Interior Health’s work to expand access to HIV testing and treatment in the region has led to significant increases in screening for the disease, a critical step in controlling and eventually ending the AIDS epidemic.
“Since 2013, HIV testing in the region has increased by 50 per cent with HIV testing rates now exceeding 3,500 tests per 100,000 people,” it said in a statement released Thursday, November 26.
The results come as the agency marks World AIDS Day on December 1 and the one-year anniversary of the My Heath is Sexy campaign, which aims to promote HIV testing and reduce stigma.
“I am very proud of the work we have done to increase the number of people getting tested for HIV in our region,” said Maja Karlsson, implementation leader of the STOP HIV Program. “Improved access to testing has played an important role in this increase but so have other factors such as increasing awareness of the advances in treatment and reducing the stigma that has long been associated with HIV. We have worked hard to spread the message that everyone should be tested and that living a long healthy life with HIV is the new reality for those who are diagnosed early.”
Interior Health has launched several initiatives under the provincial Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS (STOP HIV/AIDS) program. These initiatives include:
- A Health Outreach nursing team that provides HIV testing, care, treatment, and education throughout the region;
- A specialized integrated medical team of physicians and nurse practitioners with advanced HIV training to provide clinical expertise to the STOP HIV program and direct care to patients living with HIV across the region;
- Six clinical HIV teams across the region who focus on services and supports to meet local needs;
- The creation of the “My Health Is Sexy” campaign which aims to promote HIV testing and reduce stigma; and
- Routine HIV testing in hospitals – offering patients an HIV test when blood work is ordered.
Interior Health also hold about 90 HIV testing and awareness events a year. HIV testing and education events will be held in several communities in the Kootenays to mark World AIDS Day:
- Golden — Golden Public Health Clinic, 1- 4 pm;
- Invermere — Invermere Options for Sexual Health Clinic, 6:30 – 8:30 pm; Kelowna — UBC Okanagan, Event offered in partnership between the STOP HIV program and the UBC-O Pride Society at UNC Room 109, 3333 University Way, Kelowna, 11 am – 4 pm;
- Sun Peaks — Sunpeaks Health Centre, 9 – 11:30 am;
- Vernon — HIV Education Road-show including a traveling display showcasing HIV awareness, recommendations for testing and support for those who work to reduce the effects of HIV across the globe at
Vernon Jubilee Hospital, main entrance, 9 am – noon;
Okanagan College, Kalview Cafeteria, 1 – 3 pm and 3:30 – 5 pm; and
- Nelson: Zero Discrimination Event looks at how HIV/AIDS discrimination plays out in a rural setting. Music by Amber Starr, speakers, candlelight vigil to remember those who died, video and a panel discussion. Refreshments provided, Nelson United Church, 2 – 4 pm.