On February 4 and 5, 2020, CBRC took part in the National Forum on Sexually Transmitted and Blood-borne Infections (STBBI) Testing and Linkages to Care: Reaching the Undiagnosed. This event was co-hosted by the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Centre for REACH 3.0 / MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCCID), and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and was facilitated by Jody Jollimore, Executive Director of CBRC.
The event was attended by over 100 stakeholders who brought a range of perspectives and shared current research and information on HIV and STBBI testing modalities and programs across Canada. The Forum created a space to discuss opportunities, challenges, and potential next steps for reaching persons with undiagnosed STBBIs in Canada, to set the groundwork for the introduction of new STBBI testing technologies across the country.
Discussion at the forum highlighted the need for disruption in HIV and STBBI testing. Traditional models of HIV and STBBI testing are conducted through healthcare providers, which have not always reached communities that are disproportionately impacted by HIV and other STBBIs, including GBT2Q people. Stigma, homophobia, transphobia, racism, poverty, and social inequity are drivers of the HIV and STBBI epidemics and limited access to STBBI testing.
Mr. Jollimore, highlighting the impacts on communities of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, noted that “we need to urgently address structural inequities – in particular anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism – in our national HIV and STBBI testing strategy. We need new and better ways to test people. We must remove the barriers experienced by people for whom the healthcare system is not designed to work for.”
As part of the CIHR Center for REACH 3.0, CBRC is conducting research on testing innovations through the Test Now Research Program, where it will be evaluating the feasibility, accessibility, and uptake of HIV self-testing amongst GBT2Q populations. As noted by Dr. Nathan Lachowsky, Research Director at CBRC, “many other countries, including the United States, have implemented HIV self-testing nationally. Bringing it into Canada presents new opportunities and challenges. This is an opportunity to improve access for those most marginalized within GBT2Q communities, especially given reduced STBBI services due to COVID-19.”
To learn more about what was discussed at the National Forum, click here.