B.C. treatment as prevention strategy gains ground on HIV/AIDS

Andre Picard
Original Article:  bit.ly/17sElJk

The number of people becoming newly infected with HIV and those dying of AIDS-related causes have both plummeted in British Columbia, thanks largely to the widespread use of antiretrovirals.

Only 84 new cases were diagnosed in the province in 2013, down from 253 in 1997; that’s a 67-per-cent drop. The number of AIDS-related deaths fell to 44 from 241 in the same period, an 82-per-cent reduction.

“What the numbers tell us is that our approach – treatment as prevention – is working by minimizing mortality, morbidity and HIV transmission,” Viviane Dias Lima, senior statistician at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), said in an interview.

The findings are published in Friday’s edition of the medical journal, The Lancet.

Treatment as prevention, or TasP for short, is a strategy pioneered in B.C. which has now been adopted by a number of countries around the world.

The concept is that by diagnosing HIV early, with near-universal testing, then treating aggressively with cocktails of antiretrovirals, the amount of virus circulating in a person’s body can be suppressed to the point of being undetectable. This, in turn, dramatically decreases the likelihood of spreading HIV (even if an infected person does not practise safer sex), and it improves longevity and quality of life by reducing HIV-related symptoms.

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