By Julie Schultz, March 6th, 2017 in
Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS (OACHA), in consultation with a diversity of HIV/AIDS stakeholders, has developed a strategy titled HIV/AIDS Strategy to 2026: Focusing Our Efforts – Changing the Course of the Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade in Ontario. Consultants on the project included people living with HIV and those from priority populations who are at-risk of HIV, people working in community-based HIV organizations and programs, HIV clinical care services, and public health units.
The strategy includes an overview detailing advancements, as well as challenges, in the province’s response to HIV in recent years. This informs a number of recommendations that aim to ensure that the response to HIV in Ontario takes full advantage of scientific advancements relating to HIV prevention, care and treatment.
The strategy, and the continuing work of implementing the recommendations detailed therein, will be supported through the relationships between the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, people with and at-risk of HIV, and HIV community and health services and research stakeholders.
Follow the link to read the document in its entirety:
The following summary was excerpted from the website of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
The Vision and Mission of the Strategy
By 2026, new HIV infections will be rare in Ontario and people with HIV will lead long healthy lives, free from stigma and discrimination.
To reduce the harm caused by HIV for individuals and communities and its impact on the health care system by ensuring all in Ontario have timely access to an integrated system of compassionate, effective, evidence-based sexual health and HIV prevention, care and support services.
The goals of the strategy are to:
- Improve the health and well-being of populations most affected by HIV.
- Promote sexual health and prevent new HIV, STI and Hepatitis C infections.
- Diagnose HIV infections early and engage people in timely care.
- Improve the health, longevity and quality of life for people living with HIV.
- Ensure the quality, consistency and effectiveness of all provincially funded HIV programs and services.
There are a number of highly effective tools to prevent the transmission of HIV, when used correctly and consistently. These include condoms and the use of HIV treatments by people who do not have HIV but may be exposed. As well, people with HIV take HIV treatments as part of managing the infection. HIV treatments are highly effective at stopping HIV from making more copies of itself inside the body, and this has resulted in HIV becoming a manageable chronic condition instead of a fatal one. When HIV treatments work, they can reduce the amount of HIV in the body to such a low level that current testing technology cannot find it. This is called an ‘undetectable viral load.’ When a person with HIV takes HIV treatments and maintains an undetectable viral load, not only is this good for their health, but it is also highly effective at preventing HIV transmission.
We have the tools to prevent HIV transmission and to stop HIV from developing into a life-threatening condition, yet HIV infections continue and not all people with HIV are benefiting from HIV treatments. We must ensure that the services in place to assist people to avoid HIV or to live well with HIV are accessible to all who need them.
Strategic Approach to 2026
Over the past 30 years, Ontario has developed an effective network of HIV programs and services with a strong research capacity and mechanisms to share information and develop new skills.
The HIV prevention, engagement and care cascade is simply the range of services required to provide access to information and supports needed by populations at-risk, to avoid HIV infection or to live well with HIV. These include community education, outreach and support programs, HIV testing services, and high quality HIV clinical care. All along the HIV prevention, engagement and care cascade, people at risk and people living with HIV can face challenges that knock them off course.
To prevent new infections and ensure all people with HIV have the opportunity at a full life, we will:
- Focus on populations most affected by HIV
Working in partnership with people living with and at risk of HIV, we will increase access to key services by focussing our energy and resources on the populations most affected by HIV. By strengthening service capacity to work effectively with the most affected populations and by targeting the leading edges of the epidemic (e.g. populations with higher rates of HIV, or smaller networks of people with shared sexual and drug-using activities, higher rates of HIV and/or behaviour that is higher risk for HIV), we have the best chance to control HIV and improve health.
- Change the course of the prevention, engagement and care cascade, taking a systems approach
We will strengthen partnerships between key community, health and social services through strategies that bring them into collaboration on shared service goals for their clients living with or at risk of HIV. Through active service networks local solutions will emerge that will improve capacity over time to engage the people currently not benefitting from the services there to support them to respond effectively to HIV. Using a systems approach, we will ensure that wherever someone with or at risk of HIV is in the system, he or she receives high quality, supportive and stigma-free care.
Working together, we will eliminate any gaps in the prevention, engagement and care cascade and over time reduce new HIV infections and increase the number of people with HIV who are diagnosed, linked to care and offered treatment early in their infection.