Focus shifting from AIDS to HIV a sign of the times: group
The disease has been reduced so much in B.C. that AIDS Vancouver is considering a name change. St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. on Tuesday May 27, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Last year in British Columbia, 40 people were diagnosed with AIDS.
Twenty years ago, the story was much different as about one person per day was dying of the disease in Vancouver alone.
Now the low rates of diagnosed cases has led to a sort of symbolic repurposing of Ward 10C at St. Paul’s Hospital, which has been used as a dedicated AIDS ward since 1997.
The ward will still operate, instead treating those with HIV — the virus that leads to AIDS — hepatitis and addictions.
The announcement to close the ward was made by Premier Christy Clark and others Tuesday.
AIDS Vancouver executive director Brian Chittock called it a good news story.
“People aren’t being diagnosed with AIDS anymore, at least to the extent they were in the early 90s and late 80s,” said Chittock. “The number of HIV patients going into the AIDS ward has been reduced significantly.”
Through medication and treatment, Chittock said that HIV itself is often reduced to a chronic disease rather than the doorway to a terminal illness.
Rates have been reduced so significantly that AIDS Vancouver is even considering a name change, said Chittock.
“People can’t relate to AIDS anymore, it doesn’t really exist the way it did in the early days,” he said.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall said HIV prevention and treatment is working, but there is always need for advancement.
Kendall said 200 to 300 people a year are still diagnosed with HIV in B.C. and the big concern is those who aren’t aware they are infected allowing the illness to gain a foothold, which is why doctors test for it often.
“They seek to test everyone of their patients between the ages of 18 and 70,” Kendall said.