A new sexual health education campaign for GBT2Q guys launched in the capital region

Yannick LeClerc

The campaign aims to increase access and uptake of HIV prevention strategies such as PrEP and PEP.

EQUIP, a new education campaign developed by MAX Ottawa and health partners in Ottawa and Gatineau aims to decrease STBBI and HIV infection rates amongst GBT2Q guys. The innovative online education campaign provides information on combining sexual health practices and services to increase health outcomes.

The EQUIP campaign launched last october in French in Gatineau in partnership with the Entre Hommes program from BRAS Outaouais and the English launch was held in Ottawa in partnership with Queering 613. Both events featured a reveal of the campaign and the website equipyourself.ca

While HIV prevention efforts have been made across both sides of the river for many years, the partners have agreed to synergize efforts to effectively reduce new HIV and other STBBI infections. “Our communities easily travel from Gatineau to Ottawa to socialize, meet, and have sex regardless of health authorities or political boundaries. If we hope to reduce new HIV rates in our region, our prevention strategies need to mirror our communities’ behaviours,’’ says Matthew Harding, Community Programs Manager at MAX Ottawa. 

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, was approved for distribution in 2016 and Canadian prescribing guidelines were published in 2017, but it remains a very underutilized HIV prevention strategy amongst GBT2Q men, a community that still composes 58.8% of new HIV infections in Ontario. This makes it more important than ever to revamp education initiatives to provide updated information to communities. 

MAX Ottawa surveyed 382 men in Ottawa last winter and found that only 10% said they had never heard of PrEP as an HIV prevention strategy. How ever, 47% of them said that acquiring information on the medication was extremely difficult in our region. Reasons causing the underutilization of the prevention strategy include difficult access to information, high cost, and unclear pathways between health systems.  EQUIP aims to reduce that number by addressing these barriers. 

While EQUIP aims to increase access to information, a broader upcoming strategy led by partners on both sides of the river will aim to reduce other social barriers. The hope is that everyone may be able to combine as many sexual health prevention strategies as they see fit for themselves to enhance their overall health.