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B.C. Government Recognizes Dr. Julio Montaner for Leadership in the Field of HIV and AIDS

BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

Published on Nov 27, 2014

Vancouver, BC [November 26, 2014] In an event today in advance of World AIDS Day, on behalf of the Government of B.C., Minister of Health Terry Lake recognized the ongoing and lifelong leadership of Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), towards eliminating HIV and AIDS. As a result of the province-wide implementation of the Treatment as Prevention (TasP) strategy - pioneered by Dr. Montaner - B.C. is the only province in Canada consistently seeing a decline in new HIV infections while HIV infections continue to increase nationally. Largely due to universal access to HIV antiretroviral medications as part of a strategy spearheaded by Dr. Montaner, B.C. has seen HIV-related morbidity and mortality decline by over 95% since 1995, and a decrease of greater than 66% of new HIV infections. Sadly, across Canada, HIV infections continue to increase. An estimated 77,000 people are currently living with HIV, which represents an increase of 5,700 people (8%) since 2011. Of this number, an estimated 18,500 people living with HIV in Canada remain undiagnosed - and unaware of their HIV status.

"Nobody in B.C. or in Canada, and possibly the world has made a bigger contribution to the field of HIV/AIDS research and treatment than Dr. Julio Montaner," said Minister Lake. "Beginning with his early work at St. Paul's Hospital in the early 1980s, when HIV was an as-yet unknown enemy, he was an advocate for his patients, seeking innovative ways to treat their then-mysterious infections."

A few milestones in Dr. Montaner's career-long fight against HIV include:

In 1996, Dr. Montaner was the key driver in the discovery of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), a game changer which helps to reduce viral load in HIV patients. HAART dramatically reduces the risk of spreading HIV, while improving the health and longevity of patients on treatment. In 2006, Dr. Montaner pioneered an innovative new concept called Treatment as Prevention (TasP) based on the notion that providing access to HAART at the earliest point following an HIV diagnosis could dramatically reduce the spread of HIV. In 2009, the B.C. Government announced the launching of a four-year pilot project of the TasP strategy, called STOP HIV/AIDS. Before the pilot had wrapped up and based on its early and remarkable success, the B.C. Government announced in 2013 a province-wide expansion of the STOP HIV/AIDS program. The announcement came with $19.9 million in funding for the province-wide rollout in an effort to provide prevention, testing, and treatment to hard-to-reach and highly impacted communities. The success of the B.C. TasP strategy gained national and international attention. In September 2014, the United Nations endorsed the made-in-BC TasP strategy pioneered by Dr. Montaner in its launch of 90-90-90, a global plan to combat the spread of HIV. "It is an honour to be recognized by the B.C. Government and the Honourable Minister, Terry Lake. I hope this brings attention to the progress we have achieved thus far, as we approach this year's World AIDS Day," said Dr. Montaner. "It is important to recognize the distance we still have to go in order to reach the end of HIV and AIDS. We must continue to build and strengthen accessible pathways to treatment, prevention, care and support for all. While other nations are striding forward based on the strategy pioneered by B.C., Canada is without a national strategy. Further, we need to reflect on the lessons learned in the fight against HIV/AIDS and expand the strategy to other contagious diseases as a means to promote targeted disease elimination and thus contribute to the sustainability of our health care."

The BC TasP strategy has been adopted by China, France, Brazil, Spain, Panama, Argentina, Swaziland, the Australian state of Queensland, and parts of the United States - to name a few.

The United Nations has adapted the principles of TasP to launch the 90-90-90 strategy, a plan for reducing the global AIDS pandemic by at least 90% of its 2010 rate by 2030. By 2020, UNAIDS' goals are that 90% of all people living with HIV will know their status, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.


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