HARRISON HOT SPRINGS, British Columbia — The province’s public health authorities are calling for universal testing for HIV for all citizens. One-fourth of British Columbians carrying the life-threatening disease do not know they are infected, according to B.C.’s Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, who spoke on the need for testing Monday.
“They do not know that they are infected, and they do not even expect that they are infected,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the Centre for Excellence.
“It is critical that we find that 2,000 people who are affected.”
The public health officer called for universal testing, which means that every person in the province would be tested for HIV.
Montaner said it was necessary to find the thousands of British Columbians in order to offer them treatment, and more importantly, he said, prevent further HIV transmission.
The province should be motivated not just because of humanitarian issues, said Montaner. Treating and preventing diseases like HIV is also about saving money.
“This is exponentially a lifesaver and a money-saver in the world,” said Montaner, referring to the higher costs involved in treating already-affected disease sufferers once their condition worsens as well as the costs involved in treating the higher numbers of HIV-infected that will result from not finding those currently infected.
There is no real model for B.C. to follow in fighting HIV, Montaner said, because the province is already at the forefront of fighting HIV globally. It will have to pioneer the path.
“We don’t just recommend stuff. We recommend it and we implement it,” he said.
Montaner also asserted positively that HIV could be wiped out if proper measures were implemented.
“Yes we can,” said Montaner. “We have demonstrated that by treating patients, we can make them virtually non-infective.”
The health authority is aiming for 90-90-90 by 2020. The plan holds that if 90 percent of those infected with HIV know their status and 90 percent receive treatment — full viral suppression with anti-viral therapy — we will see a 90 percent reduction in AIDS and AIDS deaths.