Canada will invest $18 million to expand HIV testing
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Monday that the government will invest $17.9 million to increase access to HIV testing in remote communities and among hard-to-reach populations.
But advocates who work on issues related to HIV say the announcement, made at AIDS 2022, the 24th International AIDS Conference in Montreal, needs to be followed by more action.
Duclos said the government will use $8 million to fund the distribution of self-testing kits, which can be acquired anonymously and used at home, while the other $9.9 million will go toward expanding HIV testing in northern, remote or isolated communities.
“We know that HIV is preventable, yet the rates of HIV infections remain high in Canada and in other countries. Providing individuals with access to testing, treatment and care can help reverse this trend. Removing barriers is the key to ending the AIDS pandemic,” Duclos told reporters.
He said access to testing — and the treatment it enables — is more difficult in some communities, including Indigenous and racialized communities.
Jody Jollimore, executive director of the Community-Based Research Centre, a Vancouver-based organization that advocates for the health of people of diverse sexualities, said the announcement is a good first step.
“Obviously, this was not what we were hoping for,” Jollimore told reporters at the same news conference.
His organization is part of a coalition of community groups that has been calling on Ottawa to increase funding for addressing HIV from around $73 million a year, to $100 million a year.
Jollimore said that while helping ensure people know their HIV status is one of the most important actions the government can take — in part because treatment can prevent people from passing the disease to their partners — more action is needed.
“On its own, it is not enough. Communities affected by HIV continue to face stigma and discrimination that put us at an elevated risk of HIV infection and acts as a barrier to testing treatment and care,” he said, adding that access to prevention tools, like pre-exposure prophylaxis, is inconsistent across Canada.
He said an estimated 17,000 people in Canada have HIV but don’t know their status.
Ken Monteith, executive director of a network of AIDS organizations in Quebec called COCQ-SIDA, said the federal government also needs to address the criminalization of non-disclosure of HIV status and sex work as well as the war on drugs, which can make prevention more difficult.
“Criminalization, at all levels, prevents us from protecting the health of our communities,” he told reporters.
Last week, Justice Minister David Lametti said the government will study changing the law that allows people to be prosecuted for aggravated sexual assault if they do not disclose their HIV status, even if treatment has rendered them unable to transmit the virus.
Ottawa estimates that 63,000 people are living with HIV in Canada.
Earlier Monday, the director-general of the World Health Organization told the conference that growing inequality could reverse a decade of progress made in the fight against HIV.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who addressed the AIDS 2022 conference by video, said the “overlapping crises” of COVID-19, inflation and cuts to foreign aid by wealthy countries are accelerating inequality and disrupting health services.
While the number of HIV infections and deaths related to AIDS are much lower than they were a decade ago, progress could be easily reversed, he added.
Globally, approximately 1.5 million people were infected with HIV last year and an estimated 650,000 deaths were linked to AIDS, according to the United Nations.
“Access to life-saving prevention tools, testing and treatment, whether for HIV, COVID-19 and now monkeypox, too, often relies on chance: where you were born, the colour of your skin and how much you earn,” Tedros said.
The international AIDS conference runs until Tuesday at Montreal’s downtown convention centre, Palais des congres de Montreal. More than 9,000 delegates from around the world were scheduled to attend in person, with another 2,000 registered to participate remotely.
AIDS conference organizers have criticized the Canadian government for denying visas to hundreds of delegates and for International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan’s decision to withdraw his participation on short notice.
Asked about the visa denials, Duclos described them as a “collective tragedy.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2022
‘Worsening spread’ of deadly fungal infection raising alarm in U.S. – Global News
Cases of a drug-resistant infection caused by the fungus Candida auris are on the rise in the United States, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The fungal infection has proved deadly, especially for those with compromised immune systems, and has demonstrated an ability to spread easily in health-care settings.
The CDC data was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, amid an outbreak of fungal infections in long-term care facilities in Mississippi. The U.S. health agency found that cases of C. auris increased 95 per cent from 2020 to 2021 following a 44 per cent increase the year prior.
Preliminary figures estimate that there were 2,377 active C. auris infections across the U.S. in 2022, with 5,754 “colonization” cases. A colonization case denotes when a person has evidence of the fungus in their body without signs of an active infection.
C. auris, a type of yeast that can infect the bloodstream, is resistant to multiple anti-fungal drugs and is estimated to kill about 40 per cent of people who become infected, according to Health Canada. Even when patients survive, they can remain “colonized” with the fungus for years after treatment, the CDC says, and potentially pass it along unsuspectingly.
These fungal infections are of most concern to people who have been hospitalized for long periods of time, are at high risk of infection, or have medical implants. The organism often causes no symptoms in healthy people.
C. auris was first detected in the U.S. in 2016, though case numbers remained low until the “dramatic increase in 2021,” the CDC report reads. The fungus was first discovered in 2009 in Japan and has since caused outbreaks in numerous countries around the world.
Rising cases of C. auris infections, “especially in the most recent years, are really concerning to us,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Meghan Lyman, chief medical officer in the CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch. “We’ve seen increases not just in areas of ongoing transmission, but also in new areas.”
“There’s still a lot to learn about colonization patterns,” Lyman said. “While (medicine) may treat the infection, we don’t have evidence that it completely eliminates C. auris from their body.”
