National HIV Testing Week event takes place locally at Avenue B in partnership with RECAP

Saint John, November 26th, 2020 – As part of the Canadian AIDS Society’s (CAS) national HIV Testing Week initiative, RECAP and Avenue B hosted an HIV and sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection (STBBI) testing event at AVENUE B (62 Waterloo Street) on Wednesday, November 25, 2020 from 11am-3pm. “The goal of the event was to provide easy access to testing for at-risk populations who are often disproportionately affected by the virus”, said Julie Dingwell, Executive Director of AVENUE B.

National HIV Testing Week aims to reduce the stigma often associated with HIV testing. “Building on the success of last year’s initiative, this event was truly about normalizing HIV testing, increasing Canadians’ capacity to make informed decisions regarding their own sexual health, and decreasing stigma. We are so pleased to collaborate with RECAP and Avenue B to bring point-of-care testing (POCT) and dried blood spot (DBS) testing to New Brunswick”, said Gary Lacasse, Executive Director of CAS.

The theme for Testing Week is #KnowYourStatus. 1 in 7 Canadians living with HIV are unaware that they are HIV-positive, which makes the 

possibility of transmitting the virus to others much more likely. The only way to know for certain if you’re HIV-positive is to get tested. The sooner you know your status the sooner you can be linked to care, which is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve positive health outcomes.

At the end of 2016, an estimated 63,110 people in Canada were living with HIV, and according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s 2018 HIV Surveillance Report, there has been a 25.5% increase in the number of new HIV infections in Canada between 2014 and 2018. National HIV Testing Week was created in response to these rising rates being seen in Canada. A major priority is to reach Canadians affected by HIV and other STBBIs and/or Canadians who have never been tested for HIV and other STBBIs. “Decreasing the barriers a person faces to get tested or in accessing care for HIV or other STBBIs is critical to improving the health of our community”, said Stefanie Materniak, Executive Director of The Centre for Research, Education and Clinical Care of At-Risk Populations (RECAP).

During this event, rapid HIV tests and DBS testing were administered to participants. Pre- and post-test counselling were provided to those being tested to help determine their risk factors. The DBS tests were sent to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory for analysis. If a participant tests positive for HIV or another STBBI, RECAP and Avenue B will be able to immediately begin forming a long-term relationship with the individual and work toward ensuring their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing from the moment of diagnosis. Those in the local community who would like to be tested can contact RECAP at (506) 214-9399 or e-mail to arrange to be tested.

“Hesitancy to get tested is a complex issue, with a myriad of reasons individuals might feel intimidated to access testing. It is vital to be able to provide testing using novel approaches to overcome some of the perceived barriers to testing,” said Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, Acting Scientific Director General of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML). “The NML has been working hard to expand the reach of techniques such as DBS testing across the country. Our goal is to make more Canadians aware of their health, and ultimately, reduce rates of STBBIs by increasing accessibility and reducing the stigma surrounding testing.”

In the next few months, RECAP will be partnering with Dr. Nitika Pant Pai’s research team based out of McGill University to begin using a new cutting-edge testing technology (AideSmart!) App together with a multiplex testing kit, which tests for multiple infections (HIV, hepatitis C, and syphilis) with a single drop of blood within 15-20 minutes. This technology is a game changer in that it will help us handle three key infections that affect at-risk populations disproportionately.

This collaborative, evidence-informed approach will sustain the benefits of the national Testing Week initiative, ensure information will be accessible to as many people as possible, and increase testing year-round so more Canadians living with HIV know their status and can take proper precautions to protect themselves and their sexual partners.


For media enquiries:

Gary Lacasse
Executive Director, Canadian AIDS Society
613-230-3580 x118

Julie Dingwell
Executive Director, Avenue B

Stefanie Materniak
Executive Director, RECAP

Dr. Nitika Pant Pai
Associate Professor, McGill University

Public Health Agency of Canada Media Relations

STBBI testing must be deemed an essential service

While some may think that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in fewer people having sex and therefore fewer new cases of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI), some health care professionals and sexual health advocates, including CAS, think that it could be exactly the opposite. Many sexual health testing clinics have closed their doors entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, while others are only offering appointments to those who have been diagnosed with an STBBI or who are experiencing symptoms. The majority of STBBI do not have any symptoms, and those who are asymptomatic are more likely to be unknowingly spreading an STBBI. Therefore, by only testing people with symptoms, new cases of STBBI are likely to increase significantly during COVID-19.

