Part 1 Learning from OHTN Conference 2016: HIV Endgame II – Stopping the Syndemics that Drive HIV


Part 1 Learning from OHTN Conference 2016: HIV Endgame II – Stopping the Syndemics that Drive HIV (November 21-22, 2016) by Mona Lee, PAN’s Greater Vancouver Site Coordinator of PLPH; CBR/Evaluation Support Coordinator; Administrative Coordinator

I had the privilege of attending the OHTN Conference in Fall 2016 that discussed the challenges and factors associated with the HIV syndemics as well as tips and best-practices on how to move forward to end syndemics. Here, I will highlight some of my key learnings, in hopes that this blog can be of value to BC in sharing national and cross-provincial information related to HIV syndemics.

Syndemics is a relatively new term that describes the interaction of two or more co-occurring conditions (e.g. HIV, HCV, substance use, etc.) that together worsen some or all of these conditions. As a result, negative health outcomes are increased. Syndemics is most commonly observed in marginalized populations. Behind these synergistic interactions that result in added health burdens, lie mutually reinforcing structural inequalities related to gender, sexuality, race, class, etc.

To set the scene, here are some factors, shared during the conference, related to social justice and equity that affect syndemics and ultimately health outcomes: colonialism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, social oppression, structural violence, mental health/illness, addiction, and social/economic marginalization.

There is more than a correlation between racism and health inequities. Racism is a cause to health inequities seen in Indigenous vs. Non-indigenous communities, evident by the disproportionate representation of Indigenous peoples in infant mortality rate, HIV incidence (new infection rate) and prevalence (total infection rate), etc. Resources to deepen our understanding around this issue include: Truth and Reconciliation Report, Unequal Treatment: What Healthcare Providers Need to Know About Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare (by Institute of Medicine), and First Peoples, Second Class Treatment: The role of racism in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

In stopping the syndemics that drive HIV, cultural safety is important. However, it must be accompanied by system level changes and requires humility. Make sure the community takes the leadership role – community has the answer.

Presentation slides and video with media release are now online and will be available for reference until June 30, 2017. At that point, OHTN hopes to share a more structured report. 


Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
Mona Lee, Greater Vancouver Site Coordinator of PLPH; CBR & Evaluation Support Coordinator; Administrative Coordinator

[email protected]