Abbotsford bylaw may boost HIV rate
Brian Gross of the Fraser Valley Positive Living Society, says Abbotsford's antiharm reduction bylaw may be having the unintended consequence of increasing rates of HIV infection in the region.
"Abbotsford's harm reduction bylaw not only keeps proven life-saving material such as clean needles from those who need them, but (also) sends the messages to drug users that their lives aren't important," said Gross.
New Fraser Health figures show that HIV infection rates in the health authority's east region are up in both straight and gay populations. Straight transmission rates are up 13 per cent in 1996 to 42 per cent in 2007. Rates for gay men have nearly tripled to 32 per cent in 2007.
The city's needle distribution ban increases the risk of HIV spreading HIV, and it means there are fewer opportunities for outreach workers to build connections with those who are infected. Research has shown that treating those with HIV significantly reduces new infections, said Gross.
BC recently began a $4million pilot program to improve HIV prevention services. The city has been reviewing its harm reduction bylaw for more than a year.