Although it is important to minimize risks to healthcare workers and postpone any non-essential services, postponing routine STBBI testing could have serious long-term impacts on health. Even curable STBBI such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can, if left untreated, have long-term negative health such as pelvic inflammatory disease. HIV is a particular concern as the longer a person with HIV is left undiagnosed, the more serious effects it can have on their long-term health outcomes.

Even with physical distancing rules in place, it is vital that we take a harm reduction approach to sex during the COVID-19 pandemic and recognize that not everyone will be able to refrain from physical distancing in order to have sex. Stigma against those who cannot physically distance can dissuade people from accessing safer sex supplies such as condoms. We must continue to offer sexual health services, including routine STBBI testing, even during a period of great uncertainty.

Visit HIV411 for sexual health testing clinics across Canada and Portail VIH/Sida du Québec for testing sites specifically in Quebec (please note that HIV411 is in the process of being updated and Portail VIH/Sida du Québec’s list of sites is being continuously updated). There are also a couple of excellent resources about sex during COVID-19, such as this one from the New York City Health Department and these ones from RÉZO and the Health Initiative for Men that are specific to men who have sex with men.

National HIV Testing Week at CAHR

On May 1 and 2, 2020 the Canadian Association for HIV Research held its 29th annual Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR 2020). The conference, which was held virtually due to COVID-19, featured an e-poster from the Canadian AIDS Society about the past two years of the national HIV Testing Week (formerly national HIV Testing Day) initiative.

Images of the poster are below. If you are interested in viewing other posters or other parts of the conference, please visit the CAHR website.

2019 National HIV Testing Day Final Report

National HIV Testing Day was first launched in Canada on June 27, 2018, in order to highlight the importance of testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI), dismantle the stigma surrounding HIV and encourage Canadians to take charge of their sexual health by getting tested. The first national HIV Testing Day proved to be successful, testing over 800 Canadians for HIV and other STBBI.

Following an even more successful Testing Day in 2019, with testing numbers well exceeding the first year, CAS and the rest of the Testing Day steering committee are pleased to announce the expansion of the campaign to a national HIV Testing Week. With Testing Week, we can grow our capacity for encouraging Canadians to get tested by upsizing the number of participating organizations, creating more testing events and have more people who will #KnowTheirStatus!

Read the final report here.

Canadian AIDS Society’s response to Government of Canada’s STBBI Action Plan

Canadian AIDS Society’s response to Government of Canada’s STBBI Action Plan

On July 17, 2019, the Government of Canada published an action plan entitled, “Accelerating our response: Government of Canada five-year action plan on sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections”. While this Action Plan is a much needed step in the right direction toward addressing the drastically increasing rates of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI) in Canada, there are some significant gaps of concern.

Firstly, the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) would like to express support for the priorities and over-arching themes of the Action Plan. The seven broad Action Plan priorities are:

  1. Moving towards truth and reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis People
  2. Stigma and discrimination
  3. Community innovation – Putting a priority on prevention
  4. Reaching the undiagnosed – Increasing access to STBBI testing
  5. Providing prevention, treatment and care to populations that receive health services or coverage of health care benefits from the federal government
  6. Leveraging existing knowledge and targeting future research
  7. Measuring impact – Monitoring and reporting on trends and results

CAS recognises that these priority areas will be crucially important to reducing rates of HIV in Canada, and is committed to working toward these priorities, though we would like to highlight the lack of priorities in the Action Plan that are specific to the care and support of people living with HIV.

