Rising Rates of HIV and Syphilis in Montreal Region: A Call to Action on World AIDS Day

2023-12-01 21:43:12

New diagnoses of HIV infection are exploding in the Montreal region. Their number increased from 141 in 2021 to 310 in 2022, a record figure for ten years, according to a report from the Montreal Regional Public Health Directorate published in November. On this World AIDS Day, doctor Réjean Thomas deplores the lack of awareness regarding this “serious disease” which is now “trivialized”.

“It’s not normal that in 2022, there will be a 120% increase in HIV cases,” says the founder and CEO of the l’Actuel clinic. It is not because the disease no longer kills and has become a chronic disease that we should stop doing prevention. »

According to the Montreal Public Health report, the majority of cases detected are among men who have sex with men and people from countries where the virus is “highly endemic”. It is in this last category that the increase in new cases is most marked: from 32 in 2021, their number reached 158 in 2022, an increase of 394%. The increase is 35% among men who have sex with men.

Public Health believes that a “migratory influx” and “a catch-up” in the “offer of HIV detection tests”, after the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to this phenomenon.

Dr. Thomas is concerned about late diagnoses in these two populations. The report states that when screened for the disease, 47% of infected men who have sex with men had a CD4 lymphocyte count — an indicator of the state of our immune system — of less than 350 per ml. This proportion was 52% among affected people from countries where HIV is highly endemic.

“This means that these individuals have been infected for years,” explains the HIV-AIDS specialist, specifying that an uninfected person has on average a CDA level between 800 and 1500 CDA. “It’s concerning. » This late diagnosis means that “they are at risk of becoming ill and transmitting HIV if they are sexually active,” he specifies.

HIV still stigmatizes those affected, despite effective treatments that allow them to be non-contagious. “People are very isolated,” says Dr. Thomas. They will suffer significantly more distress, anxiety and suicidal ideation than the majority of the population. People who age with HIV have more comorbidities, such as diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. »

In its report, Montreal Public Health also notes the explosion of cases of syphilis in the infectious phase. Over the past 10 years, the rate of reported infections has increased by 59% among men (from 392 to 621 cases) and by 655% among women (from 9 to 68 cases). “One case of congenital syphilis was reported in the Montreal region in 2020, three in 2021 and seven in 2022, while none had been reported since 2011,” we report.

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