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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 13 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 24
BC hospital shuts down AIDS ward for lack of patients
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BC hospital shuts down AIDS ward for lack of patients

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, announced May 27 that it will shut down its dedicated AIDS ward because there are no longer enough patients to keep it open.

Ward 10C opened in February 1997 during the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Vancouver, when one person was dying of AIDS every day.

'It was not that long ago that HIV/AIDS was a death sentence and those who came to this ward at St. Paul's were here to die,' said Dr. Julio Montaner, Director for the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS based at St. Paul's.

'Today, ward 10C will provide treatment, support and care for those living with HIV-related issues. We have worked hard to make this day happen and I commend everyone who has supported our efforts.'

The focus of the ward will also include treatment of diseases related to addiction - bacterial and viral infections like chronic hepatitis, for example.

U.N. Under-Secretary and Executive Director for UNAIDS Michel Sidibé, who attended the St. Paul's press conference, also announced that Montaner has agreed to serve as his senior advisor on HIV.

'This is a proud day for British Columbians as we mark another milestone in our leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS,' said BC Premier Christy Clark.

'Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the community, those at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and health professionals across the province, a ward that once served those dying from AIDS, now supports those living with HIV.'

BC is considered a world leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with innovative programs that have significantly reduced both the incidence and mortality rate of HIV/AIDS. Montaner has been an advocate of the 'treatment-as-prevention' strategy - using antiretrovirals to reduce viral load in HIV-positive patients and therefore reduce their chances of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners.

The Vancouver Sun newspaper reports a 90% drop in AIDS cases in BC since 1995 and an 80% decrease in HIV-related mortality between 1996 and 2012.

According to the Vancouver Globe and Mail, only 40 HIV-positive people were identified as living in BC in 2013 without any medical care for the virus. BC had an estimated 11,972 people living with HIV in 2012, with more than half getting active treatment.

Montaner warned that inaction by Canada's federal government has hindered progress toward wiping out HIV nationwide.

'Canada is still missing in action when it comes to a comprehensive AIDS strategy. We have regions like Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where AIDS is still out of control,' Montaner said.

'If every province was doing what BC has done, we would have a country that would be celebrating together the same thing.'

'Virtually, AIDS disappeared, but it didn't really disappear until the very end, when treatment-as-prevention became the reality,' he added. 'We did it and everybody else can do it.'

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