CAS was disappointed to see that the Action Plan does not contain specific action items or any specific domestic objectives. Outside of the 2030 global targets, it is unclear what Canada will be trying to achieve under the Action Plan. Equally concerning is that how Canada will create positive change remains unidentified. CAS fails to understand how an action plan without clear action items will be effective and believes that the Action Plan must be more specific in both its objectives and measurable steps towards addressing HIV in Canada.

We are concerned by the timelines discussed in the Action Plan and interpret them as a lack of urgency towards addressing HIV in Canada. Despite previously endorsing global targets for HIV (90-90-90) aimed at 2020, this Canadian Action Plan focuses on 2030, stating that the objective of the plan is to “[a]ccelerate prevention, diagnosis and treatment to reduce the health impacts of sexually transmitted-and blood-borne infections (STBBI) in Canada by 2030”. Not only is the plan ignoring Canada’s limited success in meeting the 2020 goals, but this “five-year action plan” also fails to present any objectives that are less than ten years away.

The Action Plan states, “The Government of Canada is committed to playing its role in the development, regulatory approval and deployment of POCT and additional novel technologies(3).” CAS finds that this statement is inaccurate given the federal government’s lack of support for national community-based initiatives such as national HIV Testing Day, which brought POCT to Atlantic Canada where it had not been previously available. There is also a lack of emphasis on tried and true prevention strategies such as condoms.

In terms of populations to be prioritized, the Action Plan states, “Reaching the undiagnosed is key to improving the health of people living with STBBI and reducing transmission. The Government of Canada will continue to support programs and initiatives that promote access to and uptake of STBBI testing.” As of the time of writing this position statement, preliminary data from the 2019 national HIV Testing Day demonstrates that 35% of the people who were tested as part of Testing Day had never been tested before, and 67% had not been tested within the past year. This initiative has clearly been successful in reaching populations who had not previously been tested, yet the federal government has declined to support it financially since the first national HIV Testing Day in 2018, stating that testing is under the jurisdiction of provinces and territories. All provinces and territories have endorsed the Action Plan. Over and beyond the role of the province and territories, PHAC has a responsibility to increase access to testing across Canada recognizing the diversity of populations and the importance of adapting strategies. Providing funding support, recognition, human resource support, and engagement is one step towards this responsibility that cannot be assigned.

While CAS appreciates the Government of Canada’s recognition that there are current gaps in STBBI surveillance data, all that is mentioned in the Action Plan is that “federal, provincial and territorial governments have made a commitment to work together to strengthen STBBI surveillance as a priority.” The integrity of accurate surveillance data is an immediate and important need, and concrete steps must be developed and detailed to the public beyond a vague commitment to prioritize filling in these gaps.

Finally, we are concerned that inadequate funding will continue to affect the work of HIV organizations over the next ten years and challenge Canada’s ability to reach international targets, just as it has over the past ten years. The Action Plan identifies that “federal STBBI investments of $81.5 million annually remain foundational to our work”. This Action Plan fails to recognise Recommendation 20 from the most recent report from the Standing Committee on Health:

Recommendation 20: That the Government of Canada increase total funding for the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada to $100 million annually, as recommended in the 2003 report of the Standing Committee on Health entitled Strengthening the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS.

CAS supports the recommended funding increase to $100 million annually, specifically allocated to HIV, rather than $81.5 million for all STBBI (which is not a guaranteed sum yearly). Without funding, organizations that build capacity for care, treatment, support, testing, research and capacity building will be restricted in the delivery of their services.

In summary, while it is a good sign that the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of a plan to address the rising rates of HIV and other STBBI in Canada, the steps in their Action Plan are vague and do not provide any details about how these steps will be implemented. We recommend that the Government of Canada take the following steps in order to address the gaps in the Action Plan:

  1. Follow the Standing Committee on Health’s recommendation to increase HIV funding to $100 million annually (separately from funding for other STBBI)
  2. Identify clear national goals that provide accountability at the end of the five-year plan
  3. Explicitly describe the measurable steps needed to achieve these national goals
  4. Financially support the national HIV Testing Day (as part of a Sexual Health Awareness Week) moving forward, as well as to financially support bringing POCT and other testing technologies to communities that do not have access to them
  5. Identify specific steps to improve surveillance data for HIV and other STBBI
  6. Restore funding to the 40 organizations who lost funding from the redesign of PHAC’s HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund in 2016 (which directly led to a historic increase in HIV cases in Canada).
  7. Ensuring a harmonization of harm reduction practices within the STBBI scope

