Prevention Works. The case of HIV/AIDS shows that when prevention is central to a health care problem, the benefits are huge. The battle against HIV/AIDS is a lesson on why we need to increase prevention funding. Dr. Paul Martiquet highlights recent successes on the prevention of HIV/ AIDS and the success of a preventive approach.
An AIDS-free generation?
By Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer
British Columbia has been at the forefront of much of the progress we have made on the HIV/AIDS front since the emergence of the disease in the 1980s. In 2009 pilot projects in Vancouver and Prince George were introduced to explore a new strategy against HIV/AIDS. Called STOP HIV/AIDS (Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS), the projects brought together innovative new methods for testing, diagnosing and treating the disease. The natural next step for this proven strategy is expansion of the program across the province.
A central idea for the TasP (Treatment as Prevention) pilot was devised by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Underlying the concept of TasP is that drug treatment lowers the amount of virus in the body, thus improving the health of those on treatment, and therefore lowering the amount of virus in the community and preventing new HIV infections over the long term. TasP has been endorsed internationally by UNAIDS and adopted by other jurisdictions including the United States and China.
There are five goals in the expansion of STOP HIV/AIDS around BC:
- Reduce the number of new HIV infections in British Columbia using health promotion, HIV prevention, and enhanced testing and care.
- Improve the quality, effectiveness and reach of HIV prevention services.
- Improve early diagnosis of those living with HIV.
- Improve the quality and reach of HIV support services for those living with and vulnerable to HIV.
- Reduce the burden of advanced HIV infection on the health system.
Success will mean fewer people will contract HIV and few of those living with HIV will see their infection progress. An AIDS-free generation is not only possible, but entirely plausible.
Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
The full text of this column can be found at http://www.vch.ca/about_us/news/an-aids-free-generation-