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We are just three years away from being called to account for our progress towards the 2020 Fast-Track targets -- a critical milestone in ending the AIDS epidemic. We still have a great distance to travel before we're able to call it a success. Measures to close this gap are readily available, but what we need is an all hands-on deck approach.
Since 2011, new infections in children have reduced by a massive 60 per cent -- this drop is responsible for most of the impressive decline in HIV infections globally. So why then is it hard for me to join in the spontaneous applause that tend to break out at events where statements such as "... and her baby was born HIV-free" or "... and my baby is healthy" are made?
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Few health workers with knowledge of sign language and a lack of written or visual information on HIV in sign language are further barriers for those with hearing impairments. Requiring a sign language interpreter also limits the level of privacy deaf people have when accessing health services. Additionally, much information can get lost in translation. Without comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission, Lesotho's deaf population remains vulnerable to this virus.
Internationally the formal commitment has been made to end AIDS by 2030. However, there is a chasm to be crossed between the formal signature of a country acknowledging that these targets ought to be met, and the day-to-day financial, political, and social effort that meeting these targets will require.
Thirty-seven years old. In 2030, I will be 37 years old. In 2030, the AIDS epidemic will be eliminated. I hope. According to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or "Global Goals" that's the plan. I pray to God they're right. I can wait till 37, but if I'm being honest, I expect to be waiting much past that.
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current prevention strategies are not decreasing the rate of new HIV infections quickly enough to end the epidemic -- and women and girls are especially at risk. Given recent advances in HIV prevention science, we can, and must, do better.
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And just like that, British royalty has come face-to-face with music royalty.
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Speaking at the recent Global Fund replenishment conference in Montreal, Mr. Trudeau touted that "Canada will continue to lead by example, and show the world what we can accomplish when we unite in pursuit of a larger goal." However, this declaration came at a time when HIV rates have been steadily rising across the country, people with HIV being criminalized for non-disclosure and underfunding for HIV organizations.
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December 1st is World AIDS Day. A diagnosis of HIV today is not a death sentence. There are good diagnostic tools, and effective antiretroviral treatments. Despite these tools, about 40 per cent of individuals living with HIV do not know that they are infected. This has to change.
Stigma has many causes, one of which is a genuine fear of contagion. Despite the fact that HIV is now a treatable condition, "educational" messages on HIV prevention are still based on fear, and almost universally exaggerate the risks of HIV infection and its consequences.
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I was born on May 21st 1993 with H.I.V. In my world this was the scariest thing imaginable. Not the actual virus. I was fortunate enough to learn I could physically live a long relatively healthy life. The stigma has kept me forever afraid. But my disclosure saved my life. That's not the case for everybody and I think it's important we all have a choice. Whatever choice that is, let yourself be happy. Let yourself feel no shame. I am not living with H.I.V, H.I.V is living with me.
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One of the key factors in achieving the end of AIDS is one of the most challenging -- gender equality. We need to go beyond the science of HIV care to the larger issues of social structures that create vulnerabilities to HIV.
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The fact that there are still approximately 2 million people around the world who receive an HIV-positive diagnosis each year only accentuates how important it is to scale-up proven combination prevention approaches. Equally important is the scale-up of investments to find a safe, effective and affordable vaccine and multi-purpose prevention technologies.
For the past three years World AIDS Day on December 1st has been themed, "Getting to zero," which means zero new HIV Infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Even with these promising new developments however, we cannot underestimate the challenges ahead in responding the AIDS epidemic. More than 71 thousand Canadians were estimated to be living with HIV in 2011 and there were 3,175 new HIV infections. Worldwide, there are a staggering 36 million people living with AIDS.
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Sex and relationships are important aspects of being human. Now imagine learning that you're HIV-positive. A new study published December 1, on World AIDS Day, shows just how powerful HIV-related fear and discrimination can be for a woman's sex life.
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HIV infection is decidedly no longer a death sentence, and no longer a major inhibitor of quality of life. HIV-positive people can live long and healthy lives. For those with access to care, some sex educators now talk about HIV infection as more of a nuisance to be managed than than a life-altering diagnosis.
