The Advance Community Alliance
By Michael Kwag - Director, Community Alliance
A New, Pan-Canadian Initiative to Address Gay, Bi, Trans, Two-Spirit, and Queer Men’s Health
This month, an exciting initiative to improve the health and wellness of gay, bisexual, queer, and other men who have sex with men (cis and trans) and Two-Spirit people (GBT2Q) in Canada is formally launched: the Advance Community Alliance. Composed of five leading community organizations dedicated to GBT2Q across Canada, Advance represents a new, Pan-Canadian, and community-led strategy for collective action on HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted blood borne infections (STBBIs). Our goals are for GBT2Q in Canada to have equitable and effective access to the health services we need, including HIV/STBBI testing and treatment, PrEP, vaccinations, and mental health programs.
Gay men and other MSM in Canada continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV and sexually transmitted infections, as well as a range of other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicide. While GBT2Q represent approximately 2.5% of the male population in Canada, surveillance data continues to show that our communities account for more than half of new HIV infections annually. In 2014, the Public Health Agency of Canada released estimates that men who have sex with men are 131 times more likely to get HIV than other men in Canada.
The need for a pan-Canadian approach is critical to address the current patchwork system of access that exists between cities, provinces, and regions, producing significant inequities in the availability and accessibility of prevention, treatment, and support services, and contributing to high rates of HIV, STBBIs among GBT2Q. Our ‘by and for’ GBT2Q coalition leverages our collective expertise, networks, and resources to strengthen community leadership and capacity to respond to HIV and other health issues important to our local communities. Through evidence-based interventions developed in partnership with allied stakeholders in the health system, we are committed to fostering a renewed and coordinated response to barriers to access, including affordability or lack of cultural knowledge and sensitivity among clinical and service providers.
The Advance Pan-Canadian Community Alliance will operate primarily out of six local and/or regional sites (Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, and Halifax) and is a partnership between RÉZO, MAX Ottawa, AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), Health Initiative for Men (HIM), and Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC). The Advance Pan-Canadian Community Alliance is supported by a five-year grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) through the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund.