Known for her abundance of maple trees, Canada is a North American country with the world’s second largest land mass. She is a high-income country and enjoys a sound public healthcare system. That is the reason it hurts to discuss HIV in Canada – sounds more like an inconsistency.

The human immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV) is a worldwide epidemic, cutting across nations of the world with no respect for regions or ethnicity. The good news is, when compared with the rate of deaths of people from HIV/AIDS some 20 years ago, great progress has recently been recorded globally in stamping out the disease.

In Canada, new HIV cases are relatively insignificant even though her average diagnostic rate of HIV is higher than those of certain European countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland.

As revealed by the Canada Communicable Disease Report for 2016 on HIV, in 2016 alone, there were 2,344 new cases of HIV in Canada, an increase from the 2,100 cases recorded in 2015. 2016 was the year of the highest number of cases of HIV since 2009.

Between 1985 when formal reporting of the incidences of HIV began in Canada, and 2016, a total of 84,409 cases of the infection have been put together. Recently, between 2009 and 2014, the number of reports of HIV decreased only to fluctuate again in 2015 and 2016.

Geographically...

The province of Ontario had the highest number of HIV cases in 2016. Quebec and Alberta came second and third highest, respectively.

The national benchmark diagnostic rate of HIV for Canada is 6.4 per 100,000 in population. Regions that exceeded that benchmark figure were Saskatchewan, toppling with a record of 7.4% of the total reported new HIV cases, Manitoba, Quebec, and Alberta.

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Gender and Age Impact

More males are infected with HIV than females. Men and women belonging to the 30 to 39 years old group have more reports of HIV, an increase in the number got from 2015. Notably, there was a decline in the number of HIV infections among persons in the 40 to 49 years old group from 2012 to 2016. A steady and gradual increase in the number of cases for children and teenagers has been witnessed in Canada.

Mode of exposure

Men who have sex with men had the highest number and proportion of reported HIV cases in adults. Following closely is the heterosexual mode of exposure to the infection. Lastly, but of course not the least, the third most frequently reported route being through injection drug use.

Race/Ethnicity Distribution

In contrast with the HIV statistics for the United States and the United Kingdom, Whites accounted for the largest proportion of new cases of HIV in Canada, joined by Blacks and the Indigenous race, in that order. With respect to the mode of transmission of the infection, whites in the category of men who have sex with men bore the majority of cases in 2016. However, in the heterosexual mode of transmission, blacks came tops, especially among those who have sex with persons at a risk of contracting HIV.

Among infected neonates/new-borns

Babies exposed to HIV infection in Canada totaled 4,849 between 1984 and 2016. The number of cases rose from 203 in 2009 to 263 in 2016. Analysis of the case of exposed babies revealed that their mothers acquired the HIV infection through heterosexual contact and through the use of injection drugs. At the level of race and ethnic distribution, more HIV-exposed babies were born to blacks and less to whites and indigenous people.

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Measures to Check the HIV Epidemic in Canada

Canada has, on the ground, a compulsory immigration medical examination which all foreigners applying for permanent residency or for a temporary stay must be subjected to. It involves HIV screening by the Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship agencies of Canada. It can be administered within or outside Canada. Eligible persons for the test are those 15 years old and above; persons who are below 15 but are exposed to risks of contracting HIV are also qualified for the test.

There is a surveillance program in Canada for babies exposed to the virus through their infected mothers, including those born in Canada and outside of Canada who are being treated for HIV infection in Canada.

It is noteworthy that there has been a significant increase in the rate of HIV among adults aged 50 years and above in Canada since 1985. Remarriage, divorce and lesser fear for disease transmission could be few of the reasons they are getting infected with HIV.

By and large, men and women belonging to this oldie’s group also engage in casual, unprotected sex and are too busy or old to get themselves screened routinely.