Wednesday , May 12 2021

On World AIDS Day, NS sees a leap in HIV cases – and a call to action

On the 30th anniversary of the World AIDS Day, the fight against the virus that causes this disease is celebrated in Nova Scotia with a significant increase in the number of infections.

At the end of November, there were 25 new cases of HIV infection in the province. There were 15 in the whole 2017 year.

Concerns among public health officials are that undiagnosed infections spread to some of the vulnerable people in Halifax – people who use injecting drugs.

The other primary group is men who have sex with men.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people with HIV do not know they have it. Once considered a deadly disease, AIDS can be curable, but chronic, condition.

But it is also largely preventable.

The results of the test on the spot

On the World AIDS Day, the HIV testing clinic and hepatitis C were held at Mainline, a needle exchange for Halifax.

Dr Lisa Barrett, a specialist in infectious diseases, conducted the tests. Of the 20 customers who entered the Mainline, 15 agreed to be tested. Fingerprinting provides results in minutes.

Dr. Lisa Barrett is administering an HIV test on the fingers of the menstrual needle transmission on World AIDS Day. (Mainline / Twitter)

Even though testing meant canceling Saturday morning, Barrett said it was necessary.

"We just do not want to wait," she said. "We know that this epidemic can not wait."

She said that all tests were negative, but time was well spent, as the information was shared with clients for the drug for HIV prevention, PrEP, a previous exposure to phoenix.

Ten people have Pharmacare approval

Since July, PrEP, which cost $ 260 a month, is available to Nova Scotia with low incomes through pharmacare coverage.

But Matt Numer, an assistant professor of health promotion at Dalhousie University and chairman of the APP Action Committee, said the province should provide a preventative remedy for all Nova Scotia in need of universal coverage.

A spokesman for the health department said that since mid-October, 10 patients received Pharmacare approval for PrEP.

But Numer said that more people are in need of drugs, but they can not afford it. He estimates it is between 200-500 people.

Universal coverage in the western provinces

British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan provide universal coverage.

As many as 500 people in Nova Scotia may need treatment for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), but they can not afford it. (PS)

Numer said the cost of one patient's health care costs is estimated at $ 1.3 million. Providing the drug, he said, is fiscally and socially responsible at a time when cases are increasing and people are looking for a cure.

"This signals that something is happening and we really need to answer that," he said.

On Thursday, Health Minister Randy Delors confirmed the jump in cases of HIV infection, adding it was "still a condition for which we are concerned."

He said the department was discussing with groups about how Pharmacare coverage of PrEP was taking place, and looked at other options to support harm reduction and reduce the ability to transmit.

Numer said he had a lot of consultations and now he wants action. "Why do we spend our money consulting on the answers we already know," Numer said.

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