Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to also acknowledge and pay tribute to World AIDS Day. It is held on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health date and it was held for the first time in 1988. Now, Mr. Speaker, globally, there is an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. We owe a debt of gratitude to Blood Ties Four Directions for all of their hard work over the years.
We are also, Mr. Speaker, marking Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week from November 30 to December 5. Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week is an opportunity to increase awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS, establish ongoing prevention and education programs in aboriginal communities, address common attitudes that may interfere with prevention, care or treatment activities, and reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.
Mr. Speaker, Canada’s aboriginal people make up a highly disproportionate amount of those affected with HIV and AIDS. Despite making up only four percent of Canada’s total population, they make up a full nine percent of those living with HIV in Canada.
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to reflect on progress that we have made in combatting this epidemic. Treatment has improved and life expectancies are much higher than they were in the 1980s, but there is still no cure. Unfortunately, so many of those who suffer live in the world’s poorest communities and the poorest countries, and they do not have access to the right treatments. We, as Canadians, have an important leadership role to play in helping to ease the burden on countries that do not have the resources that we do in combatting the disease.
Let us all recommit to addressing awareness, funding research and, ultimately, ensuring that we create an environment so that those with HIV are not as reluctant to disclose the virus. “Getting to zero”, this year’s theme, reminds us that there is much more work to be done.
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