In my recent article about Dr. Julio Montaner here I remarked that the doctor, head of the British Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the world’s leading proponent of treatment as prevention (TasP)) was much loved and highly regarded by his patients.
There is more proof in the form of a recent article in POZ magazine which reported that a group of his patients who are benefiting from his TasP strategy wish to advocate for it’s expansion to all of Canada.
Said one patient to PositiveLite.com “we're trying to find a way to bring attention to Canada's lack of political will; our federal government is so out of tune on this one. They are relying on their belief that we are bound by stigma and will not speak out for ourselves.”
He went on “Yes, we love the passion of our Doctor. We've heard from the experts, and politicians, time to hear from people living with HIV, across the country. As a patient in B.C., I'm grateful for a doctor with such passion, I want to hear from people with HIV across the country, how are they accessing services and is it working for them?”
The government of British Columbia provides free HIV medications to all who request them. Their TasP strategies also includes “seek and treat” - ramped up testing programs that are more wide-ranging than in other Canadian provinces, and a policy of offering treatment immediately on diagnosis. The theory, of course, is that a fully supressed viral load offers health benefits to the patient while lowering the probably of transmission to what is looking like extremely low levels. Some experts have estimated the risk of transmission as zero in these circumstances. In any event, other Canadian provinces have balked at implementing such policies and Montaner himself has been vociferous in his criticism of them and the Canadian government.
Montaner’s patient went on to tell us “Without a cure or vaccine, TasP seems a guaranteed way to bring the numbers down - why so many others can't see that is a mystery to me. . . there is a lack of education about TasP across the country; everyone is busy doing what works for them. We need a ground-up movement and conversation among positive people. Let the patients speak!”
The patients have succeed in gaining international coverage of their cause and have persuaded a well-known politician to host a petition. Says POZ magazine “A petition in Canada seeks a National AIDS Strategy, according to a statement from Elizabeth May, member of the Canadian parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and leader of the Green Party of Canada. She is hosting the petition on her website. The petition calls on the House of Commons to implement a National AIDS Strategy based on the principle of treatment as prevention (TasP), which shows that effective HIV treatment also prevents transmission of the virus. “
To read the statement and sign the petition, click here.