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Between 2012 and 2021, there were 31 cases of C. auris found in hospitalized patients in Canada, according to data from the National Microbiology Laboratory and Canadian Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program.
The CDC’s warnings come as Mississippi battles an outbreak of the fungus.
At least 12 people in the state have been infected with the fungus with four “potentially associated deaths,” said Tammy Yates, spokesperson for the Mississippi State Department of Health. Both those numbers doubled since an earlier update on the outbreak in January. The first cases were noticed in the state last year in November.
Transmission of the infections occurred in two long-term care homes, with Yates noting that “multi-drug resistant organisms such as C. auris have become more prevalent” in such facilities and among “highest risk individuals.”
The World Health Organization ranked C. auris as one of the worst fungal threats facing humanity today, given its high mortality rate and resistance to treatment. Recent research suggests that serious fungal infections as a whole affect 300 million people worldwide and more than 1.5 million die from them each year.
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Dr. Waleed Javaid, director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York, said that the new CDC data on C. auris is “worrisome.”
“But we don’t want people who watched The Last of Us to think we’re all going to die,” Javaid said. “This is an infection that occurs in extremely ill individuals who are usually sick with a lot of other issues.”
Global News has reached out to Health Canada for further comment on the current status of C. auris infections in the country.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Report calls for restricting food marketing to kids – CP24
A new report that looks at the prevalence of marketing to children inside grocery stores and restaurants suggests regulation is needed to help reduce unhealthy food temptations.
The report, funded by Heart and Stroke and published on Tuesday, audited displays at more than 2,000 restaurants and 800 stores across Canada and says children may be bombarded with messages that make junk food seem appealing.
Researchers found nearly 53 per cent of stores had “junk food power walls” at checkout aisles, which it says are prime areas to market to kids because products are placed within their reach.
The research said that placement encourages “pester power” — when children nag or pester their parents to make impulse purchases.
“Parenting is hard enough without having to deal with environments that are explicitly designed to get our kids pestering us for junk food that’s not supportive of their health,” said Leia Minaker, the author of the report and an associate professor at the University of Waterloo.
“We’re set up to fail by the stores and the restaurants that we go into,” Minaker said.
“It’s really hard to make healthy choices for your kids in this context.”
Designs and themes such as “magic, adventure and zoo animals” are also commonly seen in beverage and ice cream fridges, Minaker said.
The report comes as Bill C-252 for “prohibition of food and beverage marketing directed at children” is under consideration by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.
“Given the high proportion of child-directed marketing observed in both stores and restaurants in this Canadian research, it’s clear that policies aimed to restrict marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to kids – something long promised by the federal government – should include point-of-sale locations,” said Doug Roth, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in a news release.
Stores can help by creating “healthy checkout policies,” where checkout aisles wouldn’t feature junk food and sugary drinks, the report said.
Prohibiting toy giveaways with unhealthy children’s meals in restaurants could also help reduce consumption of unhealthy food, it said.
The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said it “questions” the report’s findings, including how often certain types of advertising displays are directed at children.
“(That) seems to be offside for us,” said Michelle Wasylyshen, spokeswoman for the council, in an email on Tuesday afternoon.
“The focus should not be on retail, but on the national and global supplier brands that own and sell these products across a variety of channels since they have control over packaging and design and ultimately advertising,” she said.
“RCC has been working closely with Health Canada and other stakeholders on this and related issues.”
A spokesperson for Ad Standards, the Canadian self-regulatory organization for the advertising industry, said they couldn’t comment specifically on the report.
But they directed The Canadian Press to the Code for the Responsible Advertising of Food and Beverage Products to Children, which restricts advertising of products that don’t meet certain nutritional standards to children under 13 years of age.
Ad Standards will begin administering the code later this year, spokeswoman Jessica Yared said in an email.
But according to the code, the restrictions don’t apply to many point-of-sale marketing tactics, including “displays, in-store flyers, posters, menus, menu boards and other on-premises communications and material about a food or beverage product.”
However, those marketing media “may not include language that directly urges a child to buy the product, or directly urge a child to ask another person to buy it for them,” Yared said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.
Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.
Media Advisory: Update on Students with Incomplete Immunization Records – Windsor-Essex County Health
Issued: Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. | Windsor-Essex County
As of March 22, 2023, there are 892 elementary school students suspended due to missing vaccinations as required by the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA) R.S.O.1990 or immunization records that have not yet been submitted to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU). The WECHU will continue to offer clinics daily. Please note that if your child is ill, they will not be immunized, please wait to bring your child to be immunized when they are well.
To have the child’s suspension order lifted, parents/guardians must do one or more of the following so that their child’s immunization is up to date:
- Book an appointment for their child to receive the missing vaccines or provide a valid exemption from their Health Care Provider. Have their healthcare provider fax the child’s updated immunization records to the WECHU @ 519-258-7288.
- Bring their child’s immunization record to the WECHU Windsor or Leamington location
- Update their child’s record at immune.wechu.org (must upload proof).
- Attend a WECHU walk-in clinic. For more details, visit wechu.org/getimmunized.
Once the student’s record is up to date with the WECHU, the student may return to school.
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