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Canada Considering New HIV/AIDS Treatment Strategy

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Canadian province of British Columbia is considering new strategies to encourage the "most hard-to-reach" HIV-positive people to enter treatment, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports. The methods would target groups like drug users, the homeless and mentally ill and include payments and other incentives, such as drug recovery programs, addiction treatment, food and shelter.

Julio Montaner, head of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver and president of the International AIDS Society, said that by combining HIV/AIDS treatments with recovery programs, people who would not normally see a physician might be persuaded to access treatment. "People have an instinct for self-preservation," Montaner said, adding that some groups are more likely to seek solutions for immediate problems -- such as a lack of food and shelter or where to access drugs -- rather than focus on longer-term issues such as HIV/AIDS.

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"If we listen to them and we ask them, 'What will it take for you to do this (take HIV treatment),' they will tell you," he said, adding, "If we can get these people hooked on us instead of hooked on their dealers, we can work with them and try to make (HIV treatment) a priority." Montaner said the new treatment strategy would be more cost effective over a long period of time, adding that the cost to provide treatment to one HIV-positive person over a lifetime is between 250,000 and 500,000 Canadian dollars -- or between $200,000 and $400,000. According to Montaner, studies have shown that if most people living with HIV are on treatment, new infections can be reduced by half.

According to the Globe and Mail, British Columbian Premier Gordon Campbell and Health Minister George Abbott have pledged to support the new program, although Abbott would not comment on the logistics of the plan. Abbott said that the issues surrounding highly vulnerable groups living with HIV/AIDS "are not going to go away" and are "simply going to be compounded and find themselves more and more into the mainstream populations." It is "very important to address the needs of the vulnerable," Abbott said (Armstrong, Globe and Mail, 10/30).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published forkaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.