In Canada, approximately one in four people who are living with HIV is unaware of his or her infection.
Starting Monday (Jan. 11) patients admitted to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital through the emergency department will be offered a HIV test as part of their admission bloodwork. This initiative was recently implemented at Campbell River Hospital and West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni, and will roll out at remaining Island Health acute care sites in the future, according to a news release from Island Health.
“The key to reducing new HIV infections is early diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. David Forrest, Infectious Diseases physician for Central and North Vancouver Island. “More importantly, identifying and connecting people with HIV infection to treatment early on will keep them healthy and will prevent them from developing AIDS or dying of HIV disease.”
It is estimated that over half of new HIV infections occur via transmission from individuals who are unaware of their infection. “Treatment virtually eliminates the chance that the virus can be passed on to others, since antiretroviral therapy suppresses the virus to undetectable levels”, said Forrest. “Indeed by identifying people with HIV disease and providing them treatment, we can stop HIV transmission and end the HIV epidemic. The goal is to be free of AIDS in B.C. within a generation, and the key to doing so is making the diagnosis and linking patients with HIV infection to care.”
In B.C., one in six people have advanced HIV disease at the time of diagnosis. Even at a late stage of disease, treatment can reverse the damage to the immune system caused by HIV and maintain or restore health. But the earlier HIV disease is diagnosed and treated, the better the long term health benefits.
— Island Health