Windsor Regional Hospital's HIV Care Program marking 30 years

HIV (Flickr)

Windsor Regional Hospital's HIV Care Program is marking 30 years in operation.

What was once a death sentence following an HIV diagnosis, is today a manageable and survivable illness.

Program Medical Director Dr. Jeff Cohen says we've come a long way since the program started in 1991 when it comes to medications needed for treatment.

Cohen says the current treatment involves only one pill, once a day. In the mid 90s, it was 10 to 20 pills a day that you'd have to take and they came with terrible side effects including diabetes.

"I can't think of very many other diseases where we have such effective and simple treatments with so little toxicity that guarantees you're not going to make someone else sick, and also keeps you from getting sick."

When it comes to treatments, Cohen says if you gave him a choice of HIV, diabetes, or heart attack or stroke, he'd take HIV.

"It's one pill, once a day. I don't have to change my lifestyle unless I want to. A lot of these other illnesses require much more complex medical regiments, and testing, and disease progression where you eventually end up with complications with those diagnoses."

He says the treatments in 1996 involved a triple cocktail of medications, which saved so many lives, but they came at a cost.

The HIV Care Program, located at 1275 Walker Rd. Unit 10, currently has 520 active patients.

From August 2020 to August 2021, there were 2,700 patient visits, but that  does not include telephone visits which were high due to COVID-19.

From September 2020 to August 2021, there were 132 anonymous HIV tests performed at the centre.