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World AIDS Day 2017- Message from the GMSH

December 1st marks a period of reflection for many of us. We reflect on our losses, the people we have known and loved, those who fought for us in this epidemic and we reaffirm our commitment to people living with HIV and all the communities impacted by it. This World AIDS Day we have reason to be optimistic. Around the world people living with HIV (PLHIV) are living longer with lifespans close to that of their HIV negative peers. Globally, more people living with HIV are on treatment than ever before, and we know that in addition to improving the health of individuals it also means they cannot transmit the virus to sexual partners. 

Throughout Ontario communities have mobilized behind the message that Undetectable=Untransmittable. This is a defining moment in the history of the HIV epidemic. 

In Ontario, cis/trans gay, bisexual, queer, 2 Spirit and other MSM are mobilizing to have 'the sex they want' informed by the work of our alliance advancing a message that combination prevention works. Early treatment of HIV is best. PrEP and U=U are highly effective and can enhance sex, pleasure and connections. Condoms remain a cornerstone of our efforts. In cities like San Francisco, London and Sydney they too have mobilized, and now the data confirms the significant gains made in preventing and treating HIV. 

We are making inroads to meet the endorsed UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, though caution is required. Time and time again it has become clear that we have work to do in our testing and prevention efforts. Gay men living with HIV are engaging with the healthcare system, they're adhering to their medications and the vast majority are maintaining an undetectable viral load- this is great news. Populations of gay men who require the kinds of tailored, compassionate and competent support to stay engaged in care include young people and guys who use drugs. That is a real opportunity for our work in 2018 as we prepare to develop and launch our Party n Play project.

If we are to encourage increased testing, use of combination prevention strategies and engagement in a sexual health system, that system needs to be accessible, acceptable, informed by evidence, stigma free and innovative. Through the continued work of our office and the GMSH alliance we look forward to focusing our efforts on the development of such systems through knowledge building, community engagement, campaigns and advocacy. Ensuring that all gay and bisexual men have equitable access to such systems is our challenge and call to action. Our efforts will not be enough if some of us are left behind. 

Dane Griffiths GMSH Acting Director

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