News / Vancouver

Vancouver's Dr. Peter Centre reports suppressed HIV virus loads

Eighty per cent of the clients at the health facility have achieved a suppressed HIV viral load.

The Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver.

Contributed Dr. Peter Centre

The Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver.

New data suggests HIV patients who are treated at Vancouver’s Dr. Peter Centre have been able to better suppress the virus than their provincial and health authority counterparts.

As of June 30, 2015, 80 per cent of the 359 clients who access the centre’s day program reported a suppressed HIV viral load – a very low level of the virus in the blood, which ultimately improves health, eliminates the chance of succumbing to AIDS and lessens the risk of transmitting HIV by 96 per cent. Across B.C., however, only 57 per cent of people with HIV were virally suppressed, and within the Vancouver Coastal heath authority, only 69 per cent.

“It’s a really good news story,” Maxine Davis, the centre’s executive director, told Metro.

Davis credits the success to the organization’s wholesome approach, which includes food and nutrition, compassionate nursing care, counselling and various therapies, like its art and recreation programs. Equally important, she added, are the showers and laundry facilities on site.

“It’s a safe, comfortable and therapeutic environment to spend quality time with peers and professional staff,” Davis said. “It’s a milieu that is actually conducive to people feeling cared about.”

The achievement is even more remarkable, she noted, because the Dr. Peter Centre primarily deals with the city’s most vulnerable population, including many who suffer from mental illness and experience extreme poverty.

“One needs to take antiretroviral therapy daily in order to achieve suppression. That’s hard for a person who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from or where to sleep tonight,” said Davis, adding there’s currently a waitlist of 90 individuals. “Having this support, in good times and bad, makes it possible to stick with daily HIV medication.”

The positive announcement coincides with World AIDS Day (Dec. 1). For Davis and her staff, it’s a time to remember those who have passed and celebrate what she calls “a promising time in history.”

“Now, it’s a reasonable goal for UNAIDS to state that they want to end AIDS itself by 2030,” she said.

The Dr. Peter Centre was officially opened in 2003 and was named after Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, a young Vancouver physician who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1985. As his condition worsened, he began to inform and educate the public about his experience via The Dr. Peter Diaries, a two-year, 111-episode broadcast on CBC TV.

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