In an exceptional case, a Vancouver native has been charged for refusing HIV treatment under the Public Health Act. Authorities believe that by repeatedly failing to follow a treatment plan advised by a medical officer, the man was a danger to both himself and the public.
Over a nine month period, he had continually refused all treatments recommended. Authorities said the fact he was infectious but continued to engage in high risk behaviour with no regard for other people was a concern.
Dr Réka Gustafson, medical officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, said “I cannot impress upon you to what extent this is an unusual step for us to take. This is not the norm.” Dr Gustafson stressed that this was the first time a person had been charged under the Public Health Act in over ten years and was only carried out as a last resort.
Dr Gustafson continued “Right now there is not risk to anyone, there is no ongoing risk, that is very important. The primary consideration is the safety of the individual and the magnitude of the potential risk, and we haven’t been able to address it in any other way. Many people were involved in this decision and we tried everything else. Our goal is to prevent.” Vancouver has been successful in reducing the number of HIV infections by half since the early 2000s.
This is truly an exceptional case, it is a fact that the likelihood of any HIV positive person on effective treatment with an undetectable viral load transmitting the virus to a sexual partner is scientifically equivalent to zero.
Last month, ACT UP Dublin and Gay Switchboard Ireland, held an event at Dublin’s Outhouse LGBT+ Community Centre titled Preparing for PrEP. At the event, speakers described how new HIV diagnoses in Ireland remain at their highest ever rates. A recent report from the Global AIDS Update 2018 stated “global AIDS response is at a precarious point—partial success in saving lives and stopping new HIV infections is giving way to complacency” and that “the pace of progress is not matching the global ambition.”
For more information on HIV you can visit the websites of ACT UP Dublin and HIV Ireland.
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