B.C. a leader in offering free tests, treatment to reduce HIV cases

B.C. leads the country in tackling HIV, but experts worry the lack of a nationwide strategy puts all Canadians at a higher risk of contracting the infection. If HIV were avian flu, Ottawa would mandate a national strategy to fight it, said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Instead, he said, “the federal government has continuously refused to get involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS. They feel that this is somebody else’s problem.” Experts credit that success to the province’s efforts to make early diagnosis and treatment a key part of its strategy to decrease transmission, illness and death...The B.C. approach to circumventing HIV and AIDS is “a tremendous success story,” and B.C. is unquestionably the national leader in fighting the infection, said Libby Davies, an NDP MP from Vancouver and the federal Opposition health critic. But Davies called the federal government both short-sighted and “incredibly irresponsible” in failing to create a national HIV policy based on Montaner’s progress. The all-party Standing Committee on Health’s recent study on health innovations failed to even mention HIV, said Davies, vice-chairwoman of the Conservative-dominated committee. That was despite Montaner testifying to the commitee about the need for federal leadership.