A couple of experts, Kasper and Mike Routledge, provincial public health officer, dropped by the Winnipeg Free Press News Café today to discuss the situation in the province as well as the advancements being made towards an HIV/AIDS vaccine.
Watch a replay of the event here.
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The Manitoba government needs to put together a comprehensive HIV treatment program to curb the growing epidemic in this province, according to doctors on the front lines.
Speaking at the Health Sciences Centre today, Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, along with Ken Kasper, director of the Manitoba HIV program, stressed the importance of finding a suitable initiative to deal with the virus.
More money is needed from government – both provincial and federal – to solve the issues facing patients and caregivers, they say.
Currently, HIV coverage in Manitoba is not uniform. People living with the virus currently in the workforce must pay a deductible before their medication is covered. Often, Montaner and Kasper say, these types of financial hurdles push patients away from getting the proper care they need and result in a higher financial burden down the road.
"Really, it’s a false saving," Monanter said Tuesday. "What happens is that for a person that has marginal income, it becomes a reason not to take treatment and (when) that person delays (the introduction) of treatment, he or she will have a lesser chance of responding to the treatment, a greater chance of being admitted to the hospital, a greater chance of becoming non-productive, a better chance of leaving an orphan behind and a huge chance of transmitting HIV to others.
"Put all of that together and do the math, it’s actually a no-brainer."
There are currently 1,100 cases of HIV in Manitoba, with only 700 of those receiving regular medical and pharmaceutical treatment. Of those 700 cases, the total cost rings in at approximately $15-million per year (the average cost of the medications is $20,000-30,000 per year), Kasper said.
According to Kasper, Manitoba has 30-60 people infected with HIV stop treatment due to financial limitations annually.
Besides the financial barriers facing infected people, the two doctors say the lack of rapid HIV testing options and the geographical limitations for care-givers in Manitoba (treatment is typically Winnipeg-based) are the other obstacles facing a meaningful HIV/AIDS treatment program in the province.