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New HIV cases drop among those who use injection drugs

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
March 24th, 2011

New cases of HIV among people who use drugs by injection (IDU) in BC continue to decline.

According to a new report released Thursday by the provincial health officer, entitled Decreasing HIV Infections Among People Who Use Drugs by Injection in BC, there are a number of factors that contributed to the decrease in new HIV cases seen among injection drug users.

The uptake and expansion of Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy (HAART) – the current gold standard in HIV treatment – likely has been a factor in reducing the number of HIV incidences. 

HAART has the ability to change the way people live with HIV by improving their quality of life and reducing transmission rates. Participation in harm reduction programs has been associated with a decrease risk for HIV and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Transmission of this disease has also likely been affected by changes in drug use (type of drugs and routes used) or changes in the population.


Pilot program

The launch in February 2010 of the Seek and Treat to Optimally Prevent HIV/AIDS (STOP AIDS) pilot program, with $48 million in provincial funding over four years, aims to better connect at-risk populations in Prince George and inner-city Vancouver with appropriate testing and treatment services.

The pilot program is supported by government and led by Dr. Julio Montaner and his team at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.


The report recommends

The latest research from the BC Centre for Excellence shows that the number of people living with HIV in B.C., who were receiving HAART, increased by 547 per cent from 1996 to 2009.

During that same time period, new HIV diagnoses fell by 52 per cent.

The report makes several recommendations, including the expansion of HAART and further support for the STOP AIDS project, the expansion of point-of-care testing programs for HIV and HCV and exploring new approaches to get more people tested. Also, continuing to expand harm reduction services and programs, especially in correctional facilities and to IDU, is needed.

Other recommendations include supporting programs and projects that address determinants of health, the improvement of data and monitoring systems and fair access to services.


Quick facts

• The research concluded that in 2000, there were 137 new cases of HIV in the IDU population. In 2009, this number dropped to 64.

• The number of new positive HIV tests in 2008-09 appears to be at a lower level than prior to 2008.

• The decrease of new positive HIV tests was found in all ethnic groups and in both males and females around the province in all health authorities. Those between the ages of 20-39 saw the most apparent decrease.

• Data on Hepatitis C (HCV) infections provides a good indicator for potential risk of HIV transmission among IDU.

• More people are being tested for HCV in British Columbia. In 1998, 64,000 individuals were tested. In 2009, the number of people tested for HCV rose to over 120,000.

• While the number of people getting tested for HCV has increased, the number of new reported cases is down from 4,353 in 2000 to 2,444 in 2009.


Learn more

The report can be viewed online at:


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