Manitoba To Establish Comprehensive HIV Testing, Treatment Program
The government of the Canadian province of Manitoba recently announced plans to establish a $1.3 million comprehensive HIV testing and treatment program to help reduce the spread of the disease in the province, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. The Manitoba HIV Program over the next two years aims to consolidate hospital and community-based HIV clinical programs to expand test sites and access to diagnosis and treatment, as well as strengthen prevention programs targeting high-risk populations, including immigrant and refugee communities, and aboriginal youth. The program will establish anonymous and on-site rapid HIV testing at all the sites, the Free Press reports.
Michael Payne, executive director of Nine Circles Community Health Centre, said that services for sexually transmitted infections and HIV have been "fairly scattered" throughout the province, adding that the new program substantially would enhance the detection, treatment and prevention of the virus. "We've been frustrated by the time it has taken and the lack of progress but we're very optimistic not just by the announcement ... but [by] the dialogue and discussion we've been included in," Payne said, adding, "Whatever it is that prevents people from getting tested, our goal is let's get them tested because the sooner you know your HIV status the better able you are to take care of your health and to access proper treatment."
According to the Free Press, 1,396 people have tested HIV-positive in Manitoba between 1985 and 2006, and 192 people have died of AIDS-related illnesses. Manitoba is one of the last Canadian provinces to offer anonymous HIV testing, the Free Press reports (Rabson, Winnipeg Free Press, 9/20).
Although Manitoba has been "behind the curve on HIV testing and prevention," the government has "stepped, long over due, into the modern age" of fighting the epidemic with the new program, a Free Press editorial says. Manitoba Healthy Living Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross' plan for on-site rapid HIV testing and a campaign on HIV awareness in immigrant and aboriginal communities is "valuable," according to the editorial. However, the "minister cannot stop there," the editorial says, concluding that it is "time HIV education, testing and prevention was widespread in Manitoba, so the spread of HIV gets checked" (Winnipeg Free Press, 9/20).