International News

40% of AIDS-Related Deaths in British Columbia Among People Who Never Received Treatment, Study Finds

February 27, 2008

About 40% of the 1,436 people who died of AIDS-related conditions in British Columbia, Canada, from 1997 to 2005 never received antiretroviral drugs even though the medication is provided at no cost, according to a study released Friday by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the Vancouver Province reports.

The study found that 567 people in British Columbia had died of AIDS-related causes during the study period without receiving treatment (Lazaruk, Vancouver Province, 2/23). According to Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. center, low-income people, homeless people, people with mental illnesses and drug users were the most likely to die without receiving treatment. In addition, about 25% of people living with HIV in Canada do not know they have the virus, so the number of people dying of AIDS-related conditions without receiving treatment could be higher, Montaner said.

Ken Buchanan of the British Columbia Persons With AIDS Society said the long-term solution to the problem is to bring stability to the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS so they are more likely to follow their treatment regimens. "For a person who is homeless, taking medications, even free medications, is pretty low in their priorities," Buchanan said. The B.C. center has proposed a plan to the provincial government that would form outreach teams to provide rapid-response HIV testing to people most vulnerable to the virus and offer treatment to people who test positive (Moore, CP/Globe and Mail, 2/23).

A representative from the B.C. Ministry of Health was not available for comment, the Province reports (Vancouver Province, 2/23).

Program Launched To Curb HIV Among Aboriginal Community
In related news, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on Monday launched a five-day program aimed at reducing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among aboriginal communities in Prince George, B.C., the CP/Globe and Mail reports. The Chee Mamuk Aboriginal HIV/STI Program will link health providers with HIV/AIDS and sexual health services in the aboriginal community in an effort to develop community-based solutions to build networking among participants.

According to Melanie Rivers, acting manager of Chee Mamuk, aboriginal people account for about 5% of the province's population but accounted for 15% of all new HIV infections in 2006. The "overrepresentation" of aboriginal people in new HIV cases is even "more pronounced" among women, Rivers added. In 2006, 54 new HIV cases were reported among aboriginal people in British Columbia.

The program is scheduled to end Friday, but two more sessions are planned in the coming months, the CP/Globe and Mail reports (CP/Globe and Mail, 2/26).

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