Since its discovery in the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS has been the subject of intense study and extensive prevention efforts, and for good reason. AIDS, the advanced condition that causes the human immune system to shut down, makes people vulnerable to infections that would otherwise not be life-threatening. As a result, the disease has claimed millions of lives in the last several decades and continues to wreak havoc today, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where 70 percent of AIDS cases now occur.
Significant progress in AIDS prevention has been made since the discovery of the condition in 1981, but Canada has especially contributed to prevention efforts. Though it is often overlooked, Canada is actually a research and technology powerhouse in the fight against AIDS and was among the first countries to understand the urgency of prevention, especially as it relates to development.
What has made Canada so successful? Largely, it’s the country’s varied and unrelenting approach to designing and implementing prevention programs. AIDS first appeared in Canada in 1982, but even before it was detected there, Canadian researchers were hard at work devising prevention strategies.
Canadian research teams were instrumental in the realization that extended periods of breastfeeding dramatically increase an infant’s chances of contracting HIV from its mother. Together with Kenyan researchers, Canadians were responsible for bringing about education and counseling programs for African mothers with HIV in order to prevent both the mothers and their babies from eventually having AIDS.
Other innovations in the AIDS prevention field that were largely funded by or produced by Canada include affordable diagnostic technology, diagnostic education for health care workers in developing countries and the use of anti-retroviral therapy in preventing HIV transmission.
Canada was also one of the first nations to recognize and publicize the link between AIDS and food insecurity. AIDS as a cause of food insecurity is widely understood, but the transmission of HIV/AIDS as a result of food insecurity was an idea that was cutting-edge at the time Canada’s research teams pitched it.
For decades Canada has been committed to using youth education as a tool to prevent AIDS. Its educational programs have been responsible for saving millions from AIDS, as it equips at-risk youth with the knowledge necessary to protect themselves in situations where HIV/AIDS transmission is possible.
Canada’s dedication to fighting AIDS has been particularly commendable. Continued contribution from Canada and other countries alike will only bring closer the day that HIV/AIDS transmission is merely a memory.
– Elise L. Riley
Sources: IDRC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health