HIV hitting gay-bisexual men in B.C. harder

Gay, bisexual men failing to see decline in HIV infection rates: report

  • Jul. 14, 2014 8:00 a.m.

By Dene Moore, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – While the overall rate of new HIV infections has steadily declined in British Columbia, the epidemic among gay and bisexual men continues, the provincial health officer said in his annual report released Monday.

Dr. Perry Kendall said the infection rate among gay and bisexual men has remained steady for the past decade.

The group made up 57 per cent of new infections in B.C. in 2011 and accounted for 45 per cent of the provincial population living with HIV.

“If we look at incident and prevalence infections, gay and bisexual men continue to bear a disproportionate burden of HIV illness,” Kendall said.

Overall, there has been a drastic drop in the number of new infections annually in the province. In 2012, there were 238 new cases diagnosed in B.C. — the lowest on record. In comparison, there were 788 in 1992 and 418 in 2002.

Gay and bisexual men aged 30 to 44 years represent the highest proportion of new diagnoses, the report said.

“We have a confluence of factors working together to make this a challenging epidemic,” Kendall said.

“Health outcomes do not happen in a vacuum. They’re the result of a complex interaction of a number of factors, most of which may be determined by the environment in which boys and men live, work and play.”

There are many theories about the worrying trend, Kendall said: that gay and bisexual men are suffering “condom fatigue,” less vigilance because HIV is now a treatable disease, less testing, or lower perception of risk.

But the answers are more complex, he said.

Broader societal issues like marginalization of the community, stigma and racism play a role, as well as access to appropriate health care, sexual behaviour and other factors, said the report by Kendall and Dr. Mark Gilbert of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The report also pointed out that while gay and bisexual men now represent nearly half of the HIV population, less than 10 per cent of Canadian health research grants in 2011 were for prevention targeting that group.

The report included 15 recommendations from an advisory group and six priorities from the public health officer, including a provincewide strategy.

“The report does signal the need to be now really focusing on gay and bisexual men,” he said.

“It’s not to say we can stop what we’ve been doing for people using injection drugs. There’s still a need to support that community but we do need to really prioritize our efforts.”

B.C. is the only province that has had a consistent decline in new HIV infections. Most provinces have seen static or slightly increasing rates, with the exception of Saskatchewan, where the disease is still on the rise, Kendall said.

Though antiretroviral medications have changed HIV from a fatal disease to a chronic, manageable illness, an estimated 35 million of the 70 million people infected worldwide have died.

Jesse Brown was 20 when he was diagnosed with HIV. Now the executive director of Youth Co. HIV and Hep C Society, he gave the report and recommendations a ringing endorsement.

“The great news is that we live in British Columbia, and have the resources and know what it is to prevent HIV and support our community,” he said.

“… Changing some of the larger social determinants of health, like homophobia and stigma, will continue to challenge us for a long time to come.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

BC Liberal Surrey South candidate Stephanie Cadieux and supporters rally in Grandview Corners in the lead-up to the election. (Contributed photo)
BC Liberal Stephanie Cadieux on track to reclaim Surrey South seat

Final results won’t be known until after mail-in ballots are tallied

Surrey-White Rock front-runner Trevor Halford, who is represented by the BC Liberal Party, watches the election results come in Saturday evening. According to The Canadian Press, Halford is expected to be the MLA for the riding. (Contributed photo)
BC Liberal Trevor Halford expected to take Surrey-White Rock seat

Halford says he’s ‘absolutely thrilled’ with preliminary results

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Hydro map showing where power has been knocked out is dotted with over a dozen outages. (BC Hydro map screenshot)
Thousands without power in Lower Mainland on election day

One outage in Langley and Surrey is affecting over 4,000 customers

file
One dead after fiery crash near Agassiz

Agassiz RCMP report a 56-year-old man died Friday night

Most Read