The international AIDS 2022 conference ended on August 2nd. Thousands of people from all over the world attended the event in person in Montreal and online. It was wonderful to see some of our members and volunteers at the Global Village and see new connections emerging: Thank you so much for your involvement and engagement, ACCM Family!
Do we need to be reminded of the embarrassing absence of Canadian officials during the opening session and the number of delegates’ visa denials? On Monday, August 1st, the Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos tried to make up for it by announcing $18M for HIV testing. Out of this $18M, $8M will be dedicated to fund the distribution of self-testing kits. One step forward,especially after decades of frozen funding, but we – community organizations and people living with HIV/AIDS – certainly need more.
Access to self testing is crucial, and it is indeed convenient to do these tests anonymously at home. But without pre and post counselling, we miss an important occasion to share prevention messages, provide emotional support, and help accessing medication and support services. These counselling, prevention and support services are offered in community organizations such as ACCM, and we need to promote these services along with self-test kits.
While testing and prevention are obviously crucial to reaching the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets, what we need from the Government of Canada goes well beyond testing. First of all, we need universal and easy access to testing, harm reduction programs, PrEP, PEP, and medication. But funding is also needed to support PLHIV themselves. Canada’s obligations toward HIV care shouldn’t end with diagnosis, and we are falling behind at all subsequent stages. As discussed during the Quebec Without AIDS – Heading for 2030 pre-conference, we also need to address the social determinants of health (e.g., access to housing, combat poverty and food insecurity, etc.) to alleviate the cost and stigma of living with HIV.
This aligns perfectly with ACCM’s own demands from Canadian governments to put an end to the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, all drugs, and sex work; universal access and coverage for all health services, regardless of immigration status; housing policy that prioritizes the most vulnerable; an end to all discriminatory bans on blood donation; and adequate funding for services for PLHIV and PLHCV.
As the 2022 Montreal Manifesto concludes: “We deserve a peaceful world with a healthy environment and without poverty or AIDS”.