Primary infection



February 18th, 2013

This is the period immediately after the virus enters the body. At this stage, the virus multiplies rapidly and the risk of transmission is heightened. This first phase can be accompanied by symptoms resembling the flu, such as fever, sore throat, muscle soreness, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and skin rashes. These symptoms, which disappear after a few weeks, are not present in every infected person. The primary infection stage can sometimes go completely unnoticed. This is the period when the immune system produces antibodies to protect itself against the virus.

Source: L’essentiel du VIH/sida, Portail VIH/sida du Québec, Benoît Lemire

HIV/AIDS is the problem, not the people living with it


February 18th, 2013

In honour of World AIDS Day 2012, people living with HIV/AIDS spoke out to promote acceptance and tolerance.

The campaign, run by our partner organization
COCQ-SIDA – a coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations – presents portraits of five people living with HIV/AIDS from different backgrounds and regions of Québec, and shows that, beyond HIV, these people are individuals like anyone else, with interests, skills and talents. Nothing, not even prejudice, can stop them from living full lives as active members of society.

This message of hope and openness was carried across Québec by the member organizations of the Fqsida. In some cases the tools prepared by COCQ-SIDA were adapted for local populations to ensure that the message would reach even more people in their networks.

This campaign was born of our great desire, and that of Québec’s community-based HIV/ AIDS movement to change perceptions and create a social climate that allows people to be open about their HIV status. Let’s build a society free of prejudice! MEET? Yves, Outaouais, visually impaired, loves reading, HIV positive.


Fight discrimination, fight HIV/AIDS!


February 18th, 2013

According to UNAIDS “HIV-related discrimination continues to impact the lives of many people living with HIV, and still prevents millions of people from coming forward to test for HIV and access prevention and treatment services.”* This statement holds true around the world, even here in Québec, and the implications it holds for public health are diverse, particularly in terms of prevention. For example, prejudice and the discrimination it engenders can impede the proper distribution of information about the risks of transmission. Discrimination can create a climate where political bodies are not required to do their part in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It can hinder early screening, since the rejection of HIV-positive people often discourages others from wanting to learn their HIV status. Finally, discrimination impedes access to treatment.

The fight against the prejudice, stigmatization and discrimination that HIV-positive people face is also a question of social justice. Efforts to have these people’s rights respected are not only an essential part of our response to the epidemic, but also ensure that every person can fully exercise their right to health, access to employment, safety, and a meaningful place in society.

Today I would like to commend the impressive way that people living with HIV have mobilized in defense of their rights. As a result, they come closer every day to seeing these rights recognized. And as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fondation québécoise du sida, a role I’ve now held for several months, I would also like to highlight the work carried out by our recipient organizations in Québec and in the African member countries of the Coalition PLUS, in the fight against discrimination and prejudice: educating and working with political institutions, adapting resources to respond to various discriminatory situations, running public awareness as well as education campaigns, etc.

I would also like to express how critical your support is in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Thank you for your generosity!

Donald Careau

*UNAIDS press release from December 10, 2012, for Human Rights Day.

Burkina Faso – REVS+ fights for access to treatment and car for HIV-positive people


February 18th, 2013

Gestion médicament REV+In Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city, the REVS+ organization (Responsabilité – Espoir – Vie – Solidarité +) has been advocating for access to care and treatment for HIV-positive people for 15 years. A member of Coalition PLUS, this community-based HIV/AIDS organization was the first in the country to engage in preventing mother-to-child transmission, and hundreds of pregnant, HIV-positive women are currently receiving psychological, medical and social support. For now, these women are giving birth at the Bobo-Dioulasso pediatric hospital, but within a few months they are expected to be able to be followed throughout their pregnancy and after delivery directly at the organization thanks to the Grandir program, which also provides sanitary and psychosocial support for 850 children, 200 of whom are HIV-positive.

In spite of the many targeted prevention campaigns run by REVS+, focused mainly on the importance of screening, physicians working with the organization see people arrive for consultations in an extremely weakened state. Many of them, screened very late, suffer from multiple opportunistic diseases. Their immunity is so low that they need to begin treatment without delay. Unfortunately, in Burkina Faso, there’s a long wait to receive triple therapy. Too often, patients waiting for treatment must wait for funds to be freed up, or for another patient to either die or stop treatment. This explains why in 2011, of the 3426 HIV-positive people followed at the organization, the vast majority of whom required treatment, only 37% were able to receive triple therapy. In Burkina Faso, access to treatment and care for HIV-positive people is a constant challenge – one that REVS+ is more ready and determined than ever to take on, thanks to your critical support.

Better screening leads to better prevention of HIV transmission


February 19th, 2013

In Canada, an estimated 27% of HIV-positive people are unaware of their status. In Québec, more than half (59.4%) of the people newly diagnosed between 2002 and 2010 had never been screened for HIV before*.

What’s more, recourse to HIV screening services often comes late; in 2010 nearly a fifth (17.9%) of newly diagnosed cases had already reached the stage of AIDS or presented with chronic symptomatic infections at the time of screening.

An equally serious challenge is the fact that the risk of transmission is higher during the primary stage of infection (see below); a study conducted by Québec researchers in 2007 showed that 50% of new cases of HIV were transmitted by people who had been infected within the previous six months.

This makes early screening doubly important. At the individual level, early screening leads to getting the necessary medical help and reduces the risk of serious infection. At the collective level, it reduces the risk of transmission: not only do people who are aware of their HIV-positive status protect their partners better than those who are unaware, but it’s also commonly accepted that taking antiviral medication reduces the risk of HIV transmission.

More frequent and widespread screening, as well as prevention programs targeted to the most at-risk populations, are still key factors in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. It’s therefore essential to increase screening opportunities in Québec by including this as one of the services offered by the CSSS, clinics specialized in STIs, hospitals, and community-based HIV/AIDS organizations**.

In this context, the discussion currently underway in Canada about self-tests becomes increasingly important. Given that self-tests are already available in the United States, now is the time to seriously assess the issues surrounding this option, and if necessary, develop an approach to prevention and support that includes self-testing. This could allow for increased screening opportunities, particularly among high risk groups without access to regular screening.

*Portrait des infections transmissibles sexuellement et par le sang (ITSS) au Québec – Année 2010 (et projections 2011) by the Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux

**Resource guide (in French)