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Improving HIV testing and care in Canada: I’m Ready and Sex Now – Test@Home

Interview with MAP scientist Dr. Sean B. Rourke and Prof. Nathan Lachowsky of CBRC on the CATIE Blog

HIV self-testing was approved in Canada in November 2020, largely thanks to research conducted by REACH Nexus, part of Unity Health Toronto’s MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions. But approval does not mean access – the next step is getting self-tests into the hands of people who don’t know they have HIV, and linking them to follow-up treatment and care.

REACH and the Community-Based Research Centre are working on two initiatives that will help do just that: REACH’s I’m Ready HIV self-testing research program (complete with the I’m Ready, Talk peer telehealth service, on which REACH partners with the CBRC) and the REACH-funded Test@Home component of the 2021 edition of CBRC’s Sex Now survey.

To learn more about these initiatives, CATIE spoke with Prof. Nathan Lachowsky of CBRC and Dr. Sean B. Rourke of REACH.

Access to HIV self-testing kits expanded in York Region by CAYR and I’m Ready

TORONTO STAR

As the global pandemic continues, a global epidemic rages on and is often undiagnosed: HIV.

This month, however, CAYR Community Connections and the I’m Ready research program, an initiative of the REACH Nexus research group, part of MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, St. Michael’s Hospital, have partnered to break down the stigma surrounding the virus and increase access to free self-testing kits across York Region.

The aim of the St. Michael’s pilot is to reach the undiagnosed with a goal of ending the epidemic in Canada, distributing 50,000 kits across Canada so people know their status and, if needed, are connected to care that can save lives.

Staples Canada helps MAP ‘Even the Odds’ with a new partnership that tackles inequities in communities across Canada

June 23, 2021 – Social and economic status often determine how easy it is for people to access the resources that are essential for good health. Staples Canada, The Working and Learning Company, and MAP, a world-class research centre based at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, have announced a first-of-its-kind partnership called Even the Odds, a three-year, $3-million commitment that aims to tackle inequities and create healthier communities across Canada.

Rooted in the shared belief that everyone should have the opportunity to thrive, Even the Odds will come to life with a national awareness campaign, corporate donations, as well as in-store and online fundraising efforts. Donations will support MAP’s innovative research projects across Canada to address issues such as homelessness, unequal access to health care and medicine, and the lifelong effects of childhood poverty.

“We’re incredibly grateful for Staples Canada’s commitment and support,” said Dr. Stephen Hwang, Director, MAP. “We share a vision of a future that’s fair for everyone, and we hope it will inspire and energize people across Canada to learn more.”

In Canada, over 1.2 million children live in households that struggle to afford fresh fruit and vegetables, at least one million people sacrifice basic essentials to pay for medical prescriptions, and 235,000 are homeless every year. COVID-19 infections are also more than three times higher among people of colour. Internationally recognized for ground-breaking science and innovation, MAP scientists work in partnership with communities and government leaders to address these issues and more through the development of equity-focused program and policy solutions.

“As one of Canada’s largest retailers, we have a responsibility to contribute to and strengthen the communities in which we operate,” said David Boone, CEO, Staples Canada. “We are excited to help fund MAP’s innovative research programs to address inequities facing our communities, and to lend our support through our national reach, and our network of associates and customers.”

Even the Odds will launch with in-store and online fundraising on June 28, 2021. To learn more, visit staples.ca/eventheodds.

About MAP

MAP is a world-leading research centre dedicated to creating a healthier future for all. Through big-picture research and street-level solutions, MAP scientists tackle complex community health issues—many at the intersection of health and inequity. MAP’s 27 scientists and over 120 staff and students work in partnership with communities, researchers, and government leaders across Canada to address issues such as homelessness, unequal access to health care and medicine, and the lifelong effects of childhood poverty. MAP is part of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto. For more information, visit maphealth.ca.

About Staples Canada

Staples Canada is The Working and Learning Company. With a focus on community, inspiration and services, the privately-owned company is committed to being a dynamic, inspiring partner to customers who visit its over 300 locations and staples.ca. The company has two brands that support business customers, Staples Preferred for small businesses and Staples Professional for medium to large-sized enterprises, as well as five co-working facilities in Toronto, Kelowna, Oakville and Ottawa under the banner Staples Studio. Staples Canada is a proud partner of MAP through its Even the Odds campaign, which aims to tackle inequities in communities across Canada and helps make a future that’s fair for everyone. Visit staples.ca for more information or get social with @StaplesCanada on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Media Information

Kathleen Stelmach, Staples Canada, 905-737-1147 Ext. 578, kathleen.stelmach@staples.ca
Noah Gomberg, Golin, 437-246-3975, ngomberg@golin.com

