PAN’s World AIDS Day and Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week message 

December 1st will mark the 35th World AIDS Day (WAD) and the start of Communities, Allies, and Networks (CAAN)’s Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week (IAAW). PAN stands with people living with HIV (PLHIV) across the world to mark this milestone, to remember those we have lost, as well as the work still to be done.  The theme of IAAW this year is: ‘One Vision, Many Paths’, and we hope you find time for reflection and action.

An update from UNAIDS on the global picture reveals that during the last two years of COVID-19 and other crises, progress against the HIV pandemic has faltered, resources have shrunk, and millions of lives are at risk as a result. Urgent action is required in many parts of the world.

The global picture is stark, but the situation in Canada is more promising. According to the most recent report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in 2020, 90% of the people living with HIV were aware of their status; 87% of them were on treatment; and 95% of persons on treatment had a suppressed viral load. This means we have achieved both the 1st and 3rd 90-90-90 targets expected for 2020.  But, looked at another way, there were still 16,690 people not engaged or represented in the HIV care continuum. Furthermore, certain populations such as people who inject drugs and Indigenous peoples are disproportionately impacted by HIV and have lower HIV awareness, treatment uptake and viral suppression when compared to the overall population.  To push towards elimination of HIV/AIDS by 2030, our next national commitments are 95-95-95 by 2025 – which means we must redouble our efforts.

Here in BC, we have one of the lowest new HIV diagnosis rate in Canada. In terms of the 90-90-90 targets, the following estimates are reported by PHAC – PLHIV who are diagnosed (94%), on treatment (92%), and virally suppressed (95%) at the end of 2020. These numbers are encouraging and higher only in the territories and Atlantic provinces.

Community-based organizations (CBOs) have played a critical role in the response to HIV in this province. PAN members continue to work alongside and support people living with HIV (PLHIV), others with lived and living experiences, and those most at risk, connecting them to testing and treatment, and in accessing harm reduction services and other critical supports.  The overall decrease in new infections and the overall increase in the number of people on treatment is a shared success attributable to the work and leadership of countless individuals – including PLHIV – along with PAN members, our health authority partners, the BC Centre for Excellence, and others.

At the same time, we know that challenges persist, particularly with regards to health equity. Indigenous peoples continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, hepatitis C and the harms from our poisoned drug supply, with systemic racism and discrimination across our health care and other systems impacting people’s access to care and support. Our province’s commitment to UNDRIP will need to be translated into tangible action such as addressing recommendations from reports like In Plain Sight.

And as we mark World AIDS Day, we must also recognize the preventable deaths and the tragedy of BC’s ever worsening drug poisoning crisis. The drug poisoning crisis continues to decimate individuals, families, and communities across the province. It is now the leading cause of unnatural death for all of BC, and second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost. Since the province first declared a public health emergency in April 2016, more than 10,000 people have died – and these deaths were avoidable.  Further, from the latest research, we have seen HIV rates spike among drug users in BC during the COVID pandemic, and we know that overdose is the leading cause of death among some PLHIV.

PAN members, other CBOs and peer run organizations must be better resourced.  PAN members have decades of experience addressing the HIV epidemic and with providing harm reduction services, along with grassroots mobilizing, challenging stigma, innovating, and bringing the voices of people with lived and living experiences to the table. We have written to Premier Eby to request a meeting on December 1st to discuss the provincial response to both HIV and to the drug poisoning crisis, and we look forward to discussing the critical role of the membership in both.

Finally, as we approach World AIDS Day and IAAW, we would like to take a moment to shine a spotlight on Central Interior Native Health Society (CINHS) – a PAN member organization that exemplifies the commitment to social justice, health equity and de-colonization.  Jennifer Hoy from CINHS shared this about their work:

 

Central Interior Native Health Society is founded on an Equity Oriented Health Care Model, committed to providing cultural, trauma, and violence informed care through a harm reduction lens to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. This delivery model is the foundation of HIV care provision at CINHS, through all levels of the cascade of care, as we strive to eliminate barriers that impede access to health and social services. Knowing that stigma and inequitable access to health services is a struggle our clients face daily, we strive to always meet clients where they are at for individual care plans and case management. This is particularly true for our indigenous clients, which has driven our commitment to de-colonization through education, both through formal education and mentorship, as well as through informing the community of approaches to health and healing that fosters equity and an indigenous worldview. This client centered, equity-oriented model of care has led to our exceptional success in HIV care provision, education, testing, and Harm reduction programming.”

 

World AIDS Day/ Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week

Information from PAN

Information from CATIE

Information from CAAN

Information from AIDS Canada

 

Learn

Inequalities are blocking the end of the AIDS pandemic, say new UN report
The new UNAIDS report, Dangerous Inequalities unpacks the impact on the AIDS response of gender inequalities, of inequalities faced by key populations, and of inequalities between children and adults. “The world will not be able to defeat AIDS while reinforcing patriarchy,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

World AIDS Day Message from Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS

2025 AIDS targets

Drug Poisoning Crisis: BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths

 

 
 
 
 
Jennifer (Evin) Jones, Executive Director
[email protected]