Think back to the 1980s. Dire Straits was playing on the turntable or cassette deck; San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl; and Coca Cola introduced “New Coke.” And we became more aware that people were dying of a new disease: AIDS.
Few in 1985 could imagine the progress we have made on the HIV/AIDS front since that time. And British Columbia has been at the forefront of much of these gains.
In 2009 pilot projects in Vancouver and Prince George were introduced to explore a new strategy against HIV/AIDS. Called STOP HIV/AIDS (Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS), the projects brought together innovative new methods for testing, diagnosing and treating the disease. This led to more people accepting treatment and a reduction in rates of infection and disease. The natural next step for this proven strategy is expansion of the program across the province.
A central idea for the pilots was devised by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Called TasP (Treatment as Prevention), the strategy has proven its potential to alter the epidemic. Underlying the concept of TasP is that drug treatment lowers the amount of virus in the body, thus improving the health of those on treatment, lowering the amount of virus in the community and preventing new HIV infections over the long term. TasP has been endorsed internationally by UNAIDS and adopted by other jurisdictions including the United States and China.