- OTTAWA (CP) -- The campaign to promote safe sex among young people
and prevent the spread of AIDS isn't working. Not in Canada. Not anywhere.
- That's the message written large in the
latest statistics as experts take stock of the AIDS epidemic, two decades
after the appearance of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Death rates have fallen because of improved
multi-drug treatments, but the incidence of new infections is rising. Canadian
gays, still the biggest risk group, are getting infected at a younger and
- "The message we've all been hearing
is our prevention efforts for young people don't work," Richard Marlink,
director of the Harvard AIDS Institute, said in a televised news conference
- "Half of the new infections in most
countries are amongst young people less than 25 years of age."
- Every day, approximately a dozen Canadians
become infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Among gays the median
age of infection has dropped from over 30 to less than 25
- "The incidence of new HIV infections
among young gay men in Canada is of great concern," says a report
on the epidemic released by Health Minister Allan Rock on International
AIDS day Tuesday.
- Youths holding an inflated condom laugh
at a public comedy routine teaching AIDS awareness in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 1998 to mark World AIDS Day. Thousands of teens and school
children marched in the streets to warn that the disease effects young
people as well as adults in West Africa. In Ivory Coast, 17 percent of
known AIDS cases are youths under the age of 24 according to the Minister
of Health. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)) Infection rates are rising
rapidly among marginalized people -- drug users, prisoners, aboriginals
- "The epidemic is not going away,"
Donald Sutherland of the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, said in
- The federal government is currently spending
$42.2 million a year to combat the epidemic, including $13.9 million for
- Most prevention money goes to non-government
groups close to high-risk populations. Projects range from workshops on
homophobia to the distribution of free condoms.
- So why isn't the situation improving?
- "Reaching young people is not easy
as we know," said Martha Ainesworth, an AIDS expert with the World
- "I'm not a parent but I hear from
my colleagues who have teenagers it's very difficult to get them to change
their behaviour and in fact whatever you tell them they'll probably do
- Sutherland said the rates of infection
are not as high as they were in the 1980s, but they began increasing again
- There has been impressive progress on
the treatment side. New multi-drug cocktails greatly extend the life of
the average AIDS patient.
- But the drugs have serious side effects,
do not guarantee survival and are expensive -- an estimated $28,000 per
patient per year.
- The real disaster is in the Third World,
where millions of infected people don't have access to the new drugs or
any hope of getting access.
- The World Bank warns that the epidemic,
already catastrophic in parts of Africa, could be on the verge of exploding
in new regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean.
- That is a major issue for Canada given
the high touristic and business traffic to and from many countries in the
developing world, said Sutherland.