While attention right now is focused on COVID-19, another epidemic still rages: there are 8,300 people living with HIV in Canada who don’t know it and a further 7,840 who have been diagnosed but are not on life-saving treatments.
UWindsor grad Sean Rourke (BSc 1987, BA 1989), a scientist at the Map Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, believes that applying lessons from the current pandemic can end the HIV epidemic.
“While Canada has universal healthcare, there are many people who are disconnected from receiving timely and culturally appropriate health services because of who they are or where they live,” he says. “We have seen many of these factors prevent or delay who gets tested for COVID and access to vaccinations — particularly in vulnerable and marginalized populations.”
Health Canada has approved the country’s first self-test for HIV, developed in part with research by the Map Centre. Dr. Rourke notes that when other nations approved similar tests, new cases of HIV declined significantly.
“Self-testing with instant results is a game-changer for public health and healthcare self-management because it offers personal choice and democratizes the ability to access sensitive health information without any stigma,” he says.
Rourke will join Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, for an event to mark the launch of the “I’m Ready” research program on Wednesday, June 2. I’m Ready combines mobile and web apps, scientific expertise, peer support methods, and 50,000 HIV self-test kits.The launch begins at 1 p.m. on the Zoom videoconference platform. Attendance is free; register here