July 30th, 2015
by Janet Madsen | @janet_madsen
Vancouver has barely cleaned up from the International AIDS Society Conference; it was quite the week. Bob Leahy of PositiveLite.com wrote a great piece about it, mentioning a few themes that have popped up this week too.
Leahy calls Vancouver “a beautiful, engaging city” and celebrates it for its leading HIV research. Vancouver researcher Dr. Robert Hogg will continue in that tradition; Simon Fraser University announced Tuesday that new work will explore how long-term use of HIV treatment affects men and women who are also dealing with age related health challenges.
Now that we know that the earlier you get started with HIV treatment the better your health will be, the challenge is getting medication to people who need it. The challenge is also identifying the people who need it. Many countries identify that significant percentages of the population don’t know they have HIV. Might home test kits improve this? Given the seriousness of a diagnosis with HIV and the health impact, some question whether home testing is a good idea. They’re not available in Canada, but the UK has approved a new one that’s supposedly as easy to use as home pregnancy tests. Whether other countries will approve it is yet to be seen.
This week also meant a goodbye and thank you across the globe. Dr. Suniti Solomon, an early advocate and doctor in the AIDS movement, has died. Dr. Solomon was a key figure in getting HIV testing and care established in India, working against stigma and fear. She and colleagues were first to discover that HIV infection was present in India in 1986. She set up care clinics and worked nationally and internationally on medical and social issues.
Every day the world swells and shifts with the energy of everyone who contributes to fighting HIV. We will continue to move forward to support people with HIV and confront the obstacles to care and dignified treatment.
July 24th, 2015
by Erin Seatter | @erinlynds
The International AIDS Society conference wrapped up this week in Vancouver. Despite its proximity, I’ve been keeping an eye on it from afar (thank you internet), and after getting a few requests for updates, I decided to compile a few articles I found worth reading.
The International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS made themselves heard at the conference.
The science is in. And Insite works.
Perhaps the best part of this article is that Dr. Julio Montaner is described as looking “more like a country doctor than a troublemaker,” but the larger point is that researchers and health workers from around the world visit Vancouver’s supervised injection facility to learn from it—because it works. Insite is “part of a harm reduction strategy that has made B.C. a world-beater in the fight against the deadly infection—and a pariah in the eyes of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.”
Young woman stays undetectable for twelve years off treatment after early HIV therapy
There was some buzz among members at Positive Women’s Network about this story. Was the person free of HIV? Could this be considered a cure? Not quite. But it’s still worth reading about. To make sure you’re getting accurate info instead of media hype, I recommend this article from Aidsmap.
HIV transmission from mother to child nearly eliminated in Canada
Canada’s doing well when it comes to diagnosing women with HIV before they become pregnant—and that’s the key to preventing transmission from mother to baby. In particular, Aboriginal women and intravenous drug users are now getting medication at rates comparable to other groups of pregnant women with HIV. “We’re finally reaching all of these groups who were, for one reason or another, more marginalized,” said Joel Singer, a professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.
The day the HIV treatment pendulum stopped swinging
Taking HIV meds upon diagnosis benefits people’s health immensely. The START study has shown that “early HIV treatment works so demonstrably well in almost every conceivable way, across ages, sexes, races and risk groups.” But this doesn’t mean we’ll see an immediate expansion of treatment. Few people with HIV will want to start medication early, and few doctors will support it, said Zunyou Wu, the director of China’s National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention. Treating people who show no signs of sickness, and who may feel ill for the first time because of the HIV meds, will be a challenge.
UN Women to highlight the unique barriers to treatment faced by women living with HIV/AIDS
Given the focus on HIV treatment and early treatment, UN Women, AVAC, ATHENA network and Salamander Trust have commissioned research on access to care and medication for women living with HIV. UN Women says “the study was designed and governed by women living with HIV and aims to ensure that their voices, and concerns about specific barriers to access, remain front-and-centre in discussions.” Women face more challenges in accessing and staying on HIV treatment than men, and their testimonies make clear that unequal gender relations are at the heart of the issue.
UN human rights committee slams Canada for record on women
Alright, this isn’t from the IAS conference, but it was released immediately following and highlights a number of issues in Canada that contribute to HIV transmission or affect people with HIV. The UN human rights committee has slammed the Canadian government on a number of fronts, emphasizing just how much work needs to be done at home. Here are examples from the CBC article:
- Business: “Human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating abroad, in particular mining corporations,” should be addressed by an independent authority and a framework that give victims the possibility of legal remedies.
- Gender equality: The committee notes “persisting inequalities between women and men” in Canada and wants better equal pay legislation across the country,” with a special focus on minority and indigenous women.”
- Violence against women: Continued violence against women in Canada, and the “the lack of statistical data on domestic violence,” led the committee to call for better legal protections for victims, and for more shelters and services.
- Missing and murdered aboriginal women: In the wake of reports on murdered and missing women, the committee said “indigenous women and girls are disproportionately affected by life-threatening forms of violence, homicides and disappearances.” It said there should be a national inquiry.
- Bill C-51: Canada’s new anti-terror law allows mass surveillance, too much information-sharing, and a no-fly list that lacks proper governance and appeal, the committee says. It suggests Canada should review the act and allow for better legal safeguards.
- Police use of force: The committee notes excessive force during protests such as those at the G20 in 2010 and recommends prompt, impartial investigations, along with prosecutions of those responsible where warranted
- Refugees and immigration: The committee worries “that individuals who are nationals of designated ‘safe’ countries are denied an appeal hearing against a rejected refugee claim before the Refugee Appeal Division and are only allowed judicial review before the Federal Court” — increasing the risk they may be sent back.