À chance égale : Bureau en Gros et le Centre MAP unissent leurs forces pour s’attaquer aux inégalités dans les collectivités partout au Canada

23 juin 2021 – Notre situation sociale et économique détermine bien souvent la facilité avec laquelle nous pouvons accéder aux ressources essentielles permettant de saines habitudes de vie. Bureau en Gros, l’Entreprise du travail et de l’apprentissage, et le Centre MAP, un centre de recherche mondialement reconnu établi à l’Hôpital St. Michael’s de Toronto, ont annoncé la création d’un partenariat unique en son genre. Intitulé À chance égale, cet engagement de trois millions de dollars sur trois ans vise à réduire les inégalités et à créer des collectivités plus en santé partout au pays.

Ancré dans la conviction profonde que tout le monde devrait avoir l’occasion de s’épanouir et de grandir, À chance égale prendra vie sous forme de campagne de sensibilisation nationale, de dons d’entreprise et de collecte de fonds en magasin et en ligne. Les fonds amassés permettront d’appuyer les projets de recherche novateurs du MAP à l’échelle du pays, dont l’objectif premier est de trouver des solutions à des problèmes comme l’itinérance, l’accès aux soins de santé et aux médicaments ainsi que les effets collatéraux permanents de la pauvreté chez les enfants.

« Nous sommes extrêmement reconnaissants de l’engagement et du soutien de Bureau en Gros », a déclaré le Dr Stephen Hwang, directeur du MAP. « Nous partageons la même vision d’un avenir équitable pour tous et nous espérons que cela inspirera et stimulera les gens de partout au Canada à en apprendre davantage sur ces enjeux. »

Au Canada, plus de 1,2 million d’enfants vivent dans des ménages qui peinent à s’offrir des fruits et des légumes, au moins un million de personnes doivent se priver de produits essentiels afin de pouvoir se payer des médicaments d’ordonnance et 235 000 se retrouvent sans abri chaque année. Les cas de COVID-19 sont au moins trois fois plus élevés chez les personnes de couleur. Reconnus internationalement pour leurs innovations et leurs travaux scientifiques de pointe, les chercheurs du MAP travaillent en partenariat avec les collectivités et les dirigeants gouvernementaux pour s’attaquer, notamment, à ces problèmes de société par l’élaboration de programmes et de politiques axés sur l’équité.

« En tant que l’un des plus grands détaillants au Canada, nous avons la responsabilité de contribuer activement au bien-être et au développement des collectivités au sein desquelles nous opérons », a déclaré David Boone, PDG de Staples Canada. « Nous sommes heureux d’aider à financer les programmes de recherche révolutionnaires du MAP visant à s’attaquer aux inégalités auxquelles sont confrontées nos communautés, et d’apporter notre soutien par le biais de notre portée nationale et de notre réseau d’associés et de clients. »

Le lancement d’À chance égale aura lieu le 28 juin 2021 avec une collecte de fonds en magasin et en ligne. Pour de plus amples renseignements, consultez le bureauengros.com/achanceegale.

À propos de MAP

Le Centre MAP est un centre de recherche de premier plan reconnu à l’échelle mondiale qui se consacre à la création d’un avenir plus sain pour tous. Grâce à des recherches qui donnent une vision d’ensemble et à des solutions concrètes, les scientifiques du MAP s’attaquent à des problèmes de santé communautaire complexes, dont bon nombre se situent au croisement de la santé et de l’iniquité. Les 27 scientifiques et plus de 120 employés et étudiants du MAP travaillent en partenariat avec des collectivités, des chercheurs et des dirigeants gouvernementaux de partout au Canada pour s’attaquer à des problèmes comme l’itinérance, l’accès inégal aux soins de santé et aux médicaments ainsi que les effets collatéraux permanents de la pauvreté chez les enfants. Le MAP fait partie du Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute de l’Hôpital St. Michael, un établissement d’Unity Health Toronto. Pour obtenir plus de renseignements, visitez le site maphealth.ca/fr.

À propos de Staples Canada/Bureau en Gros

Staples Canada/Bureau en Gros est l’Entreprise du travail et de l’apprentissage. En mettant l’accent sur la collectivité, l’inspiration et les services, la société privée est déterminée à jouer le rôle de partenaire dynamique et inspirant pour tous les clients qui visitent ses quelque 300 succursales et le site bureauengros.com. L’entreprise possède deux sous-marques qui soutiennent ses clients commerciaux – Bureau en Gros Privilège pour les petites entreprises et Staples Professionnel pour les moyennes et grandes entreprises – ainsi que cinq studios de travail partagé à Toronto, Kelowna, Oakville et Ottawa sous la bannière Staples Studio. Staples Canada/Bureau en Gros est fier de travailler en partenariat avec le Centre MAP dans le cadre de sa campagne À chance égale, qui vise à s’attaquer aux inégalités dans les collectivités partout au Canada et à créer un avenir équitable pour tous. Consultez bureauengros.com pour en savoir plus ou suivez @BureauenGros sur Facebook, Twitter et Instagram.

