Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on July 21, 2021
July 21, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada
Last week, as researchers, healthcare professionals and community leaders from around the globe came together virtually for the Sexually Transmitted Infection and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (STI & HIV) 2021 World Congress, I was encouraged by the commitment of the global community to continue to share knowledge, advance research and participate in important discussions on sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI).
Sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections are preventable, treatable and in many cases curable. However, these infections remain a significant public health concern in Canada and around the world. As of 2018, an estimated 62,050 people were living with HIV in Canada; among those, an estimated 87% were diagnosed. This leaves over 8,000 people who are not benefiting from effective treatment to remain healthy and to prevent new infections. In addition, rates of infectious syphilis have been increasing dramatically in recent years, including among women of childbearing age. As a result, over 70 infants were diagnosed with congenital syphilis in 2019.
Canada is committed to working with partners and stakeholders across the country and abroad in support of the global goal of ending viral hepatitis, HIV and other STBBI as public health threats by 2030, as outlined in the Pan-Canadian STBBI Framework for Action, and through the Government of Canada's Five-Year Action Plan on STBBI. Since then, Canada has continued to make progress towards achieving these goals through investments in research and new technologies, supporting community innovation, promoting culturally safe initiatives, and challenging stigma and discrimination.
Key to reaching these targets is ensuring people in Canada have access to testing and treatment. We know that COVID-19 public health measures have had an impact on the delivery of, and access to STBBI-related health services. Service reductions and closures have affected the delivery of STBBI prevention, testing and treatment services, including the support and treatment of people living with HIV and/or hepatitis C. We also know that these impacts are felt more deeply in some communities than others, such as among Indigenous peoples, racialized and marginalized communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2+) communities, and people who use drugs.
I have been inspired by the researchers, service providers and community leaders in cities across Canada who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to reach people who remain undiagnosed, and link them to testing, prevention, treatment and care, all while challenging stigma toward populations disproportionately affected by STBBI.
It's important that we maintain focus on our commitment to achieving global STBBI targets, because these infections will still be with us long after people in Canada are vaccinated against COVID-19. Last month, Canada voted to adopt the interim HIV targets for 2025 that were tabled at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. These targets will help drive our progress toward our ambitious goals of getting to zero new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, and eliminating HIV-related discrimination, all while contributing to our broader work to eliminate STBBI as a public health concern by 2030.
As COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are continuing to track key epidemiological indicators to monitor trends and quickly detect emerging issues of concern, including to better understand the impact of circulating virus variants. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is also providing regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines administered, vaccination coverage and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety across the country. The following is a brief summary on national numbers and trends.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,424,220 cases of COVID-19 and 26,508 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Variants of concern (VOCs) represent the majority of recently reported COVID-19 cases, including four VOCs (B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), and B.1.617.2 (Delta)) that have been detected in most provinces and territories. Regardless of which viruses are predominating in an area, we know that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, continue to work to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
While the latest national-level data show a continued decline in disease activity with an average of 410 cases reported daily during the latest 7 day period (July 14-20), the rate of decrease has slowed. As public health restrictions are eased, some increase in cases, particularly among unvaccinated populations, is not unexpected. The latest provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 575 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (July 14-20), which is 14% fewer than last week. This includes, on average 254 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 21% fewer than last week and an average of 8 deaths were reported daily (July 14-20).
While COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, core public health measures and individual protective practices can help us to reduce the spread: stay home/self-isolate if you have symptoms; be aware of risks associated with different settings; avoid all non-essential travel; and maintain individual protective practices such as physical distancing and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask, as appropriate.
Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination. For additional information regarding the risks and benefits of vaccination, I encourage Canadians to reach out to your local public health authorities, healthcare provider, or other trusted and credible sources, such as Canada.ca and Immunize.ca.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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