Montreal Public Health wants to break stigmas and misinformation about HIV and AIDS

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day and Montreal Public Health is launching a campaign to break some of the stigmas that still exist for those living with the condition.

#JournéeMondialeduSida : Les partenaires de l'initiative Montréal, ville sans sida lancent une campagne pour mettre fin aux préjugés. @MTLSansSida #TOMS

— Ville de Montréal (@MTL_Ville) December 1, 2019

Many Quebecers still have misconceptions about those living with HIV. For example, one-in-five Quebecers still believe just being near someone with HIV puts them at risk of infection.

"A quarter of Canadians said that they would not have a hairdresser living with HIV where there's no risk. There never was a risk," said Dr. Sarah-Amelie Mercure.

Doctors in Montreal want to set the record straight.

"There are good treatments now and people on medication don't pass on the virus anymore," said Mercure.

With modern medicine, the transmission of the virus can be prevented even during unprotected sex and casual interactions pose no risk at all.

Posters and animations will appear throughout the city and on metros educating the public about HIV stigma.

The fear of being ostracized is often what prevents people from being tested and getting the necessary treatment.

REZO's Brock Dumville says criminalizing those that don't disclose their HIV status to sexual partners even when they aren't contagious shows that the laws need to be updated too.

"That thinking hasn't really been updated since the '80s," said Dumville. "The advancements in treatment and prevention are huge."

Scott Gary Major was diagnosed with HIV 22 years ago and watched as the diagnosis went from a death sentence to completely manageable.

"I feel very blessed that I've gotten to see this," he said. "I've gotten to see the change in the disease and the change in the reaction from the public."

He said within the gay community, most people know the reality of the disease, but those who are more marginalized may be subject to discrimination and barriers to proper healthcare.

There are about 10,000 people in Montreal living with HIV.

"Here's hoping that maybe one day we won't need to celebrate a World Aids Day because it won't exist," said Major. 

It’s here! We’re so excited to release our #WorldAIDSDay 2019 video about standing (and dancing!) in solidarity with people living with HIV.

Thanks to the brilliant @TheGMDC and @QueerTangoLdn for blowing us away with your interpretations of how to #RockTheRibbon Together.

— National AIDS Trust (@NAT_AIDS_Trust) November 27, 2019