Island Health plans to expand services to those living with blood-borne diseases such as HIV and AIDS, as well as preventive measures for those at-risk.
The provincial program is focused on furthering the reach of HIV prevention, testing and to provide early links to care as well as improving the health of those living with or vulnerable to HIV.
Chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick says the goal is to make testing as easy as a regular check-up.
“We want to make testing routine, whether an individual is knowingly at risk for contracting a blood-borne disease or not.”
Last November, Island Health asked for proposals to improve services related to prevention, testing as well as education programs.
The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS conducted a pilot project and found that with more testing and treatment it would help the most at-risk populations.
“What it found was that by actively going out and testing they identified more outcomes that may have not been found without testing,” said Sarah Plank, Island Health Media Relations Manager.
Stanwick says new infections discovered are not just from the most vulnerable populations.
“While we continue to reach out to those who are most vulnerable, marginalized and at higher risk, we know that a significant proportion of new infections involve individuals from the general population who are unaware of their statuses.”
The only way to find early diagnosis is to make testing as easy and accessible as possible.
“The approach under the STOP HIV/AIDS program takes a proven best-practice methodology in the management of the threat and reality of the transmission of blood-borne diseases in our communities,” said Stanwick.
Health Minister Terry Lake said the expansion of the STOP (Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention) HIV/AIDS program will have a projected price tag of $19.9 million annually province-wide.
“The importance of reaching and engaging people in case is why we have expanded the successful STOP HIV/AIDS program to communities throughout the province.”
With Island Health distributing $650,000 in provincial funding for community partners within Island Health’s service area, it will bring total funding to $1.98 million for next fiscal year.