Message from Jane Philpott, Minister of Health on Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week 2016

(Ottawa) – On the occasion of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, Canada’s Minister of Health Jane Philpott issued the following statement:

December 1-5 is Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada, when we stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities and partner organizations in voicing our support for increasing awareness, supporting prevention and treatment, and reducing stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Our government is deeply committed to addressing the health priorities of Indigenous peoples, including reducing the rate of HIV infections. Rates of chronic illnesses, including HIV, are unacceptably high in many Indigenous communities, and the Government of Canada is committed to being a good partner in this area.

This year’s UNAIDS theme, Hands Up for #HIV prevention, focuses on the need to strengthen HIV prevention efforts, and I would like to acknowledge the leadership of Indigenous organizations. In particular, the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development are tireless in their efforts in the area of prevention, as well as providing compassionate care and advocacy for those living with HIV and AIDS.

Canada strongly supports the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment targets, which aim to ensure that 90% of HIV positive people will know their status, that 90% of people who know their status receive treatment, and that 90% of those on treatment have suppressed viral loads. This work must be culturally safe, and that is why we will continue to work with our partners to support appropriate outreach programs, prevention strategies, training opportunities, and access to diagnosis, care, treatment, and support.

This work is making a difference. In Saskatchewan for example, Health Canada has collaborated with First Nations communities on “Know Your Status” programs, which have been shown to be effective in increasing testing, follow-up and treatment. Two First Nations communities that have fully implemented the Know Your Status program have seen more than 95% of infected individuals on treatment and more than 95% of those on treatment with supressed viral load. In addition, the rate of annual new HIV cases has decreased from 24 to zero.

On December 1, I took a rapid HIV test at the Wabano Centre in Ottawa, along with Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Parliamentary Secretary Kamal Khera, MP Randy Boissonnault, Dr. Julio Montaner and National Chief Perry Bellegarde. I urge others to do the same, because knowing your HIV status is the first step to getting treatment and care that could extend your life and protect others.

By working collaboratively at the national, provincial, territorial, and community levels, we can strengthen prevention efforts and make a positive difference in the lives of Indigenous peoples, and all Canadians, living with and affected by HIV.

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