Battle to beat AIDS offers lessons in fighting opioid crisis
published on January 29, 2017 by Ashley Wadhwani - BC Local News in Peace Arch News
When asked what title she’d prefer for this story, Valerie Nicholson laughed and said, “Grandmother, first and foremost.”
It makes everything she explained later all that more powerful.
Nicholson, now a peer researcher with B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, was homeless and addicted on the streets of Vancouver a decade ago.
Opioid addiction is the current health crisis in B.C. and the rest of Canada, but Nicholson was one of the thousands of Vancouver’s forgotten that were part of another prominent health crisis: the HIV epidemic.
“Addiction can happen to any one of us — it happened to me,” she said. “We can have a tragedy in our life and we go to the easiest coping skill.”
At its worst, HIV/AIDS killed more than 250 people in B.C. in 1994. Illicit drug overdoses, meanwhile, killed a record 914 people in B.C. last year.
So it’s likely no surprise that experts in both medical fields are collaborating. In fact, that is the plan at the Hope to Health Research Clinic.
The new facility, which is set to open in February, will continue the centre for excellence’s world-renowned research on HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis, as well as substance use and addiction, on Powell Street in the heart of the Downtown Eastside.
Health Minister Terry Lake announced this week the expansion will include a new clinic called Connections, a low-barrier treatment facility set to open in the spring that will offer opioid substitution therapies like Suboxone and Naloxone, which is used to treat opiate overdose.
Dr. Julio Montaner, the man behind the lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy called HAART, will be leading Hope for Health, and Dr. Evan Wood, interim director of the BC Centre on Substance Use, will run Connections.View the full article