The BLITSS team (Bureau for the fight against sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections) celebrated World AIDS Day under the theme “Light the candles” on Thursday.
In the presence of members and partners gathered in the Everest room of the Cara complex, the BLITSS held a moment of meditation in memory of many deceased persons.
We displayed their first name, lit a candle, while the priest David Vincent, who, beforehand, formulated a prayer, read short evocative sentences, sometimes even poetic.
The meeting also gave a place to Luc, a member of the BLITSS since 2004. Unable to be present, he nevertheless delivered his testimony through a video.
“Despite the difficulties experienced, he remains a model. He went through several stages to get where he is. I cling to this in my journey as a worker with the sincere desire that all our members can find peace in connection with their various issues,” said worker Valérie Plourde, introducing Luc.
The 60-year-old man notably confided that following his HIV diagnosis received on February 27, 2002, he had to make a choice: that of continuing negatively or positively. He could have let go, but he didn’t. Heavy smoker, he quit smoking. Weighing 250 pounds at the time, he lost a lot of weight. And he started running which became his favorite sport. He runs an average of 30 km per week. “I find that I have a better quality of life,” he said while considering himself lucky.
The BLITSS took advantage of the meeting to present a status report on HIV AIDS. “HIV transmission is still active in Quebec. It is essential to unite our voices and our forces in order to continue prevention and intervention if we want to achieve the objectives and end the epidemic by 2030, “said the interim director of the BLITSS, Mylène St Pierre.
There is still a lot to do, she noted, while specifying that the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ) revealed, in its recent report, that the number of new diagnoses is still too high to an infection that can be targeted and effectively prevented. “This highlights the prevention, information and intervention work that remains to be done with the general population and clients,” said Ms. St-Pierre.
Yet, despite all the way to go, some decision-makers have cut off supplies, the BLITSS director lamented.
Public Health Canada announced in July 2021 the end of the five-year funding. “It hurts for an organization like us. Concretely, it is
$500,000 that we lose for the next five years, she explained. This funding allowed us to intervene directly in prevention with our key clientele. We are therefore actively seeking funding. We are going to continue our actions, we are working hard, but it is difficult to find funding. »
The acting director of the BLITSS nevertheless reserved good news for the participants by telling them of the interesting advances that had occurred in connection with HIV/AIDS.
One concerns viral load. It has been discovered that HIV is intransmissible when the viral load is undetectable. “When we say that the viral load is undetectable, it means that she can no longer transmit HIV during sexual relations with other partners, even in the absence of protection. This is a very significant step forward, argued Mylène St-Pierre. This eliminates a lot of discrimination, including the fear of meeting someone with HIV on a daily basis. And it also allows couples to have children, to conceive, to give birth to a child without there being any transmission on either side between partners or to the baby. »
But the director insists on recalling the key to prevention. “The basis of HIV prevention remains testing. It is the sinews of war, she underlined. We must test as many people as possible so that as many people as possible know their status. »
The arrival of the self-test, as a second advance, also comes, she says, to make a great difference in the world of HIV AIDS. “It’s simple and more than 99% effective. You can compare it to a pregnancy test, except that it is not urine that will be tested, but a drop of blood,” she explained.
Initially, the BLITSS bought some to distribute. But good news, recently, the organization was granted funding to obtain it for free and thus distribute it on a larger scale.