Expanded services to test people for blood-borne diseases

More testing and prevention available now for those living with or at risk of contracting AIDS or HIV

More prevention, testing and treatment services will be available for people throughout Island Health who are living with – or at risk for contracting – blood-borne diseases such as HIV or AIDS.

“I am pleased to see that Island Health is expanding these important services,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “The importance of reaching and engaging people in care is why we have expanded the successful STOP HIV/AIDS program to communities throughout the province, with $19.9 million targeted funding annually province-wide.”

Island Health’s new services are part of, and funded by, the provincial Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/ AIDS (STOP HIV/AIDS) initiative, which is focused on increasing the reach of HIV prevention, testing and care with the aim to provide early links to care, treatment and support, improve the health of those living with or vulnerable to HIV, and prevent further infections.

“Island Health is increasing prevention, testing and treatment programs for everyone, in alignment with the provincial STOP HIV/AIDS program and the From Hope to Health: Towards an AIDS-free Generation strategic framework,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health. “We want to make testing routine, whether an individual is knowingly at risk for contracting a blood-borne disease or not. 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 status. Our goal, in the course of controlling and preventing these infections, is to work with our community partners to make testing and treatment a routine procedure for everyone.”

In November 2014, Island Health issued three Requests For Proposals (RFPs) seeking community-based organizations to deliver services related to the prevention, testing and treatment of blood-borne diseases, as well as to provide harm reduction and education programs. On the North Island, AIDS Vancouver Island has been selected to deliver these evidence-based programs and services specified under the province’s STOP HIV/AIDS program.

In total, Island Health is distributing $650,000 in provincial STOP HIV funding for community partners across the Island for specific evidence-based interventions, bringing the total funding for community agencies to support harm reduction, education, prevention, testing and treatment for blood-borne diseases to $1.98 million. In addition, Positive Wellness in Campbell River is also a recipient of STOP HIV/AIDS funding.

“The best way to ensure early diagnosis is to make testing as easy and as accessible as possible,” said Stanwick. “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. Modifying our programs and partnerships to implement new gains in knowledge will not always be easy. However, in our quest to do what is best for the population we serve I am confident that the success realized elsewhere will happen here.”