More than 60,000 Canadians and 37 million people worldwide live with HIV. In the early days of HIV and AIDS there was a huge fear and discrimination – to the extent that British Columbia politicians discussed the quarantine of HIV-infected people.
Since then, the development of science in the field of HIV has been rapid. But HIV-related stigma and discrimination are not obsolete, and the global epidemic is not far from being over.
Every year, there are still 2,000 new HIV cases in Canada. The collection of AIDS service organizations has slowed down and global funding for research and development in HIV has declined.
On this World AIDS Day, we invite you to recognize that negative judgment and feelings about HIV are interconnected and linked to racism, transphobia and homophobia.
You may have HIV and become "unconnected"
Thanks to the availability of modern antiretroviral therapy, HIV has become the most advantageous condition. The BC Center for Excellence on HIV / AIDS (BC-CfE) has shown that HIV-positive people who use therapy now have a similar life expectancy for those who are HIV-negative.
Julio Montaner, director of BC-CfE, introduced the concept of "treatment as prevention" (TasP). The medical and scientific community has come to the conclusion that an individual living with HIV can become "non-linkable" – which means that the virus is not sexually transmitted – if they get an undetermined viral load with HIV. People living with HIV have led an "undetermined = intolerable" movement to share the message of this hope and fight against stigmatization of HIV.
According to our own study on the Momentum Health Study, the number of HIV-negative homosexual men in Vancouver who knew this idea almost doubled between 2012 and 2015. The good news is that this is not due to the decrease in the use of condoms.
Bad news: The most important reports about HIV prevention and testing may not be available to all audiences. For example, we found that in the last two years, the most effective men, older men and men living outside the city were significantly less likely to be tested for HIV.
Unfortunately, efforts to stop the spread of HIV are hampered by fear and stigmatization. For example, some gay and bisexual men never tested HIV because they are worried about how it might affect their relationship and sexual life and that they may face discrimination.
Men are still afraid to tell physicians and check
Canada is still a criminal offense if it does not use a condom, does not reveal its HIV status by unanimous sex.
This discriminatory law remains despite the current strong scientific consensus that an individual with an unidentified viral load can not carry the virus. This was demonstrated by a study in which nearly 60,000 condoms were eliminated from serodicordant couples (where one partner is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive) did not lead to HIV transmission.
World AIDS Day: Stop Criminal Responsibility for HIV Status
These fears also make it difficult for men to tell their doctor about having sex with other men. At least a quarter of the participants in Momentum had not informed their doctor about sex with men, and these men were half that might have been recently tested for HIV.
Stigma also affects access to services and mental health. Men who had more mental problems (depression and multiple drug abuse) were more likely to become involved in sexually transmitted infections.
The attitude to the disease can be confused with discrimination. For example, the risk of HIV among men in the Momentum Health Study is characterized by difficulties in finding safe sex partners, condom use challenges, and barriers to access to healthcare, including transitional services.
There is an effective HIV prevention tool
The HIV prophylaxis kit now has more funds than the peak of the epidemic. Safer sex, once only referring to condoms, is now considering issues such as undetectable status and preventive measures before contact or PrEP.
HIV Preventive Medicine PrEP is highly effective if it is consistently implemented and affordable for HIV-infected HIV-positive people in British Columbia who are at high risk for HIV.
Prior to pre-exposure to B.C., only 2.3 percent of gay men used PrEP in the Vancouver Momentum Health Study. However, PrEP's understanding more than quadrupled to 80 percent from 18 percent in this period.
Although there are still difficulties accessing thousands of gay men and other people at risk of HIV over B.C. Now take PrEP for free.
HIV has changed. And our perception must be overcome. Now is the time when policy-makers, service providers and the entire nation as a whole are getting a better understanding of HIV.
Harmlessness, ignorance and the continuation of HIV as something shameful will deter us from our efforts to support people living with HIV and reduce new infections.