Globe and Mail Examines Treatment Gaps Among HIV-Positive People in British Columbia
Toronto's Globe and Mail on Saturday examined how many HIV-positive people in British Columbia, Canada, experience gaps in treatment. Although antiretroviral drugs have prevented the deaths of "tens of thousands" of HIV-positive Canadians, the virus is continuing to spread in the province, and many people living with HIV/AIDS do not have access to treatment, according to the Globe and Mail (Mickleburgh, Globe and Mail, 3/15).
About 40% of the 1,436 people who died of AIDS-related causes in B.C. from 1997 to 2005 never received antiretrovirals even though the drugs are provided at no cost, according to a study released last month by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/27). About 2,500 HIV-positive people in B.C. do not know their HIV status, increasing the risk of transmitting the virus. In addition, long-term HIV survivors are developing age-related side effects of treatment, such as osteoporosis, strokes, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
According to Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. center, although new treatments can reduce HIV viral loads "almost to nothing," which could potentially slow the spread of the virus, many HIV-positive people do not have access to such treatment. "We have a nearly 100% ability to control viral replication and put HIV into remission," Montaner said, adding that it is "simply unacceptable" that people are dying of AIDS-related causes.
In addition, governments are unwilling to commit to funding HIV/AIDS treatment services at a level necessary to curb the spread of HIV, the Globe and Mail reports. According to the Globe and Mail, the virus has "become mostly invisible" as fewer demonstrations about the disease are held and it spreads among low-income people, injection drug users and homeless populations.
Researchers "know just about everything we need to know to stop" the spread of HIV, HIV/AIDS expert Michael Rekart said, adding that they have not stopped its spread because of the "expense" and because AIDS-related deaths are not "on the front page anymore" (Globe and Mail, 3/15).