British Columbia is a leader within Canada when it comes to HIV testing and awareness. Over the summer, two Vancouver-based community pharmacies and two Vancouver Island-based pharmacies began offering free HIV rapid testing – a first in Canada.
Health Minister Terry Lake said that B.C. needs to maintain its momentum. “B.C. is recognized as a global leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS and I believe that through bold action and smart investment we can remain leaders,” he said, in a statement.
There are roughly 12,000 British Columbians living with HIV. According to Provincial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Perry Kendall, there are approximately 3,500 British Columbians who have HIV and have not been diagnosed. This free test aims to lessen the stigma surrounding HIV and normalize testing. The test takes only five minutes.
Four Medicine Shoppe locations are currently offering this free rapid HIV test. The Vancouver pharmacies – located at 2030 Kingsway Avenue and 6180 Fraser Street – are next to a Pacific Medical Walk-in Clinic where patients can access resources should they be required.
The Vancouver Island locations are in Nanaimo and Victoria. The Nanaimo pharmacy is located at 22-1150 Terminal Park Avenue, and the Victoria location is at 104-1964 Fort Street in Victoria. Both of these locations are near local hospitals that can provide necessary resources.
Pharmacists in these four locations have been trained by HIV nurses from Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care to administer the test.
The pilot test is funded by Seek and Treat for the Optimal Prevention (STOP) HIV/AIDS, which is a province-wide program that enables health care professionals and community organizations to partner to engage British Columbians to get testing and treatment.