The Public Health Agency of Canada recently released the 2018 HIV surveillance report, which includes some troubling news about the extent of the epidemic in Canada.  Their report indicates that in 2018, a total of 2,561 HIV diagnoses were reported in Canada, an increase of 8.2% compared with 2017. The national diagnosis rate increased to 6.9 per 100,000 people in 2018, from 6.5 per 100,000 people in 2017.

Overall, the diagnosis rate for males continued to be higher than that of females (9.8 versus 4.0 per 100,000 population, respectively); however, females experienced a larger increase in reported cases and diagnosis rate. The gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) exposure category continued to represent the highest proportion of all reported adult cases (41.4%), though the proportion has decreased over time.

The number and rate of reported HIV cases in Canada increased in 2018, gbMSM continued to account for the largest exposure category and the number and rate of reported HIV cases among women increased. PHAC will continue to work with its national partners to refine the collection, analysis and publication of national data to better understand the burden of HIV in Canada.

This news is troubling when we consider the progress of other countries in reducing HIV transmissions, though PrEP and other prevention approaches and creating access to HIV treatments and ensuring that those living with HIV remain undetectable. There’s no doubt that our national HIV response is underfunded and under-resourced. As we’ve responded to COVID-19, we witness every day the importance of effective and sustainable public health strategies and it’s time for the Government of Canada to double-down on its investments in this essential work.