Last year Joseph walked into a downtown emergency room with a persistent cough and trouble breathing. After a long wait he was examined by a doctor and was immediately admitted. He had a serious case of pneumonia that was getting worse by the day. After some testing Joseph was informed that he was living with HIV and that his body’s immune system had almost lost its ability to fight off infections. Joseph had AIDS and he was totally unaware of it.
For those of us working in the Canadian HIV field, this is an all too common scenario. The reality is that out of all Canadians living with HIV, more than one in four don’t know they are living with it. And for those of us working with African, Caribbean and Black communities in Canada, it doesn’t surprise us to learn that Joseph is a Black man. People from African, Caribbean and Black communities in Canada are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. They represent approximately 15% (one in seven) of people living with HIV in Canada while representing only 2.5% of the population. The national numbers also show that if you are Black in Canada, you are about 9 times more likely to become infected with HIV than other Canadians.