On-demand HIV testing is now available throughout the Interior Health region. —Image: contributed

On-demand HIV tests now available throughout Interior Health region

Those wanting to be tested can now make their own requests to IH labs

Getting tested for HIV just got easier for residents across the Interior Health region, now that on-demand testing is available at all IH laboratories.

As of today, patients can visit any IH lab and get an tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) without having to first visit their physician or nurse practitioner.

IH says patients can fill out a lab requisition on their own and take it to the lab, ask for the test or ask to have the test added to any existing blood work that is being ordered.

“Today, thanks to early diagnosis and advancements in treatment and care, HIV is a chronic, manageable condition,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The first step is learning whether you have HIV, and that’s why I applaud Interior Health for making HIV testing more accessible for British Columbians.”

On-demand HIV testing began in the IH area in 2016 with an innovative partnership with Valley Medical Laboratories in the Okanagan. Based on the success of that program, the health authority has now expanded the service across the region.

“Interior Health is committed to providing accessible and patient-centered care for people in ways that respect their dignity and privacy,” said Doug Cochrane, IH board chairman.

“By eliminating barriers to testing, and enabling people to be tested on their own terms, we are making it easier for individuals who test positive for HIV to access the care they need.”

Health officials say early diagnosis is vital for treatment of HIV, but one in four people living with HIV don’t know it.

“When people have easy access to HIV testing, they are far more willing to get tested,” said Maja Karlsson, Interior Health’s manager of harm reduction and health outreach. “I encourage everyone to get tested for HIV as part of their health routine.”

Patients who request a test at an IH lab will be provided with information about the test and the follow-up process for both negative and positive results. Results are available two weeks after the test occurs. There is no additional follow up for patients who test negative. Patients who test positive will be contacted by a nurse who will provide support, education, follow-up care, and referral to a physician when needed.

Non-nominal testing for HIV, where the full name of the individual is not reported to public health, is not done through the on-demand program. If a patient wishes to test without their name, it can be done through a family physician or nurse practitioner.

IH’s on-demand HIV testing is a partnership between the health authority’s laboratory services and the STOP HIV program, which aims to reduce transmission and improve the health outcomes of those living with HIV.

“Facilitated access to HIV testing is a key component of the made-in-BC Treatment as Prevention strategy,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

To find the IH lab nearest you, please visit interiorhealth.ca/findlab

In addition to expanding access to HIV testing, access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are considered critical to curbing the fight against HIV/AIDS. PrEP and PEP are part of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS treatment as prevention strategies and has helped lead to a consistent decline in new HIV cases.

Since B.C. introduced no-cost coverage of PrEP, and expanded access to PEP for those at high risk of HIV infection earlier this year, more than 3,000 people cross the province have been prescribed the highly effective HIV prevention drug.

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