World AIDS Day 2014
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.
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.
There is absolutely no way that we can 'Close the Gap' by being complacent in setting our targets. We must ask ourselves, when it comes to ending the AIDS epidemic, what does success look like? Does it mean putting the blinders on and telling ourselves that the status quo is still good enough?
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.'
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.