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A woman attaches a condom on the board during an AIDS awareness campaign to increase awareness of the sexually-transmitted fatal disease in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (Lee Jin-man/ Associated Press/Lee Jin-man/ Associated Press)
A woman attaches a condom on the board during an AIDS awareness campaign to increase awareness of the sexually-transmitted fatal disease in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (Lee Jin-man/ Associated Press/Lee Jin-man/ Associated Press)

ROD MICKLEBURGH

Let's work together to wipe out AIDS for good Add to ...

When The Globe and Mail made its foolish decision to hire me back when tweets were something outside your window that woke you up from a hangover on Sunday morning, I reported on health policy.

One of my early stories for The Globe had me following a doctor during his Saturday rounds, calling on AIDS patients. They would all die. They knew it, the doctor knew it, and I knew it. The visits were heartbreaking.

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In those days, before the miraculous breakthrough of powerful antiretroviral drugs, AIDS was as much a death sentence as being sentenced to die in Texas. No reprieve.

Cast forward to Thursday, World AIDS Day, and reflect how much has changed.

Today, when treatment is followed, AIDS is a chronic, manageable disease, and thanks to the Nobel-Prize-worthy work of Julio Montaner and the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, we now know that virtually wiping out transmission of the dreaded virus is within reach.

By reducing viral loads to barely detectable levels, aggressive treatment of HIV patients dramatically lessens the chance the virus will be passed on to others. Treatment as prevention has been adopted across the globe as the most pragmatic method of combatting the spread of HIV.

“We are showing the world how we can stop transmission of the AIDS virus,” Dr. Montaner reminded a packed gathering at the Dr. Peter Centre, itself a marvel of care and comfort for those with the disease.

He contrasted the B.C. government’s unwavering support for both the safe injection facility Insite and treatment as prevention with the approach of Tony Clement, who, when he was federal health minister, “had no time for me and was not interested.”

Premier Christy Clark referenced the changes that have taken place in HIV treatment, with a poignant reminder that the dying is not yet done.

A year-and-a-half ago, Ms. Clark said, she lost a close friend to complications from AIDS. Jim Oldham had spoken at her wedding. “If diagnosed today, he would still be alive,” she pointed out, meaning Mr. Oldham would have had many years ahead of him.

Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer followed Ms. Clark to the podium, expressing admiration for the Premier’s ability to talk about AIDS with such composure. Ms. Reimer’s voice quivered with emotion throughout her brief remarks.

AIDS is still that kind of disease. It continues to touch us, and we can all do more to help.

Donating or volunteering at the Dr. Peter Centre is a good start.

After you’ve fired off that missive to “the Harper government” for its opposition to the city’s supervised injection facility, that is.

A kudo or two for the Liberals

Since we have edged into December, the month I get to re-watch two of my favourite movies, A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, and I’m really a merry old soul when you come right down to it, herewith a sprinkling of kudos, rather than lumps of coal, to the B.C. Liberals for doing some things right.

Congrats to the Libs for pressing forward on the difficult legal issue of polygamy, a decision that produced Chief Justice John Bauman’s landmark ruling that the merits of the current ban outweigh its constitutional problems.

Further applause for some good changes to family law, sticking with the program on the toughest drinking and driving legislation in the country (despite this week’s court ruling), and, above all, for reforms to strengthen one of this province’s greatest assets, the 37-year-old Agricultural Land Reserve.

Good on yuh! Now about those billions in deferred accounts at B.C. Hydro that the Auditor-General is all fired up about...

Contest not worth its salt

As a past winner of $70 in years of trying for the 6/49 jackpot, any further chance of getting something for nothing, legally of course, stokes my cockles.

So you can imagine my excitement at the arrival of a B.C. government news release this week offering an opportunity to win big by taking the Healthy Families B.C. Sodium Facts Contest.

“The grand prize is a choice of either $5,000 in groceries or specially selected kitchen appliances,” trumpeted the release. A lifetime of pop-up toasters. Slice-and-dicers to die for. All from a cash-strapped government, too. Be still my beating heart.

Anyone who knows that the world’s largest underground salt mine is in Goderich, Ont., as this man for all seasoning does, should be able to stump the sodium quiz master, thought I.

Alas, I never got a chance to earn my salt. Attempts to enter the contest floundered online, as did those of the government’s own sodium expert, Simon Fraser University health scientist Michel Joffres, whom I asked to try, too.

Maybe the quiz master inadvertently looked behind him and turned into a pillar of , well, you know …

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