HIV is a very serious topic, and not one to take lightly. It’s a sensitive topic for many, especially those in the gay community. Over the past decade British Columbia has adopted a treatment-as-prevention strategy. The results are in, and the charts are looking good.
According to Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, since 2005, the number of HIV deaths in British Columbia have seen a steady decline to just 55 in 2010.
More importantly, in 1996, there were over 700 new cases of HIV detected in British Columbia, and over 400 cases per year were recorded throughout the early 2000’s. With the new treatment-as-prevention strategy in place, there were just 301 new HIV detected cases in 2010 – an all time low since 1996!
Although the number of people receiving HIV antiretroviral treatment is on the rise, treatment does reduce the amount of virus in bodily fluids of someone with an HIV infection.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported in August 2010 that of 1,763 couples which had one partner with HIV infection, that antiretroviral treatment reduced the risk of heterosexual transmission by 96 per cent!
Just a few provinces over, in Saskatchewan, in 2009 they reported 200 cases, but in 2010 they saw a drop to 172. However, there are new efforts in place in that province to go out and find new cases, so the numbers for 2011 are expected to rise.
In Saskatchewan, 70 per center of new HIV cases are drug injected related and more so from the first nations population.
Back in British Columbia, medical officials are lobbying governments to find ways to make antiretroviral treatment for those just diagnosed with HIV to receive treatment for free – without co-payments or deductibles. Cost of treatment is a barrier for many and it keeps patients on the less effective pill treatment.
Additionally, the BC medical community notes that if private drug plans are charged, the billing information could potentially get back to employers, which would discouraged individuals from getting tested and treated.
Since British Columbia has implemented access to treatment, they have seen a decrease in new diagnoses of HIV close to 50 per cent, which equals dramatic savings considering one infection costs between $250,000 – $500,000 over a lifetime.