.
“This year’s World AIDS Day theme is End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics. Effectively addressing HIV requires that we acknowledge and address the inequalities that drive this epidemic, as well as the other public-health emergencies that we face, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis. This includes recognizing and confronting the racism, stigma and other structural barriers that prevent people from getting the health care and other supports they need, including housing and food security.
“This year, as we mark World AIDS Day and Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week, we acknowledge the efforts of AIDS service and other community-based organizations throughout the province, large and small, that have worked to connect people to testing, treatment, prevention and support.
“Our province has led the way in making HIV treatment available through TasP and, in turn, B.C.’s community-based organizations play an essential role in supporting people to get tested, and to linking them to care, treatment and prevention. B.C. continues to provide fully subsidized antiretroviral therapy to all B.C. residents living with HIV. Today, the treatment program reaches more than 7,500 eligible individuals in all areas of the province.
“In addition, since January 2018, B.C. offers fully subsidized pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to individuals at risk of HIV infection. To date, more than 8,000 eligible people have enrolled in the program, under the supervision of over 1,400 prescribers, including 47 BC-CfE qualified nurse practitioners. Together, the treatment and PrEP programs represent the cornerstone of the treatment as prevention strategy pioneered by the BC-CfE and now adopted around the world.
“For over three decades, people living with HIV and the organizations that support them have continually adapted community-based approaches to address the epidemic.
“One such organization is Positive Living North No Kheyoh t'sih'en t'sehena Society (PLN), providing culturally appropriate, non-judgmental care and advocacy to people living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk across northern B.C. In Prince George, Smithers, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, PLN works with some of the most vulnerable members of these communities; people who, in addition to their HIV diagnosis, are often dealing with addiction, homelessness, poverty and the intergenerational impacts of colonization and the residential schools system.
“PLN recognizes that HIV continues to be an issue here in their communities, particularly for their Indigenous clients. Many of the people they help are also unsheltered, at risk of overdose, or dealing with other complex mental-health or substance-use issues.
“PLN works to meet people where they are, and their work is firmly grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and doing, which puts culture and relationships at the centre of their work. This approach has led to their successes in both their prevention and support programs.
“As British Columbia continues to see a decrease in new HIV infections and an increase in the number of people on treatment, and as we work towards its goal of eliminating AIDS, we must also continue to work together to ensure that all people can access culturally safe and stigma-free services.
“On this important day we also celebrate the leadership B.C. has brought to the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Earlier this year, at the urging of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the UN General Assembly adopted the BC-CfE proposed, TasP inspired, UN 95-95-95 target by 2025 as the roadmap to ‘End HIV/AIDS as a pandemic by 2030,’ defined as decreasing AIDS-related mortality and new HIV infections globally by 90%, using 2010 as the baseline.
“The new target calls for at least 95% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) to be diagnosed, at least 95% of those diagnosed to be on antiretroviral treatment (ART) and at least 95% of those on ART to have undetectable HIV levels by the end of 2025.
“Ending AIDS as an epidemic by 2030 remains within reach. However, as Dr. Julio Montaner, BC-CfE’s executive director and physician in chief recognizes, the challenge remains to ensure we secure the international leadership’s sustained commitment to deliver on the promise of BC- CfE’s treatment as prevention strategy globally.
“World AIDS Day highlights the work still to do and together, we can find the answer in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
- There are an estimated 9,800 British Columbians living with HIV.
- The Province’s STOP HIV/AIDS project, which includes the successful Treatment as Prevention Program developed by the BC Centre for Excellence (BC-CfE), as well as the work of health authority partners and community-based organizations, receives approximately $20 million in annual funding.
- The Province also funds the BC-CfE’s HIV Drug Treatment Program, which includes publicly funded HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system.
- While HIV is a manageable chronic condition, if left untreated, it can cause a weakened immune system or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
For more information about Positive Living North (PLN), visit: https://www.positivelivingnorth.org/index.php
PAN is a network that includes PLN and more than 40 other community-based organizations addressing HIV, hepatitis C and harm reduction across BC, visit: https://pacificaidsnetwork.org/
For a list of Dec. 1 World AIDS Day and Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week events happening around British Columbia, visit: https://pacificaidsnetwork.org/2021/11/08/2021-world-aids-day-and-indigenous-aids-awareness-week/
For more information about Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week, visit: https://caan.ca/events-and-workshops/indigenous-aids-awareness-week/
For more information about UNAIDS and the 2021 World AIDS Day theme, visit: https://www.unaids.org/en/2021-world-aids-day
For more information about the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), visit: http://bccfe.ca/
For more information about STOP HIV/AIDS, visit: https://stophivaids.ca/about/