B.C.'s Treatment as Prevention Strategy Expands with Pilot Project for Non-Occupational High-Risk Exposure to HIV

Vancouver, BC — The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) today announced the launch of an 18-month pilot program to prevent infection in people who have had high-risk exposures to HIV through sex or sharing needles.

The new pilot program, called Non-occupational Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (NPEP), provides British Columbians who have had such high-risk exposures with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Studies show that when HAART is offered within 72 hours following HIV exposure, the risk of acquiring HIV decreases by approximately 80 per cent.

NPEP is a pilot program that supports the BC-CfE's Treatment as Prevention strategy that has been successfully underway in B.C. for several years. The intent of the NPEP pilot is to further curb HIV & AIDS-related morbidity and mortality and prevent new HIV infections through the provision of short-term HAART treatment following a non-occupational high risk exposure. Treatment as Prevention has helped B.C. become a global leader in HIV treatment, care and prevention. As reported earlier this year, B.C. is the only region in Canada seeing a consistent decline in new HIV cases, from approximately 900 new HIV diagnoses per year in the mid 1990's to 289 in 2011.

Dr. Val Montessori, co-chair of the BC-CfE's Therapeutic Guidelines Committee, is leading the NPEP pilot. For more than 15 years, the BC-CfE has offered a Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) program. PEP consists of offering short-term HAART to individuals at high risk of HIV after occupational exposure or sexual assault. “The NPEP program will leverage the success and experience of the PEP program, and it dovetails perfectly with the overall HIV Treatment as Prevention model pioneered by British Columbia,” she said. “It is important to note, it is the intent of the NPEP pilot to provide medication only in cases where there is a high risk of HIV infection.”

Over the next 18 months, the BC-CfE will be working with the pilot sites to collect data, monitor and evaluate the NPEP program. At the end of the pilot, recommendations based on the scientific evaluation of the data will be submitted to the B.C. Ministry of Health's Pharmacare program, which is funding the NPEP pilot medications.

“It is important to test the proposition that NPEP can be an effective tool in reducing new HIV transmission rates in certain high-risk situations,” said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer. For more information on the NPEP program, visit www.cfenet.ubc.ca/npep.

About the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility and is internationally recognized as an innovative world leader in combating HIV/AIDS and related diseases. BC-CfE is based at St. Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. The BC-CfE works in close collaboration with key provincial stakeholders, including health authorities, health care providers, academics from other institutions, and the community to decrease the health burden of HIV and AIDS and to improve the health of British Columbians living with HIV through developing, monitoring and disseminating comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related illnesses.

For additional information, please contact:

Mahafrine Petigara
Edelman (for BC-CfE)
604-623-3007 ext. 297