On Dec. 1, communities around the world will celebrate World AIDS Day – a day dedicated to raising awareness about HIV prevention and treatment.
This year’s theme is “Getting to zero – zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.” That may seem like a tall order but Interior Health, community partners, and physicians are working together to implement a new program that has the potential to get there.
Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS reduces transmission by ensuring those living with HIV/AIDS know their HIV status and have access to the best care through expanded testing and engagement in prevention and treatment.
“Up to 26 per cent of B.C. residents who are infected with HIV are not aware of their infection and the majority of people who are newly infected with HIV are often getting it from people who didn’t know they had HIV to begin with,” said Dr. Trevor Corneil, a medical health officer and physician lead for STOP HIV.
“If more people know their HIV status and receive early treatment, the spread of the disease in our communities can be halted.”
Early diagnosis also means better outcomes. Advances in treatment mean that people who are HIV positive are living a much longer and near normal life.
“When an infection is identified early it can be managed as a chronic disease. Early treatment can prevent the virus from attacking the body and it can also prevent it from spreading to others,” said Corneil.
“STOP HIV engages family physicians in caring for HIV positive persons by giving them access to and support from HIV specialists. This ensures the best possible care is available throughout Interior Health.”
A team of health outreach nurses is also now available to support physicians, community agencies, and HIV positive clients in all Interior Health communities. The outreach nurses provide testing for HIV and related infections, referrals, counselling, medication support, as well as HIV education for individuals and groups.
Referrals to the team can be made by physicians, community organizations, or through self-referral by calling 1-866-778-7736.