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Trudeau marks World AIDS Day, says fight against HIV can be won

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wears a scarf from the Red Scarf Project for AIDS awareness in Ottawa on Dec. 1, 2016.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government has pledged more support for the fight against AIDS, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's confident the battle can be won.

In marking World AIDS Day, Health Minister Jane Philpott announced the government will spend another $3.5 million on AIDS research.

That's on top of the $50 million per year Canada currently invests in HIV and AIDS research.

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But Philpott said much more needs to be done to raise awareness about the disease and how to treat it.

She cited statistics indicating that one in five people in Canada who are HIV positive are unaware of their condition.

Of the 80 per cent who are aware, only 76 per cent are receiving treatment, but most of those being treated have seen the virus suppressed.

The aim, said Philpott, is to bring those numbers to 90 per cent by 2020.

"We still have a lot of work to do to reach our goals," she said.

"One of the realities of the HIV virus is that it is a virus that discriminates. It discriminates against certain populations."

In Canada, the population at greatest risk of contracting HIV remains men who have sex with men, accounting for 54 per cent of HIV-positive people.

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Aboriginal communities are also at higher risk than the general population. An indigenous person is two and a half times more likely to be infected with HIV than a non-aboriginal counterpart.

Wearing a red scarf given him by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Trudeau helped to hoist a white flag at the base of the Peace Tower in support of efforts to combat the illness.

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