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Canada needs to do more to fight HIV/AIDS

September 30, 2013

We applaud Prime Minister Stephen Harper's announcement that Canada will contribute $203 million as part of its support to the United Nations' global strategy to improve the health of women and children in developing countries. This is a good first step.

However, the fact is, success in maternal and child health will be limited at best, unless the G8 delivers on its longstanding pledge of universal access to care, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. This is particularly the case in many African countries where the rate of HIV infection is in the range of 30 per cent among women of reproductive age.

The benefits of HIV treatment are staggering and directly relevant to the child and the mother (as well as to the father and the siblings, and their community). HIV treatment has been shown to: i) virtually eliminate AIDS morbidity and mortality, ii) reduce AIDS orphans by 93 per cent, iii) stop HIV transmission during pregnancy and breast-feeding, and, iv) virtually stop transmission of HIV among exposed adults.

The B.C.-pioneered HIV Treatment as Prevention strategy has now led to a dramatic decrease in HIV/AIDS burden in the province. In B.C., between 1996 and 2012, the massive expansion of fully pharmacare-supported HIV treatment coverage in B.C. has led to a greater than 90 per cent reduction in AIDS related morbidity and mortality, the virtual elimination of neonatal HIV infections, and a fall in the number of new HIV diagnoses from 900 to 238 per year. As a result of these efforts, B.C. has moved yet closer to its stated goal of an AIDS free generation.

Unfortunately, the indifference of Mr. Harper's government to this proven made-in-Canada innovation has devastating consequences domestically and internationally. In Canada, lack of a renewed AIDS strategy has led to rising new HIV infections, particularly in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Ottawa. Globally, Canada has failed to match the contributions of key donors in the fight against HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings. This puts at risk the gains achieved over the last decade if the Global Fund fails to reach its $15bn target to help in the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria. Last week, the UK pledged more than $1.5bn, which are now added to earlier pledges, including $5bn by the US; $1.4bn by France, and $750 million by Nordic countries.

Canada's leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS is long overdue. We urge the Harper government to fully embrace the Made in Canada Treatment as Prevention strategy. It is imperative Canada develops an effective National strategy including replenishing the Global Fund.


Dr. Julio Montaner is the director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the chair in AIDS Research and head of division of AIDS in the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, and the past-president of the International AIDS Society.

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Contact:
Kevin Hollett, Communications Coordinator British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
604 682-2344 ext 66536
778 848-3420 (cell)

About the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS:

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility. The BC-CfE is based at St. Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. The BC-CfE is dedicated to improving the health of British Columbians with HIV through developing, monitoring and disseminating comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases.

Reproduced with permission - "B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS"

B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
www.cfenet.ubc.ca


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