Posted on August 11, 2006

Alarming Jump In T.O. HIV Cases

Kevin Connor, Toronto Sun, August 10, 2006

The AIDS pandemic in Ontario continues to grow and Toronto is the hardest-hit area.

In 2004, there were 24,251 people in the province living with HIV/AIDS, a 30% increase in cases since 1999.

“Am I alarmed? Absolutely,” Dr. Sheela Basrur, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said yesterday while releasing statistics on the latest AIDS trends in Ontario.

Basrur is worried that people aren’t as concerned with HIV/AIDS as they were in the 1980s. “People are complacent . . . they are more concerned about West Nile Virus,” she said.

The increase in the number of cases is because people are living longer with HIV/AIDS due to antiretroviral therapies.

The other factor for the spike in numbers is high infection rates among gay or bisexual men, in African and Caribbean communities, and among injection drug users.

“We have come to a point where we have to look deeper and see what is going on. Housing may affect behaviour. If you have unstable housing, you have an unstable life and may exhibit unstable behaviour,” said Frank McGee, manager of the AIDS bureau with the Ontario ministry of health.

“We need to take a look at why there is unprotected sex in these marginalized communities. (Is there an attitude) if I get infected, there is a treatment? There is treatment but it’s not a cure. It just staves off the consequences.”

Basrur says the percentage of those infected with HIV/AIDS who are female has increased 100%. Women make up 28% of those diagnosed in 2004. But since 1998, 90% of pregnant women in the province have been tested for HIV and 50 women who tested positive were given the appropriate drugs and delivered HIV-negative babies.

Starting Sunday, Toronto will host the 16th annual international AIDS conference, which will bring together almost 20,000 AIDS experts from around the world.