Patients can expect to be offered an HIV test when receiving blood work.
Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s emergency department will soon offer an HIV test routinely.
“Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the number of new HIV infections in our region,” said Dr. Trevor Corneil, chief medical health officer.
“Treatments available today can suppress HIV to undetectable levels and that greatly reduces the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.”
The expanded testing is a part of the provincial Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS (STOP HIV/AIDS) program, which aims to reduce HIV transmission and improve the health outcomes of those living with HIV by offering widespread HIV testing, treatment, and early engagement into care.
Maja Karlsson, STOP HIV implementation leader, believes routinely offering an HIV test will reduce stigma and reach people with no obvious risk factors, who would normally fall through the cracks.
“Anyone who has ever been sexually active is at some risk of HIV. A large portion of newly diagnosed patients don’t identify as ever belonging to one of the traditional high prevalence populations. Getting tested for HIV provides reassurance for those who test negative; and for those who test positive it provides an opportunity to access life–saving treatment,” said Karlsson.
In the Interior Health region, 65 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed long after becoming infected. As a result, their immune systems can already be quite damaged, making full recovery more difficult.
Patients at IH hospitals will be offered an HIV test whenever other blood tests are ordered. As with all medical tests, the patient has the right to decline or refuse the test and only those patients able to make a decision on their own will be offered a test. Patients who test positive for HIV will be offered support and referred to appropriate care and treatment services.
For more information, go to www.interiorhealth.ca/sites/Partners/STOP-HIV/Documents/Patient%20Brochure.pdf