Second annual national HIV Testing Day taking place this June in Canada

Second annual national HIV Testing Day taking place this June in Canada

2018 event resulted in 835 Canadians being tested for HIV

OTTAWA, May 21, 2019 – The national HIV Testing Day event organized by the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS), community-based organizations and local health authorities across Canada will be returning this year on June 27th with testing events happening at various times at local testing sites in 70 communities across the country. ‘’Building on the success of last year, this event is truly about normalizing HIV testing, increasing Canadians’ capacity to make informed decisions regarding their own sexual health, and decreasing stigma’’ says Gary Lacasse, Executive Director of CAS.

HIV Testing Day was created in response to the rising HIV rates being seen in Canada. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s 2017 HIV Surveillance Report, there has been a 17.1% increase in the number of new HIV infections in Canada between 2014 and 2017. Stigma and barriers to testing continue to exist, discouraging Canadians from getting tested. The inaugural event in 2018 received national media coverage, raising awareness about the importance of regular testing for HIV and other STBBI. Similarly, a major priority for this year’s event will be to reach the undiagnosed – Canadians who are disproportionately affected by HIV and other STBBI and/or Canadians who have never been tested for HIV and other STBBI.


The theme for this year’s Testing Day is “Know Your Status”. 1 in 5 Canadians living with HIV are unaware that they have HIV.  The only way to know for certain if you’re HIV-positive is to get tested. The sooner you know your status the sooner you can be linked to care. Where available, testing sites will be able to provide immediate HIV test results using point-of-care testing kits. In just a minute, a simple finger-prick test is all you need to know your status.

“Despite huge advancements in HIV research, stigma still prevents many people from taking the first step: getting tested. Our 1 minute HIV test is used anywhere from remote outreach settings to busy city testing events, helping to alleviate stigma and other barriers. Being fast and reliable, it provides flexibility to tailor counselling to the person and can help to link more people to care.”
Rick Galli
bioLytical Laboratories, the maker of INSTI

A new component of this project will be the presence of U=U spokespeople at various testing sites. U=U (Undetectable=Untransmissible) is an initiative based on the scientific consensus that when you achieve viral suppression from taking HIV medicine and continue to stay at undetectable levels of HIV, you can stay healthy and have no risk of transmitting the virus to others. Where possible, a person living with HIV who is undetectable will be available at participating testing sites to explain the campaign and how someone who is living with HIV can have a healthy sex life and not pass the virus along to others.


This initiative is being organized by CAS and a national steering committee made up of community-based organizations from across the country: the Pacific AIDS Network, the Alberta Community Council on HIV, AIDS Saskatoon, Nine Circles Community Health Centre, the Ontario AIDS Network, COCQ-Sida, ENSEMBLE Greater Moncton (formerly AIDS/Sida Moncton), AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia, AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, and CATIE.

In addition to HIV Testing Day on June 27th, this project will also involve the ongoing initiative of providing sexual health resources to these priority populations through a variety of mediums.  A social media educational campaign will be on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and will take a holistic approach adapted to the specific cultural needs of priority populations.  A toolkit has also been developed by CAS with templates and guidelines for community-based organizations to organize presentations for populations in their communities.

These strategies will sustain the benefits of the national Testing Day initiative and ensure information will be accessible to as many people as possible, to increase testing year-round so more Canadians living with HIV #KnowYourStatus and can take proper precautions to protect themselves and their sexual partners. 

Information on the testing site locations is available at and will continue to be updated leading up to June 27th. Identify a national HIV Testing Day site near you, get tested and #KnowYourStatus. 

Kelly Puddister, National Programs Coordinator

Canadian AIDS Society

  1. 230.3580, ext. 123 /