VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A prominent AIDS expert from BC has called on the Canadian government to sign a commitment to help end the epidemic of the disease.  Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper, all premiers and opposition leaders to sign the Washington, DC, Declaration.

The document is the official declaration of the upcoming International AIDS Conference being held in Washington next week.  Organizers are looking to end the epidemic through a nine-point plan, including access to antiretroviral treatment and ending discrimination and stigmas related to AIDS.

In an open letter to Canada’s political leaders, Montaner writes the knowledge and tools to defeat the epidemic exist and he says the ability to defeat the virus lies deeply within the government.  The conference will bring together 25,000 delegates, including AIDS experts and global leaders.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection, a milestone in the 30-year battle against the virus that causes AIDS.  The agency approved Gilead Sciences’ pill Truvada as a preventive measure for people who are at high risk of getting the virus, such as those who have sex with HIV-infected partners.

The company has marketed the pill since 2004 as a treatment for people who are infected with HIV.  A three-year study found that daily doses cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42 per cent, when accompanied by condoms and counselling.