New provincial HIV testing guidelines suggest testing adults every five years

Dec 19 2017, 10:35 am

Newly released HIV testing guidelines for health-care providers in B.C. are encouraging adults to get tested every five years.

The guidelines – the first of their kind in Canada – recommend that HIV testing be part of the regular tests offered to adults in order to help British Columbians infected with HIV be diagnosed earlier, while getting them the life-saving treatment they need.

“British Columbia’s reputation as a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS is growing because of the development of innovative programs and guidelines like these,” says Health Minister Terry Lake.

“[Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall’s] guidelines will help remove the stigma some associate with HIV as B.C. continues to set a standard for care and treatment of this disease.”

Who should be tested?

Currently, only pregnant women are routinely offered HIV testing. Under the new guidelines, the province recommends that doctors offer an HIV test:

  • Routinely, every five years, for all patients aged 18 to 70.
  • Routinely, every year, for all patients aged 18 to 70 who belong to populations with a higher burden of HIV infections.
  • Once at age 70 or older if the patient’s HIV status is not known.

On top of that, anyone with; a new or worsening medical condition that warrants laboratory investigation; symptoms of HIV infection or advanced HIV disease; or a higher risk of contracting HIV can request an HIV test.

“The new guidelines are similar to recommendations made by expert bodies in the USA, U.K. and France,” says Dr. Kendall. “They are evidence-based and were written by an expert panel of B.C. doctors from a number of clinical specialties.”

Despite advances in HIV/AIDS research, many individuals with HIV are diagnosed too late, making treatment more difficult and allowing the disease to have more opportunity to spread.

“This is an important step in our collective effort to reduce HIV in British Columbia and around the world,” said director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Dr. Julio Montaner. “By making HIV testing more accessible, we will be better able to find and offer treatment to those in need. The Treatment as Prevention approach works best when we diagnose and treat HIV infection as early as possible.”

“The four-year STOP HIV/AIDS program has provided an excellent opportunity to pilot and evaluate expanded HIV testing in our health care system,” adds medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health Dr. Réka Gustafson.

“These new HIV testing guidelines have been developed in close collaboration with family physicians, the BC Centre for Disease Control and with laboratory and public health specialists. They provide an excellent guide for health care providers to identify HIV infected patients and get them the help they need.”

Featured Image: Syringe on Hiv – aids background via Shutterstock