By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Oct 10, 2014
Routine HIV testing will be offered in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish to alleviate the stigma around HIV and improve its early diagnosis, Vancouver Coastal Health announced today.
“It’s estimated that 25 per cent of people with HIV are unaware they carry the virus.” Dr. Paul Martiquet
Doctors and nurses at the Whistler Health Care Centre, Pemberton Health Centre and family physician offices will begin offering HIV tests to patients starting October 15. Testing at Squamish General Hospital and in Squamish-area physician offices will be offered from October 29.
Tests will be offered when other blood tests are ordered for a patient as recommended in the new Provincial HIV Testing Guidelines.
“It’s estimated that 25 per cent of people with HIV are unaware they carry the virus,” said Dr. Paul Martiquet, VCH’s coastal medical health officer.
“Although the risk is extremely low for the majority of patients, it’s still important that they’re provided an opportunity to learn their condition and, if positive, begin treatment as soon as possible.”
Early diagnosis and initiation of treatment is an important goal of the Provincial Hope to Health Program, which guides health authorities on incorporating “treatment as prevention” into current HIV prevention strategies.
VCH began offering HIV tests routinely in Vancouver hospitals in October 2011, and has since expanded testing to Richmond, North Shore, Powell River and the Sunshine Coast.
“Since routine testing began in Vancouver, more than 60 patients have been diagnosed with HIV, which might otherwise have gone undetected,” Dr. Martiquet adds.
“Early diagnosis not only improves patient outcomes, but it also reduces the risk of transmission to others.”
Test results are stored in a confidential computer information system and only health care staff directly involved in the care of a patient may access the patient’s information. As with all medical tests, the patient has the right to refuse and/or ask further questions.