By Executive Director, Tammy C. Yates
Today is World AIDS Day (WAD) and this year’s theme is Hands Up for #HIV Prevention.
Today, being diagnosed with HIV means something very different than it did in the 1980s or 1990s.
Today, with access to care, treatment and support, people living with HIV can not only survive, but also thrive.
The world has committed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Canada has signed on to the SDGs and fully endorses the global 90-90-90 targets – By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
Before the ambitious UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets enable us to successfully end the AIDS epidemic worldwide, we can anticipate a decades-long swell in the number of people living into old age with HIV. At the same time, as we strive to make viral suppression a reality for the majority of people living with HIV globally, it is critical that we consider the post-treatment needs of millions of people who will live long-term, and reach their golden years, with HIV. In response to these demographic changes, a shift in the way we do HIV prevention, care, treatment and support for HIV is required. Conservative estimates peg the number of people living with HIV in Canada today who are over the age of 50 at over 23,000, and that number is growing.
In his WAD 2016 message, UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé encourages the global community to take a life-cycle approach to HIV. At Realize we fully endorse this call. As the lead on HIV and aging among the national civil society organizations in Canada’s national response to HIV, Hepatitis C and other STBBIs (known as ‘the National Partners’), we invite you to put your Hands Up for #HIV Prevention among all groups vulnerable to HIV, including older adults 50+.
The stark reality is that not only do we need to shift the way we do HIV, prevention, care, treatment and support, but we must also shift the way we do sexual health education for older adults in Canada. Common trends show us that there are low rates of condom use among those aged 50+ and that the perception among older persons is that they are not vulnerable to HIV. There are also lower levels of knowledge about HIV transmission/prevention among those 50+ than among those in other age groups.
Through the National Coordinating Committee on HIV and Aging, for which Realize is the secretariat, we foster information sharing and collaboration amongst sectors, organizations and individuals who share a mutual interest in the issue of HIV and aging, as well as promote a coordinated response to the intersecting challenges encountered by older people living with and vulnerable to HIV in Canada. From birth to old age, let’s ensure that the needs of all those living with, or vulnerable to HIV are met. Hands Up for #HIV Prevention across the life cycle.