By Peter J. Smith

OTTAWA, August 3, 2006 ( – A report released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on Monday reveals that nearly a quarter of the estimated 58,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Canada remain ignorant carriers of the virus. Even more alarming is that women are becoming an increasing percentage of those infected with HIV.

The PHAC report confirms United Nations and World Health Organization findings that HIV/AIDS has increased by over 20% in Canada since 2000, and estimates that 15,000 are unaware they are HIV infected.

According to PHAC, women now make up 20 percent of all infections, a statistic that has risen 6 percent from 2002, when approximately 85 percent of those with HIV were men. According to PHAC estimates, women accounted for 27 percent of last year’s new infections, an increase of 3 percent since 2002.

Ms. Louise Binder, chair of the Canadian Treatment Action Council, who is HIV-positive herself, blames the rise in infections among women on “a lack of negotiating power when it comes to sex” according to a Globe and Mail story.

“We don’t have good female-initiated prevention methods. We have a female condom but it’s very expensive and not very available, there’s no microbicide,” said Ms. Binder.

About three quarters of women were infected after having sex with an infected man, while the rest were attributed to injection drug usage according to PHAC.

This report may confirm what researchers at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have separately indicated as a growing link between the sexual activity of bisexual men with women partners and the rise of HIV infections in women.

The PHAC report reveals that 51 per cent of those infected with HIV continue to be men who engage in homosexual activity. Despite the high percentage, however, the Canadian government has continued to resist informing the public of the health risks of homosexual activity, instead pushing homosexuality as a normative andÂhealthy lifestyle.

This past week reported that organizers of the Homosexual Outgames in Montreal felt that it was necessary to plan for the event by amassing anti-HIV drugs to combat the dramatic increase in extremely high-risk homosexual activity during the event. Nevertheless prime Minister Stephen Harper supportedÂthe event byÂsending a senior government official to represent him at the event in his absence.

Overall, the PHAC estimated 2,300 to 4,500 new HIV infections occurred last year, compared with an approximate 2,100 to 4,000 infections in 2002.

“I wouldn’t interpret this data to say the programs [to combat the disease] are not working, but certainly more needs to be done,” said Dr. Frank Plummer, director general of the Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. “The number of Canadians living with HIV infection will likely continue to increase in years to come as new infection rates continue and survival rates improve.”

See previous coverage:

HIV Escalating: 20% Increase in Canada; Doubles to 40 Million World-Wide