News / Vancouver

HIV testing to help measure epidemic

The full magnitude of Vancouver's HIV epidemic will be easier to gauge now that hospitals are offering testing.

Simon Fraser University health sciences adjunt professor Krisztina Vasarhelyi says the extended testing will not only help treat more patients, but will help her team calculate HIV infection rates more accurately.

“It's a positive move and has the potential to uncover many of the undiagn­osed cases,” said Vasarhelyi, who is working with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS to come up with math models to track the spread of the virus.

Local health care prov­iders estimate that 27 per cent of HIV patients are unknowingly carrying the virus and are at risk to spread it.

Vasarhelyi says the estimate, based on data from national public health agencies, has the potential to be much more accurate now that wide-spread testing is available. “Many years can pass before symptoms show,” she explained. “It's important to understand the scope of the epidemic and measure it for effective intervention.”

IMPACT-HIV, the collaborative group of SFU mathematicians and the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, will immediately begin compiling data from the expanded testing to see how much of an impact it has on prevention efforts.

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