The HIV/AIDS ward at St. Paul’s Hospital is closing due to a decline in the once-deadly disease, the B.C. government announced Tuesday.
“This is a proud day for British Columbians as we mark another milestone in our leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Premier Christy Clark.
“Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the community, those at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and health professionals across the province, a ward that once served those dying from AIDS, now supports those living with HIV.”
Ward 10C first opened in 1997 when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its peak. During that time, nearly one person was dying from AIDS in Vancouver every day, the province said in a release.
Since then, earlier diagnosis of the disease, as well as advances in treatment care has resulted in a significant decrease in AIDS and extended the life expectancy of those living with HIV dramatically.
“British Columbia’s dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS has meant that we have reduced AIDS cases in Vancouver by over 80 per cent since 1996,” said health minister Terry Lake. “With continued focus on providing care, treatment and support for those living with HIV and related diseases, more British Columbians will live longer, healthier lives.”
Patients living with HIV will continue to receive treatment and care at the hospital, but the focus of the ward will include treatment related to addictions such as various bacterial and viral infections like chronic hepatitis.
Officials said many of the advances in treatment and research are due to the work of Dr. Julio Montaner and the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Montaner’s pioneering “treatment as prevention strategy” has been adopted around the world.
“It was not that long ago that HIV/AIDS was a death sentence and those who came to this ward at St. Paul’s were here to die,” said Montaner. “Today, ward 10C will provide treatment, support and care for those living with HIV-related issues. We have worked hard to make this day happen and I commend everyone who has supported our efforts.”