Health experts in B.C. are taking their fight against HIV/AIDS into the back alleys and strolls of the province’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Officials will seek hard-to-reach HIV-infected people who have been untreated or who remain undiagnosed.
The four-year $48-million pilot program entitled Seek and Treat, unveiled Thursday at St. Paul’s Hospital, will expand the use of antiretroviral drugs to survival sex workers and injection drug users.
An estimated 12,000 people in B.C. have HIV — more than a quarter are unaware that they are infected.
“While the treatments are very highly effective, they are only as effective as access to treatment,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.
“The whole strategy is to go out there, seek and facilitate treatment.”
If successful, the project will slow the progression to AIDS among people with HIV and result in fewer HIV infections. It will be piloted in the Downtown Eastside and Prince George.
Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon estimated that the pilot program could save the province $65 million in lifetime HIV treatment costs.