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AIDS: A GLOBAL ASSESSMENT : CANADA : Understated Campaign and Muted Reaction

August 09, 1987

The large number of anti-AIDS advertisements that have been posted in Toronto's bus shelters in recent months simply say, "Avoid AIDS." The understatement is typical of the concerned but muted Canadian reaction to the epidemic.

Although AIDS is slowly becoming a public issue, the disease has sparked considerably less controversy than in the United States. The focus of public health efforts remains a strong anti-smoking drive.

Newspapers have tended to avoid sensationalism, and no major politician or other social leader has called for severe measures to isolate infected individuals.

To date, Canada has reported 1,052 AIDS cases, about one-fourth the number of cases in the United States on a per capita basis.

The great majority of cases have occurred in homosexual or bisexual men who live in some of the country's largest cities--Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Four cases have been reported in intravenous drug users and 26 in the heterosexual partners of bisexuals.

A national AIDS committee has been established, and a proposal for mandatory reporting of AIDS virus carriers and the tracing of their sexual contacts will be considered by the Canadian Medical Assn. this month. But the government has rejected the American ideas of compulsory AIDS antibodies tests for military personnel, prisoners, marriage license applicants and immigrants.

Still, there have been instances where reactions have been odd or extreme. Earlier this year, for example, Toronto police destroyed a pair of handcuffs used to detain a prostitute who claimed she had AIDS. Vancouver police say reported assaults and incidents of harassment of homosexuals have quadrupled.

Within the next several years, AIDS is likely to become a more visible issue in Canadian society.

By September, all the secondary schools will have some form of AIDS education program, including the publicly financed Roman Catholic school systems. These programs will emphasize abstinence from sexual relations as the only truly effective way to avoid exposure to the AIDS virus, but even the Catholic church says it will permit information about condoms to be presented.

AIDS IN NORTH AMERICA Antigua . . 2 Bahamas . . 86 Barbados . . 39 Belize . . 2 Bermuda . . 55 Canada . . 1,052 Cayman Islands . . 2 Costa Rica . . 31 Cuba . . 3 Dominica . . 3 Dominican Republic . . 200 El Salvador . . 10 Grenada . . 4 Guadeloupe . . 40 Guatemala . . 22 Haiti . . 851 Honduras . . 20 Jamaica . . 16 Martinique . . 16 Mexico . . 487 Panama . . 18 Saint Christopher . . 1 Saint Lucia . . 3 Saint Vincent . . 3 Trinidad & Tobago . . 134 Turks & Caicos Islands . . 2 United States . . 38,263 TOTAL CASES . . 42,365

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