The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the greatest challenges facing the world. As the epidemic continues to expand, virtually no country in the world remains unaffected. UNAIDS and WHO estimate that about 39.5 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006. This figure includes the estimated 4.3 million people who acquired HIV in 2006. Taking into account the 2.9 million people who died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2006, this epidemic has now claimed the lives of over 25 million people.
Canadians are actively engaged in the international response to the HIV epidemic. They are involved in a truly diverse array of projects and activities. Voluntary sector organizations, universities, and research institutes are at the forefront of Canada's international response and form important partnerships with the Government of Canada.
Canada is making important contributions to the global response both through the Global Engagement Component of the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada and through the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative.
Health Canada's International Affairs Directorate, in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, is responsible for coordinating global engagement activities focussing on the following:
The objective of the Global Engagement Component of the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada is to establish a strong, coherent health sector response to fulfill international commitments and to contribute to global efforts to address HIV. Through the Global Engagement Component, Canada provides policy and technical support to build capacity in developing countries' health sector responses. In collaboration with partners, support is provided through the hosting of policy dialogues on key areas of concern within the epidemic, the provision of training in clinical laboratory science, surveillance, epidemiology, modelling, and the sharing of health sector experience and knowledge, including in the management of national HIV/AIDS strategies. In addition, opportunities are being developed to encourage Canadian researchers to collaborate in international activities, such as calls for proposals by the Global Health Research Initiative.
Funding to support global engagement is available for non-profit organizations and institutions through the HIV/AIDS Global Engagement Grants programme. These funds support activities that will increase Canada's contribution of programmatic and policy expertise to the global response to HIV/AIDS and promote learning between the domestic and global responses to HIV/AIDS.
Global engagement activities under the Federal Initiative have been established to complement the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s (DFAIT) foreign policy role and the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) role as Canada’s lead agency for development assistance, while recognizing the need for policy coherence and coordinated approaches for a comprehensive, multi‑sectoral response to HIV/AIDS.
Regarding international fora, CIDA, DFAIT and the Federal Initiative partners the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Correctional Services Canada cooperatively represent Canada. In these fora, technical support and policy guidance are provided on a range of global issues including gender and HIV/AIDS, human rights, microbicides, vaccines, and harm reduction.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is providing technical assistance on HIV surveillance and laboratory services to the Canada-Pakistan HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project. Assistance is being provided in the way of officials from the Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control's Surveillance and Risk Assessment Division, and the National HIV and Retrovirology Laboratories. In doing this work, PHAC officials will also be collaborating with experts from UNAIDS, WHO, the World Bank, CIDA and other international donor and development agencies. Read more on CIDPC technical assistance support.
Every two years, Canada co-sponsors an International Policy Dialogue on HIV/AIDS bringing together leading experts from multilateral organizations, science, research, government and civil society to discuss key issues of importance if governments are to slow and reverse the spread of HIV. Previous Dialogues have focussed on injecting drug use and HIV prevention and AIDS treatment in prisons.
HIV vaccines represent the most powerful and promising breakthrough needed to reduce global rates of HIV infection and reverse the devastating social and economic costs and development inequalities that have been exacerbated by HIV/AIDS. Canada is well positioned to assume a greater leadership role in the global effort to develop and deliver safe, effective, affordable and accessible HIV vaccines. The Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative represents a coordinated Canadian domestic and international contribution to global HIV vaccine efforts linked with the work of international bodies, such as the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, UNAIDS and WHO, and builds on past Government of Canada support for domestic and international research and policy initiatives. Read more on the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative.
More information on Canada' s global engagement and the global epidemic can be found at the following sites:
In 2001, PHAC first became involved with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in a scoping mission for an important international project. Following a project design mission to Pakistan, which took place from November to December 2002, CIDA was empowered by the vision to improve the prevention and control systems developed for groups that were at high risk for HIV/AIDS in that country. The Canada-Pakistan HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project (HASP) project was officially launched in January 2004.
HASP's purpose is to enhance the capacity of the Government of Pakistan to implement an effective second generation system for HIV/AIDS surveillance. This system involves repeated cross-sectional sampling of vulnerable, high-risk populations to obtain information on risk behaviours in addition to a biological sample for testing of HIV and other disease agents. The resulting information will be used by the Pakistan government to plan, implement and evaluate HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs. The second generation surveillance system will be one of the main methods by which the Pakistan government monitors the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Pakistan.
PHAC's role in the project is to provide technical support for the collection, analysis and interpretation of surveillance monitoring data from high-risk groups to be used for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in Pakistan. This includes taking part in annual work planning meetings, which are designed to plan specific activities for the upcoming year. The scope of the project continues to grow as well; in 2005, more than 2 000 participants from eight cities were interviewed and had blood samples taken. These participants were members of groups at high risk for HIV infection, such as injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and female and male sex workers.
In the HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project, PHAC officials will also be collaborating with experts from the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, CIDA and other international donor and development agencies. The next mission to Pakistan involving PHAC officials will take place in the fall of 2006 to help monitor the conduct of the next round of surveys in high-risk groups, analyze preliminary data, produce surveillance reports and establish in-country laboratory reference services. The surveillance program will be expanded into 12 cities.
(Excerpt from Addressing HIV/AIDS in Pakistan: Closing the barn door before the horse is gone. Just the PHAC's, Issue 55, May 2006)