VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The number of HIV tests performed across British Columbia has doubled since 2011, but preliminary study results shows access to care is emerging as an issue for patients.
Rolando Barrios with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS says HIV testing episodes have increased for men and women since a 2011 recommendation that BC healthcare providers offer tests to anyone over 18. The largest increase in testing has been for people over 50, who are more likely to go to hospital, where there is routine testing.
“We have doubled the number of HIV tests across the province,” he says. “This routine testing has led to early engagement into care and treatment of people who are HIV positive and also the offer of therapy.”
While that’s good news, there is a concerning emerging trend that’s been identified in preliminary study results.
The STOP HIV/AIDS Program Evaluation (SHAPE) Study aims to find out more about what influences people’s decisions and attitudes toward accessing HIV health care and what helps people stay in care.
Early results show 79 per cent of the 454 participants always find it easy access HIV care. But 94 participants identified issues, particularly that they don’t know who to talk to about HIV care, and that services were too far away or not available.
Barrios says most people that have been part of the study so far come from outside Vancouver, which may explain why they’re reporting issues with appointment availability, waiting times and services being too far away.
“So that really tells you that geography might be an issue in terms of moving around and having to access care outside of their community,” says Barrios.
But he also believes stigmatization may be something hindering access.
“So for instance, individuals not knowing who to talk about HIV care, that may be some issues around stigma. So not being able to openly discuss their HIV status with others.”
Barrios says while only five per cent of people reported always finding it difficult to access care, it’s nevertheless important for the Centre to understand why it’s an emerging trend.