Vancouver Coastal Health says there is some good news in the fight against AIDS.
VCH has seen a 52 per cent drop in new HIV cases in its area since 2011. It’s also on track to have its lowest number of cases since HIV became reportable in 2003.
Last year, 86 people were diagnosed with HIV in the VCH, down from 178 new cases in 2011. So far this year there have been only 26 new cases.
“This is so encouraging to see,” says Dr. John Harding, VCH Medical Health Officer. “It shows that our public health approach, including the STOP HIV/AIDS program, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS’s Treatment as Prevention strategy, both made–in-B.C. solutions, are working.”
VCH doctors recommend that anyone who is sexually active get tested annually.
“When VCH and Providence Health Care embarked on the provincial STOP HIV/AIDS program in 2009, one in five Canadians living with HIV were estimated to be unaware that they have HIV, and we saw too many people newly diagnosed with HIV already in the advanced stages of disease,” said Dr. Harding. “Today in our region, people are being diagnosed and linked to care earlier, which can prolong and improve people’s lives, as well as reduce transmission to others”.
The made-in-B.C. STOP HIV/AIDS initiative includes outreach to marginalized groups; expanding access to early testing to diagnose those living with HIV in order to improve health outcomes and reduce transmission; and immediate and universal access to free antiretroviral therapy for all who are diagnosed HIV positive.
To protect those at highest-risk of acquiring HIV in B.C., government expanded access to pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis in 2018 – a preventive treatment (pharmaceutical name PrEP) now available at no cost through the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS to eligible individuals including men who have sex with men, transgender women, and any other people with ongoing relationships with HIV-positive sex partners who are not on regular HIV medication or have a low viral load, and people who share drug use equipment with a partner known to be living with HIV.
People can get tested for HIV for free in a variety of locations including primary care providers (family doctors), walk-in clinics, and hospitals.