Canada: Interior Health Authority Testing Routine HIV Tests in British Columbia

Canada's Interior Health Authority will launch a new HIV testing program that potentially could lead to the end of HIV, according to health officials. Three cities in British Columbia -- Merritt, Vernon, and Trail -- will implement the Stop HIV/AIDS program, which will make HIV testing a regular part of routine medical screenings to increase early detection. Previously, healthcare providers tested only pregnant women or persons who self-identified as participating in high-risk behavior.

"It's really about going from a risk-based testing model, where the client has to self-identify that they're in a risk group, to recognizing that just about everyone has some risk factors and so it's part of a normal screening process," said Denise McKay, Interior Health's Stop HIV/AIDS project leader. "I think this is a really exciting time because, for the first time in our history, we have the ability to change the course of HIV," she said.

All acute care and community hospital-type organizations will implement the program, but McKay hoped that all doctors also would apply the program as part of their own routine care. The program will provide a standard for future implementation strategies in future locations. The program will run from September to November 2013.

A general public marketing campaign will accompany the program. McKay said education for healthcare providers also was important. The Interior Health Authority wanted to ensure the medical staff was comfortable providing testing, recognized important points to discuss with the patient, and knew how to provide support when a patient tested positive for HIV.