Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall has released new HIV testing guidelines for health-care providers in B.C. to encourage all British Columbian adults to get tested.
The guidelines — the first of their kind in Canada recommends that HIV testing be part of the regular tests offered to adult patients.
"British Columbia's reputation as a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS is growing because of the development of innovative programs and guidelines like these," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "Dr. Kendall's guidelines will help remove the stigma some associate with HIV as B.C. continues to set a standard for care and treatment of this disease."
At present, only pregnant women are routinely offered HIV testing — a program that has virtually eliminated HIV transmission from mother to child in British Columbia.
The new HIV testing guidelines recommend that practitioners offer an
• Routinely, every five years, for all patients aged 18 to 70 years.
• Routinely, every year, for all patients aged 18 - 70 who belong to populations with a higher burden of HIV infections.
• Once at age 70 or older if the patients' HIV status is not known.
And, offer an HIV test to patients including adults 18 to 70, youth and the elderly, whenever:
• They present with a new or worsening medical condition that warrants laboratory investigation.
• They present with symptoms of HIV infection or advanced HIV disease.
• They or their providers identify a risk for HIV acquisition.
• They request an HIV test.
• They are pregnant.
“The new guidelines are similar to recommendations made by expert bodies in the USA, U.K. and France," said Dr. Kendall. "They are evidence-based and were written by an expert panel of B.C. doctors from a number of clinical specialties."
With new advances in therapy, HIV-positive patients receiving treatment can expect to live long, healthy lives free of symptoms.
According to a recent survey published in the British Medical Journal, early diagnosis of those with the disease and on antiretroviral therapy can live as long as those without HIV. In addition, treatment can greatly reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission and move the world towards an "AIDS-free generation".
Despite these advances, many individuals with HIV are not diagnosed early — and late diagnosis can make treatment more difficult, allowing the disease to have more opportunity to spread.
The HIV testing guidelines can be found at: www.hivguide.ca.
© Coast Reporter