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UNAIDS has embraced the ambitious goal of ending the AIDS by 2030, and this has now been formally endorsed within the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals agenda. On World AIDS Day, UNAIDS will be calling for the world to achieve: "Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths."
Canada has an extensive network of healthcare professionals, community-based organizations and AIDS service organizations contributing greatly to reducing the incidence of HIV. But a new report on HIV infections from the Public Health Agency of Canada illustrates the need to expand the reach and impact of HIV prevention and treatment efforts.
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A recent Canadian study of women living with HIV aims to break this glass ceiling, shedding important light on what opportunities exist and what barriers persist towards closing the gap for women living with HIV, a highly underserved community both in Canada and around the world.
Closing this access gap means expanding health systems to include grassroots outreach and the community-level advocates who lead the charge. It is well documented that village-level and even home-based HIV testing greatly improve rates of testing. The same is true for HIV education, counselling, and treatment follow-up.
The AIDS pandemic has created gaps in the lives of grandmothers and grandchildren that will never be closed. In addition to the horrific loss of life which can never be reversed, the pandemic has destroyed traditional family structures for a whole generation in sub-Saharan Africa.
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One key promise of Multi-Purpose Prevention Technologies is that they will allow women to take control over their own sexual and reproductive health decisions. But I can't help but wonder about the difference between putting prevention and contraception 'in women's hands' versus 'on women's shoulders.'
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In 2013, for the first time in the history of HIV and AIDS, we saw more people gaining access to antiretroviral treatment than the number who became newly-infected with HIV that same year. But closing this gap commands deep digging to get at the root drivers of the epidemic.
Racialized women and children, especially from the Global South often become the face of health issues as their faces (literally) are plastered on the websites and brochures of global health organizations. Their images usually accompanied by indicators of poverty and rural geographies and are offered to an audience as the justification for much needed programs.
The grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa face triple jeopardy caused by gender, age and exposure to diseases that are associated with aging. Many are affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB. At the same time they are invisible in the statistics and often in the public consciousness.
As advocates, we often like to use analogies to explain the scourge of pandemics like HIV: It's a runaway train with no conductor, a loaded gun in the hands of a madman, a tide that needs to be turned. The problem with analogies though is that they have a way of detracting from the overarching, inevitable truth: People are dying. Real people. By the end of 2012, there were 35.3 million people across the world living with HIV. Even more jarring is the fact that one third of those people also have tuberculosis, and many of them will die before they even know that they have it.
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Development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine is still a dream for the future. We have a Canadian strategy that's proven that it can act now to decrease transmission and lower the number of new cases -- a strategy that provides a real opportunity to end the HIV pandemic in our lifetime.
Vulnerable population groups including, Indigenous communities, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers, prison inmates, women and transgender communities, still experience considerable health, social and political inequities, confront human rights injustices, and shoulder the brunt of new HIV infections.
The theme for World AIDS Day over the next three years will be "Getting to Zero: Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths." This message is powerful, however if we are serious about making this a reality, then we need to start purposively tackling the challenges that have hindered our progress so far.
I am part of the HIV support community at Positive Women's Network (PWN) in Vancouver, BC. Many of our members are of Aboriginal descent -- not a surprise, given that Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by HIV. Stigma shadows discussions about sexual health, mental health and wellness, drug use, and definitely sex itself.
It is no coincidence that in countries and regions with high HIV/AIDS prevalence, women tend to have a lower position in society. But exactly what are the linkages between how women and girls are valued and their risk for HIV/AIDS? A significant factor is the ability to make choices.
Women's lack of power relative to men gives them less bargaining power in negotiating the use of condoms to protect themselves. Poverty and lack of alternative options lead women to use survival strategies, including prostitution and exchange of sex for resources. To improve women's position in society and give them more control over their life choices, the perceived value of women and girls must change.
If the only image you have of Africa is that of a continent continually in a state of crisis, then you are severely mistaken. It is time Westerners stop characterizing Africa as a bottomless pit of despair, and a continent ridden in abject poverty. We can no longer afford to distort its reality with misconceived assumptions.