Taking place across Canada November 23-30
OTTAWA, November 18th, 2020 – Building off the success of the past two HIV Testing Days in 2018 and 2019, the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) and steering committee are launching a national HIV Testing Week. Thousands of Canadians will hopefully get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) as part of the initiative. Organized by CAS in collaboration with community-based organizations and local health authorities across Canada, this event aims to reduce barriers to regular HIV testing, increase Canadians’ knowledge of sexual health best practices, and to reduce stigma, says CAS Executive Director Gary Lacasse. “This year, we are also prioritizing having sexual health testing declared an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he adds.
Canada has seen a significant increase in the number of new HIV cases in recent years. Between 2014 and 2018, there was a 25.5% increase in the number of new HIV infections in Canada, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Twenty percent of Canadians living with HIV are unaware of their HIV-positive status, and a major priority of this initiative is to reach the people who are disproportionately affected by HIV and other STBBIs and who have never been tested for HIV and other STBBIs. The theme #KnowYourStatus reflects the importance of testing to determine one’s HIV status and to be linked to care if diagnosed as HIV-positive. Reducing barriers and stigma to testing have always been the driving forces behind this initiative and are more important than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed or reduced the capacity of most testing facilities across Canada and contributed to a sharp rise in HIV and other STBBIs across Canada.
Minister of Health Patty Hajdu states, “I want to thank the Canadian AIDS Society, who has worked so hard for nearly 40 years to first of all, raise awareness and understand the disease, to raise money for research, and to support people living with HIV in Canada and around the world…I encourage everyone to talk about testing as a way to understand your status and to decrease the stigma, because of course we know that knowledge is actually how we get through pandemics, as we’re seeing with [COVID-19].”
At many of the participating testing sites, attendees can be tested using an INSTI® HIV Test, which provides results in under a minute. “With HIV on the rise in Canada, it is vital that every person is aware of the testing options that are available. We are proud that our INSTI HIV tests for point-of-care and at-home use can help Canadians know their status in only one minute, empowering them to make informed decisions about their health. It is an honour to be collaborating once again with the Canadian AIDS Society and community organizations around the country to share the important message of national HIV Testing Week,” states Robert Mackie, Chief Executive Officer of bioLytical Laboratories, the maker of INSTI®.
For more than 30 years, Gilead Sciences Canada, Inc. has been a leading innovator in the field of HIV, driving advances in treatment, prevention, testing and linkage to care. “At Gilead, we are firmly committed to seeking a future without HIV,” states Melissa Koomey, Vice President and General Manager at Gilead Canada. “That’s why we are collaborating with community organizations like the Canadian AIDS Society to highlight the need and importance of knowing one’s HIV status through screening and subsequent linkage to care.”
It is imperative that people know their status so that they can be linked to care. One of our most effective tools, U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable), is an initiative based on the scientific consensus that when you achieve viral suppression from taking HIV medicine and continue to stay at undetectable levels of HIV, you can stay healthy and have no risk of transmitting the virus to others; however, the earlier you #KnowYourStatus, the better your health outcomes will be.
Information on the testing site locations is available at www.hivtestingweek.ca and will continue to be updated leading up to Testing Week.
For media enquiries:
Gary Lacasse, Executive Director
Canadian AIDS Society
Kelly Puddister, National Programs Coordinator
Canadian AIDS Society