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British Columbia Implements Controversial Plan to Stem HIV Epidemic Among Drug Addicts

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British Columbia Epicenter of HIV Epidemic

On the downtown East side of British Columbia, emaciated addicts can be seen exchanging drugs, openly prostituting, and shooting up crack and heroine.  Officials do not see the point the locking these addicts up, given that they are likely to return to their life of drug use upon release.  However, the problem became so alarming in the 1990s, that British Columbia witnessed an HIV epidemic that paralleled that seen in Sub Saharan Africa.  In response, health officials have taken some extreme steps to attempt to alleviate the problem.

Controversial Program Gives HIV Drugs to Drug Users

The U.S. and other countries are turning an eye to a controversial new program being used to combat the HIV epidemic in British Columbia.   There, nurses are stomping the pavement and coming to HIV-infected drug users where they are–whether that be on the streets or elsewhere.  These patients are given HIV drugs to take to combat the virus.  The idea stems from the theory that those infected with HIV and left untreated are likely to spread the disease to others (particularly through shared needles or sex work) since their bodies are filled with the virus.  However, once they are put on anti-viral drugs to combat HIV, they are much less likely to infect others.

It Doesn’t Stop There: Program Includes Site for Drug Users to Inject “Safely”

The “treatment as prevention” program, as it is commonly referred to in British Columbia, also includes an extremely controversial component that has split conservatives and liberals in the Canadian government.  The Insite Clinics were set up as “safe places” for addicts to go to inject their drug of choice–they purchase it on the street, and the clinics offer the medical equipment and personnel needed for them to use.  The theory is that by providing clean needles, addicts won’t share and the spread of HIV will be stemmed.  However, the clinics are currently funded using taxpayer funds, creating a gigantic rift between politicians on both sides of the aisle.  Some say that the clinics are merely a method of enabling the addicts to use, while others claim that it greatly reduces the HIV epidemic that was set to swallow up most of British Columbia’s intravenous drug user population.