Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) prevents progression of HIV disease to AIDS and death, and secondarily dramatically decreases HIV transmission. Clinical trials have proven beyond doubt that HAART is the most effective biomedical prevention strategy available, as it decreases sexual transmission of HIV by over 96%.
With the strong and unwavering support of the provincial government, BC is already a global leader in the development and implementation of HIV Treatment as Prevention. This week, the BC government further committed to support the expansion of province wide outreach efforts, so more people living with HIV can be enabled to access HIV testing services and fully free and supported HAART.
Expanding the investment on Treatment as Prevention today is the right thing to do, and it is cost averting. In a paper published earlier this year, World Health Organization (WHO) based investigators showed the investment pays by itself within a decade, and becomes cost-saving thereafter.
Treatment as Prevention has been endorsed by the International AIDS Society, the joint United Nations AIDS Program (UNAIDS), The Clinton Foundation, the WHO, several US cities and China.
Yet, there is no national strategy in Canada to ensure fully free and supported access to HIV testing and treatment for all Canadians in need. This, despite the fact that year after year the Public Health Agency of Canada reports that approximately one quarter of Canadians living with HIV are unaware of their infection, and about half of HIV infected patients access life-saving HAART, only after the onset of immunodeficiency.
We can no longer tolerate the status quo. Failure to implement a national strategy to eliminate HIV & AIDS is negligent on a humanitarian level and it is economically irresponsible. The Canadian AIDS Society estimates the cost of HIV/AIDS at $1.3 million per person.
At a time when there are record increases in healthcare and governments are struggling to meet skyrocketing costs, BC has a solution that will save lives and money. HAART should be considered a clinical and human rights priority.
British Columbia is already a leader. It's time for Canada to join the effort and become a global example in the treatment and prevention of HIV.