–media release from AVI Vancouver Island
AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) has been providing service to residents of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands for over thirty years with offices in Victoria, Nanaimo, Courtenay, and Campbell River.
AVI is very pleased to announce that in early fall we will be opening a new health clinic in the West Shore community. Initially we will be open two days a week to provide physician supervised opiate substitution therapy.
More than 250 people on Vancouver Island have died of drug overdoses since the beginning of 2016 and many, many more have overdosed and survived, some with long term impacts to their health. At the same time there are limited addiction services, very few doctors taking new patients, and people seeking OST treatment from Port Renfrew, Sooke or other areas in the West Shore have to travel to downtown Victoria for care. These areas are growing rapidly and healthcare services are struggling to keep up.
We are experiencing an overdose crisis and with 640 deaths in the first five months of this year, 2017 is set to eclipse the record 967 overdose deaths in B.C. last year.
AVI provides care in the areas of substance use and sexual health that includes testing and treatment, support and counselling, education and training, community outreach, harm reduction supplies, volunteer training and much more. Beginning with the early days of the AIDS crisis, through to the current overdose emergency we have been at the forefront with person-centered, harm reduction based care.
Our mission is to serve the needs of people infected and affected by HIV and hepatitis and take evidence-based action to prevent infection, provide support, and reduce stigma.
The principals of harm reduction are probably familiar: every time you put on your seat belt, use a cross walk, or wear your bike helmet you are practicing “harm reduction.” Harm reduction is about finding ways to reduce the risks and harms associated with activities that inherently have some danger in them.
When it comes to substance use, harm reduction is about providing tools and education to people so they can make informed choices and protect their own lives and health and the health of the community they live in.
Our vision is to gradually grow our services to include HIV and Hepatitis support, education, and treatment in addition to other health focused programming.
Opiate substitution therapy (OST), also known as opiate agonist treatment, can help people who are dependent on opioids and evidence shows that treatment is effective at reducing harm, and cost to the health care and judicial systems. Our clinic will be regulated by the BC Centre on Substance Use and the College of Physicians and Surgeons and will offer treatment, support, and referrals to assist people to meet their wellness goals.
We will also offer harm reduction services and information on disease prevention, safer drug use, and overdose prevention to our patients.
Providing excellent care, ensuring community engagement, and building partnerships are among our highest priorities and we look forward to our future in the Westshore. In the weeks leading up to our opening we welcome opportunities to connect with community groups, healthcare and service providers, and community leaders.
- Dr. Randal Mason, Medical Director, Westshore AVI Health Centre
- Katrina Jensen, Executive Director, AIDS Vancouver Island
- Hermione Jefferis, Manager of Health Promotion and Community Development, AIDS Vancouver Island
AVI respectfully acknowledges the territory of the Kwak-waka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish Peoples on whose land we live and work.