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PODCAST: Dr. Reka Gustafson talks HIV, COVID, the toxic drug crisis and mental health

TODAY IN B.C.: Medical health officer offers insight

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Dr. Reka Gustafson joined Island Health after holding positions in Vancouver as the medical officer for the City of Vancouver and as the deputy chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health.

“As a general rule, don’t start a new public health job at the beginning of a pandemic”, said Gustafson, who received her medical training at UBC.

During her time in Vancouver, Gustafson worked primarily in communicable disease control, and worked with a team to change the testing practices for the way that HIV is diagnosed and managed.

“The entire healthcare system in British Columbia improved early diagnosis for HIV with the help of really dedicated clinicians and outreach teams, made sure that people were linked to treatment early and the result was that British Columbia, has sustainably reduced infection rates for HIV and improved treatment substantially,” she said. “That’s a pretty unique trend in Canada.”

On this edition of Today in B.C., host Peter McCully asked Gustafson what are the solutions to help people who are accessing toxic drugs in British Columbia.

“The fact that we arbitrarily criminalize some substances and not others is something that we need to address,” she said. “We need to really look at the legislative and societal framework in which some substances are criminalized and others are a completely normal part of our social fabric. And there’s a clear correlation between the toxicity and the harms of those substances that we criminalize.”

Gustafson also offers her insight into the flu season, COVID, alcohol use and mental health issues.

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Peter McCully

About the Author: Peter McCully

Peter has been a broadcaster and publisher on both of Canada’s coasts and has owned a small newspaper and run an advertising agency along the way.
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