OAN Office Closure Effective March 17, 2020

In the interest of maintaining the health and wellness of our staff team, the OAN office will be closed effective March 17, 2020. We believe it’s in the best interest of the team that we all work from home until further notice.

Please note that our work will largely continue as usual and our staff will have access to email and voicemail – so please feel free to touch base. Please watch for updates on our website (oan.red) or on social media (facebook.com/OntarioAIDSNetwork) as we continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19. 

We wish you health and wellness over the coming weeks.

 Thank you,

Shannon Thomas Ryan
Executive Director

Ending the HIV Epidemic and Social Justice: COVID-19, HIV, and the Black Community

Join this 90-minute SYNChronicity 2020 virtual session, “SYNCing the ‘End the HIV Epidemic’ and Social Justice: COVID-19, HIV, and the Black Community”, on July 29, 2020, from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM. The session will feature presentations and a dynamic panel discussion that highlights the inequitable distribution of health risk and disease among Black communities in the United States. In addition to accounting for 42% of all new HIV cases in the U.S. annually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Black people are 5.0 times more likely than white people to have COVID-19, and are 3.8 times more likely to die from it.

HIV and COVID-19 disparities reflect socioeconomic inequities common in many Black communities, such as poverty, lack of insurance, and under/unemployment, which create barriers to testing, treatment, and care. Addressing the intersection of these diseases has been challenging as public officials work to incorporate social justice issues thoughtfully into public health policy and practice and large numbers of the HIV public health workforce are redirected from HIV to COVID-19. 

Go here to register.

How To Harm Reduction

Join CATIE for their next webinar, “Community-driven harm reduction programs in Canada”, on July 28 at 12:30 PM. The dual public health emergencies of the overdose crisis and the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic have greatly affected the most marginalized in our communities. There is a heightened need for community-driven, low-barrier harm reduction programs embedded in communities to reach these individuals. 

This webinar highlights novel, low-barrier approaches to harm reduction programs, how these programs are being delivered, and the lessons that have been learned. CATIE will discuss opportunities and challenges for harm reduction practice, including during the pandemic and into the future.

Go here to learn more and to register. 

2018 HIV Surveillance Highlights

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.  

All Blood Is Equal

Every year, thousands of willing blood donors are turned away simply because of their identity. In Canada, men who have sex with men and trans women cannot donate blood unless they have been abstinent for three months. It’s a damaging policy, especially now.

For years now, Canada has faced a critical shortage of donated blood, with our national blood inventory far below optimal levels. But rather than screening potential donors through a scientific lens and on a case-by-case basis, Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Quebec continue to use outdated, prejudiced policies which target two-spirit, gay, bisexual and queer men, trans women, and men who have sex with men (2SGBTQ+/MSM). 

All Canadians deserve the opportunity to participate in the time-honoured tradition of blood donation, with screening provisions based on science rather than prejudice. It’s well past time for 2SGBTQ/MSM Canadians to be treated as equal citizens. It’s time to put an end to Canada’s discriminatory blood donation ban. Go here to join the campaign. 

Casey House Day Program

Casey House’s inpatient unit is open and accepting referrals here and their day health program is open for one-on-one appointments and has some groups functioning online. Clients must undergo COVID-19 screening prior to entering the building and will be required to wear a mask inside. Clients continue to be supported in the community with food deliveries and phone calls. Read more here.

Casey House launched a groundbreaking day health program in 2017, addressing gaps in care of HIV/AIDS clients. The day health program expands our continuum of health services and provides one-stop care and treatment for individuals affected by HIV/AIDS by bringing clinical services, community programs, and the clients who will benefit from them, together.

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The OAN Outpost is distributed to our email list of OAN Member and Affiliate agencies, Board members and friends of the OAN.

The Newsletter contains actionable items and events that offer an opportunity for our readers to engage with other organizations and initiatives.

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