Researchers call for free HIV drugs after study shows decrease in infection

The Canadian Press
Associated Press

VANCOUVER - A newly published study concludes offering free HIV-AIDS treatment dramatically reduces new infections.

But B.C. is the only province that offers universal access to HIV treatment, prompting the researchers to call for a national strategy to change that.

Researchers with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV-AIDS examined rates of new HIV cases in B.C., Quebec and Ontario, and compared those data with the number of patients taking antiretroviral drugs.

Dr. Julio Montaner, one of the researchers, says for every 10 per cent increase in the number of HIV patients on treatment, the number of new infections dropped by more than eight per cent, with the lowest rates in B.C.

Montaner says that's because antiretroviral drugs dramatically decrease the risk of transmitting HIV through sex, needles and even between a pregnant mother and her fetus.

He says expanding universal treatment across Canada would prevent new cases of HIV and save money, but he says the federal government has shown no interest in creating such a strategy.