Nfld. & Labrador

HIV infections on the rise, says local AIDS group

A group in St. John's is sounding the alarm on increasing HIV infections in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador thinks it's time for people to start thinking about HIV differently than they have in the past. (iStock)

A group in St. John's is sounding the alarm on increasing HIV infections in the province, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. 

The AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador is holding a news conference Monday morning to launch a campaign to try to curb the increasing numbers of infection.

Gerard Yetman is the executive director of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

Previously, the average number of people in Newfoundland and Labrador reported to have HIV was three to five cases per year. 

Executive director Gerard Yetman says those reports are now made more frequently, in a trend echoes what has been happening in the rest of Canada. 

"Trends across the country resemble the trends in Newfoundland," he said.

"It's been rising in other parts of Canada for two to three years, but this year is the first indication that it's happening in Newfoundland and Labrador."

Yetman isn't exactly sure why there has been a spike in the numbers, but he thinks a false perception that HIV/AIDS is no longer an issue may be part of it.

"Since new treatments in '96, people think it's cured when really it's just effective treatments," he said.

"HIV has gone off the landscape in the media and public awareness campaigns."

Changing demographics

Yetman said that the new campaign will have a different focus than those that existed back in the 1980s and 1990s, when HIV/AIDS was a more prominent issue.

Back then, most awareness campaigns surrounding sexually transmitted diseases were geared towards youth. 

Yetman said that the reality today is that HIV is now on the rise in older age brackets.

"It's primarily in the ages of 30 to 49," she said.

"We need to target an older population, as many previous campaigns were targeted towards youth, primarily gay youth."

Another factor leading to increased risk of HIV may be the rise of online dating, according to Yetman.

"As was announced by the medical officer, these new infections are being directly related to people hooking up on websites," he said.

"You may feel safer because you get to know the person online, but the same precautions need to be taken."

The AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador is working with a number of partners in the new campaign, including with Eastern Health.

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