Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Downtown Eastside policing may threaten HIV treatment

Too many HIV/Aids patients in Vancouver’s poorest neighborhood are still not receiving the anti-retroviral drugs that could extend their lives and reduce the dangers of further spread of the virus, says local research scientist Thomas Kerr.

Ill-advised police activity in the Downtown Eastside often makes the situation worse, Kerr says.

Two years ago The Tyee reported that only a small fraction of the HIV positive residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside were then receiving life-extending anti-retroviral drugs. In 2006, we learned, an estimated 1400 to 1900 people in the neighborhood were HIV positive, but only 316 were being treated with anti-retrovirals.

In the fall of 2008, says Dr. Kerr, a research scientist at the BC Centre of Excellence and professor at UBC’s School of Medicine, the numbers of Downtown Eastside residents receiving needed treatment for Aids is still “incredibly low.”

Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/Aids, confirmed that the number of HIV positive patients being treated in the DTES hasn’t changed significantly since 2006. His staff, Montaner told The Tyee, advise him that the current number being treated in the neighborhood is somewhere between 300 and 350.

“Our penetration in the DTES is not optimal,” said Montaner. “We have been adamant about the need for a more comprehensive plan.”

“The situation hasn’t really changed,” Kerr said. “We’re not doing enough. It’s a case of one step forward, two steps back.”

Kerr says that despite the important progress reflected in the existence of projects in the Downtown Eastside like the safe injection facility at Insite, authorities keep repeating what he called “well documented mistakes” in addressing the neighborhood’s many social and medical problems. Kerr said police crackdowns in the neighborhood, which often put HIV positive street people in jail and disrupt their treatment, “…make no sense from a public health perspective.”

“Research shows,” he said, “that if someone is incarcerated the chance of his discontinuing anti-retroviral medications go up five fold. The city’s cycle of arrest and incarceration linked to projects like Civil City has a negative impact on these patients.”

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus