Approximately one in four people infected with HIV are not aware of it, meaning they are a risk to others and that they are not getting treatment that would help them cope with the infection better.
So Nanaimo Regional General Hospital has joined Campbell River Hospital and the West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni offering an HIV test as part of its admission bloodwork procedure.
“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”, Forrest said.
“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 BC 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 treatment can reverse the damage to the immune system caused by HIV and maintain or restore health. HIV testing will roll out at remaining Island Health acute care sites in the future, states a release from VIHA.