Campaign in Vancouver Promises End To HIV

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Beginning of The End Of HIV

A new advocacy campaign was unveiled last Wednesday, July 18, to stop HIV in Vancouver, Canada thanks to Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care. The campaign, CHANGE HIVSTORY, makes Vancouver the epicenter of a movement that seeks the beginning of the end of HIV.

CHANGE HIVSTORY built its momentum on It’s Different Now, an HIV awareness campaign that helped increase HIV testing rates in Vancouver by 37 percent. CHANGE HIVSTORY aims to inspire and empower people via a social media campaign featuring a moving and dramatic video. The campaign enables individuals to power the movement by encouraging every person who’s ever been sexually active to have an HIV test.

Changing The Course of History

“CHANGE HIVSTORY is about creating a movement here in Vancouver to change the course of history by changing the course of HIV,” says Dr. Reka Gustafson, medical health officer and medical director of communicable disease control for Vancouver Coastal Health. “And with people in Vancouver requesting HIV tests and doctors recommending them as part of everyone’s routine health care, we are getting closer to making the end of HIV a reality.”

Dr. Julio Montaner, world-renowned HIV expert and Director of British Columbia’s Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) at St. Paul’s Hospital, says that stopping HIV in its tracks is possible now that Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy (HAART) treatment is available for free to all British Columbia residents.

“The work we have undertaken at BC-CfE for the past 20 years has helped dramatically improve HIV treatment and proven,” says Montaner pointing how effective HAART is in preventing HIV transmission between people. “If we can stop the transmission, we can stop the disease. The world agrees, this is the way forward – changing history is this simple.”

“We already made history in June when St. Paul’s Hospital was the first emergency department in Canada to offer routine HIV testing to every patient,” says Scott Harrison, program director, urban health, HIV/AIDS, at Providence Health Care. “Now, we want to change history on a local and global level, and finally put an end to HIV.”

More Than An Ounce of Prevention

According to Harrison, 40 percent of people infected with HIV in Vancouver are diagnosed late with advanced HIV disease, says Harrison. He believes that by diagnosing people earlier, they can link them to treatment sooner, to ensure optimal health outcomes for those infected greatly reducing the likelihood of transmission to those not infected.

An HIV positive person on their prescribed medication is 96 percent less likely to transmit the disease. It is estimated there are 3,500 people in British Columbia who are infected with HIV but don’t know it.

The campaign also features print advertising and TV and radio commercials, developed by FCV, a Vancouver-based interactive, digital advertising agency.

Providence Health Care

Vancouver Coastal Health delivers medical care, research and teaching to more than one million British Columbia residents living in Vancouver, Vancouver’s North Shore, Richmond, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Sunshine Coast, Bella Bella, Bella Coola the Central Coast and the surrounding areas.

Providence Health Care is one of Canada’s largest faith-based health care organizations, operating 16 health care facilities in Greater Vancouver. It operates one of two adult academic health science centers in the province, performs research in more than 30 clinical specialties, and focuses its services on cardio-pulmonary risks and illnesses, HIV/AIDS, mental health, renal risks and illness, specialized needs in aging and urban health and is home to the BC-CfE.