Saskatchewan Ministry of Health addresses HIV and AIDS in the province
There is a clearer picture on how many gains have been made in Saskatchewan when it comes to HIV and AIDS as well as the uphill battle to come.
On Tuesday, more than 200 delegates gathered at an HIV mobilization event in Saskatoon to find solutions on where to go from here.
In 2015, 60 per cent of all newly diagnosed HIV infections in the province reported injection drug use as the primary risk factor. Seven years ago this was the case for Mary Ermine who has been living with the virus ever since and works as a peer advisor with the Saskatchewan HIV Collaborative.
“I thought I would never catch it but I did and now I’m living with it and I’m happy.”
Her happiness has now turned to promise as dozens converged on the Travelodge Hotel to come up with solutions to the problem.
“Although people point out Saskatchewan as having a big HIV issue, I think what I’m amazed at is – what we have done in this province that no other province has done,” said Dr. Denise Werker, deputy chief medical health officer for the Ministry of Health.
Officials said they now hope to build on their successes including a 49 per cent increase in HIV testing from 2009, an infant formula program that is helping to reduce the transmission of HIV and improved access to care.
Still, HIV in the province is on the rise after a steady decline in newly diagnosed cases for years. In 2015, 28 people were diagnosed with AIDS and of those, eight have died.
“I’m concerned about each and every person that is diagnosed with HIV and I’m concerned with each and every person in this province to prevent that they do not get HIV infection,” Werker said.
In 2015, 81 per cent of newly diagnosed cases self-identified as aboriginal. Enhancing culturally appropriate responses will be the key moving forward as officials work towards a multi-year work plan to improve the situation.
“I think our significant challenges are around stigma and discrimination which we still see within some our reserve communities,” said Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, medical health officer with the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority.
Doctors agree the less stigma for individuals, the more likely they will be to seek help if they believe they have HIV or even get tested.
“One of the best ways of preventing HIV is to actually know your status,” Werker said.
“If you’re negative that’s a good thing to know and you may then say ‘well if I’m negative then I can protect my negative status’ and change behaviour accordingly.”
- Posted By: Meaghan Craig
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