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Canada Commits C$17.9M to Expand HIV Testing

NEW YORK — The Canadian government announced on Tuesday plans to spend C$17.9 million (US$13.9 million) to expand access to HIV testing.

Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said in Montreal at the 24th International AIDS Conference that the money will go toward distributing self-testing kits and other testing methods that could reach the populations at greatest risk of infection and those living in sparsely populated areas of the country. The pledge to expand decentralized testing includes C$8 million for HIV self-test kits and support for community-based organizations, including Indigenous organizations.

Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory will spend the remaining $9.9 million to expand community-based testing programs in northern, remote, and isolated communities. That comes with funding for training, verification, and quality oversight of those programs, and the community-based organizations will be able to buy diagnostic tests for local screening, confirmatory testing, and surveillance.

The Canadian government estimates about 63,000 people in the country are HIV-positive and about 10 percent of them are undiagnosed. HIV self-test kits can encourage testing by reducing barriers of stigma and discrimination, the government said.

Health Canada authorized the first use of HIV self-test kits in 2020 with the approval of BioLytical Laboratories' testing kits. Canada is trying to reach a UNAIDS 2025 goal of identifying 95 percent of HIV infections, administering antiretroviral treatment to 95 percent of those diagnosed, and achieving viral suppression in 95 percent of patients receiving treatment, the government said.