Renseignements pour les médias

Kathleen Stelmach, Staples/Bureau en Gros, 905-737-1147, poste 578, kathleen.stelmach@staples.ca
Noah Gomberg, Golin, 437-246-3975, ngomberg@golin.com

Canadian scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

ECKVILLE ECHO

A group of B.C. and Ontario researchers are beginning a study on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines on people living with HIV.

The $2.6 million study, funded by the federal government, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and and Stop the Spread Ottawa, will recruit 400 people with HIV from clinics in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

“There have been very limited data from clinical trials for this at-risk community,” said principal investigator Dr. Aslam Anis, national director of the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network and director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.

“The results of this study will provide critical and timely evidence to inform immunization guidelines and public health strategies for all of the approximately 67,000 Canadians living with HIV.”

While a small number of people with HIV who are in stable condition and otherwise health have been included in some previous COVID-19 vaccine trials, researchers don’t believe that data can be generalized to the entire population of people with the condition.

“Our COVAXHIV study focuses on older patients, those who have suppressed levels of white blood cells that fight infection (CD4 T-cells), and people with multiple medical conditions,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Cecilia Costiniuk, associate professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

The first part of the study will look at how well their vaccine antibodies fight off the virus for up to a year post-immunization and responses will be compared to a 100-person control group. The second part of the study will look at vaccine effectiveness of people with HIV compared to people who do not through a population-based analysis of provincial public health records in Ontario and British Columbia.

“We will follow more than 35,000 people living with HIV in both provinces to note COVID-19 vaccine uptake and rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and hospitalization, which will allow us to study vaccine effectiveness in this population,” said Dr. Ann Burchell, associate professor at the University of Toronto and research director at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, Unity Health Toronto.

“We will also be looking at social determinants of health such as sex, age, geography and socioeconomic status to see what effects they have, if any, on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Manitoba: HIV self-test kit project hopes to break down barriers to sexual health care

Variety of Manitoba community groups offering kits in Winnipeg, Brandon, The Pas

CBC NEWS

A new pilot project hopes to help end HIV in Canada long-term by removing barriers to getting tested that several at-risk communities face, and it all starts with a tiny take-home kit now being distributed by community groups.

The I’m Ready research program kicked off earlier this month. Community groups received some of the project’s 50,000 HIV self-test kits to distribute, with kits landing at seven Manitoba sites in The Pas, Brandon and Winnipeg. 

HIV self-test kits have been available to the public in the U.S. and U.K. for several years, but they were only legalized in Canada last fall thanks to research by Dr. Sean Rourke and others.

“There’s reasons why they’re not coming forward for care: obviously, stigma and all kinds of other barriers,” said Rourke, program director of REACH Nexus and a scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“We’re now wanting to make sure that now that this test is approved, how do you get it to people in the most accessible, low-barrier ways?”

Canada’s COVID-19 battle offers lessons for tackling our other epidemic: HIV

By Bill Flanagan and Sean Rourke

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Much of the country’s attention right now is understandably focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, but another epidemic still rages.

There are approximately 8,300 people living with HIV in Canada who don’t know it and 7,840 people who have been diagnosed but are not on life-saving treatments. Yet we are in a time when ending the HIV epidemic is within our reach, but only if we can connect and serve people where they are at, regardless of who they are, their circumstances or where they live. So why haven’t we crossed the finish line?

‘This is the community in action’: Disability vaccine outreach initiative

From the article in Healthy Debate:

Tara Kiran, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and Fidani Chair of Improvement and Innovation at the University of Toronto, has been working with patients who face access barriers in vaccine programs. “As family doctors, one of our key roles is care coordination – and right now, that means a lot of time spent trying to help people navigate the confusing vaccine system,” says Kiran. “Sometimes that means booking an appointment on behalf of a patient, other times it means helping to arrange transport or other support to ensure they are able to get to the appointment.”

Kiran is grateful that community volunteers, including platforms like Vaccine Hunters, have revealed gaps in the system. “I’m a doctor who is pretty immersed in the logistics of the vaccine rollout and I’ve found it hard to figure out which of my patients is eligible for a vaccine, where they can get it and how they can book,” she says. “We have too many queues and that means a system that is confusing but also inefficient and inequitable.”