History of HIV in Canada
Although researchers have traced the origins of HIV as far back as the 1930's, the first diagnosis of AIDS was not made until 1981. The first Canadian death attributed to AIDS occurred in 1983, and approximately 21,000 people in Canada have since died while infected with HIV or AIDS.
HIV first appeared in the gay male population and people infected by the blood supply. The face of HIV has changed dramatically in Canada over the past thirty years and we now see Canada’s HIV epidemic is now actually several epidemics, occurring in specific populations.
The face of HIV/AIDS has changed dramatically in Canada over the past quarter century. Canada’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is now actually several epidemics, occurring in specific populations. Although men who have sex with men (gay men and homosexually active men) continue to be the population most affected by HIV/AIDS, the disease has also become a significant public health issue for injecting drug users, women, Aboriginal peoples, prison inmates, people from countries where HIV is endemic, as well as those already living with HIV/AIDS. Risk behaviour data on young Canadians also show significant potential for HIV transmission among youth.
Through the combined efforts of many collaborators - governments, people living with HIV/AIDS, populations affected by the epidemic, civil society, professionals working in health care, education and social and legal services, researchers and the private sector - Canada can point to a number of important successes during the past two decades.
For example, mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been nearly eliminated in Canada. The progress of the epidemic has been slowed recently among certain populations (e.g. injection drug users), and treatment advancements have prolonged and improved the quality of life of many Canadians living with HIV. Canada's blood system has been made as safe as possible from contamination by HIV and other infectious diseases, and steps have been taken to increase public awareness about HIV/AIDS and to tackle societal stigma and discrimination around the disease.
Nevertheless, the epidemic continues to grow in Canada, taking a tragic and unnecessary toll on some of the most marginalized populations in the country. Until a safe and effective vaccine is developed for HIV, and a cure found for AIDS, HIV/AIDS will remain a public health concern for all Canadians.
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