Investigating clinical outcomes from highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) among HIV-seropositive Aboriginal people in British Columbia

The development of effective HIV/AIDS treatment has resulted in dramatic improvements in the health of people infected with the virus. Taken regularly, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) interrupts the viral life cycle, suppresses the level of HIV in a patient's bloodstream, and promotes health improvements. The recent finding that individuals undergoing effective treatment are far less likely to transmit the virus to others has spurred the development of a new strategy aimed at preventing new HIV infections. Dubbed "Seek, Test and Treat", the goal of this initiative is to increase the number of people on HIV treatment in Prince George and in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Dr. M-J Milloy is specifically focusing on the expansion of HIV treatment among people of Aboriginal ancestry who use illicit drugs. In Canada, young Aboriginal people are a growing sector of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and Aboriginal people are highly over-represented among HIV-positive drug users. Dr. Milloy’s research will look at treatment for HIV and health outcomes for Aboriginal drug users and, in light of increasing calls by Aboriginal leaders for research that focuses on health and wellness among Aboriginal people, will try to identify the characteristics of successful treatment.

Dr. Milloy's research will address a number of outstanding concerns:

Much of the data for this study will come from the AIDS Care Cohort to Evaluate access to Survival Services, an ongoing study of approximately 750 HIV-positive drug users in Vancouver. The research will be supervised by Dr. Evan Adams, Physician Advisor to the First Nations Health Council, who will ensure that the research is respectful and responsible to Aboriginal participants and communities.

The information gained could be used to improve existing systems to provide HAART as well as inform new Aboriginal-led efforts to improve health and wellness. By improving HAART delivery and expanding the number of people receiving effective care for HIV infection, it is hoped that the number of new infections will also drop.