This year’s theme—Communities make the difference—is one that resonates with Bruce House. We were created by our community, for our community, and continue to exist because of our community’s support.
We know that HIV can be eradicated. We know how—the oft-quoted “90-90-90” targets. If 90% of people living with HIV know their status, and 90% of them are connected to care and receiving treatment, and 90% of the people stay on treatment and suppress the virus, then HIV will be gone. Yes, it really is that simple. But the reality is that access to testing, and to treatment, if far from universally available. Even here in Canada people face many barriers to testing and treatment, including stigma, lack of education, lack of access to testing, and the cost of treatment.
Even if we prevent all new infections, our job will not be done. 37 million people live with HIV around the world (UNAIDS, 2017). 37 million people who need access to treatment and ongoing medical care. 37 million people who, even if treatment is available to them, may not have their basic needs met: housing, food, security and dignity. Without the basic necessities of life, HIV treatment will often be abandoned in favour of more pressing needs—like filling an empty stomach or finding a dry, warm place to sleep.
In Ottawa there are approximately 3600 people living with HIV. Testing and treatment are available, but we have yet to overcome the inequities, stigma, ignorance, hunger, poverty, homelessness, and other factors which prevent many people from accessing health services.
We have come a long way in fighting HIV/AIDS and in caring for people in our community impacted by HIV. We still have a long way to go, but we can do this. We will do this. We are a caring, prosperous, and generous community. We have, and will continue, to make a difference.