11/28/2012 09:02 EST | Updated 01/28/2013 05:12 EST

Activists demand funding for HIV awareness programs

AIDS activists are calling on the Quebec government to focus on preventing the spread of HIV and providing antiretroviral therapy to all patients – something they say could eradicate the virus within 10 years.

Dr. Réjean Thomas, founder of Clinique L'Actuel, a clinic that helps patients with sexually transmitted diseases, said there are still as many as 450 new cases in the province each year.

He said most people infected are young and a quarter of Quebecers who have the virus don't know it.

Another 35 per cent don't have access to antiretroviral drugs.

Thomas said that medication can significantly reduce the spread of the virus.

A new drop-in clinic that offers fast and free screenings in Montreal's gay village has not received money from the province since the former Liberal government cut funding for the annual AIDS awareness campaign last year.

Thomas said he met with the province's Health Minister Réjean Hébert on Tuesday to push for more funding.

Hébert said a prevention campaign targeting young Quebecers will be launched in the new year.

In a report published in 2011, the province's public health authority noted that the median age for men with new HIV diagnosis was 40 while the women's median age was 37.

The report also states that the number of new cases increase between the ages of 15 and 45.