Sask.  Canada continues to lead in HIV transmission and records record infections in 2021 |  CBC News

Sask. Canada continues to lead in HIV transmission and records record infections in 2021 | CBC News

HIV numbers in Saskatchewan remain the highest in the country.

The latest regional health data revealed a record 237 cases in 2021 – a jump of nearly 30 percent from the 184 cases recorded in 2020, putting transmission rates at more than double the national average.

It’s unfortunate, and although we’re talking about percentages, these are real individuals,” said Dr.

According to the Department of Health, sexual contact contributed to 68 percent of HIV cases (a higher than normal rate in the county) and injection drug use accounted for 50 percent. These risk factors are not mutually exclusive.

However, Ubondo maintains that needle sharing is the primary driver.

“Sexual encounters are very risky if you’re not using protection and you’re not with your regular and consistent partner – but injection drug use, if you don’t practice the safe use of a needle, even one bout can be enough to transmit HIV,” he explained.

Safe consumption sites key to containing HIV: Doctor

Opondo says harm reduction services, such as safe drug use sites, are among the key preventive elements that can help contain the county’s HIV numbers.

Kayla DeMong, Executive Director of Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR) in Saskatoon, agrees.

She called last year’s HIV numbers “heartbreaking,” noting that they speak to the need for more facilities like PHR in Saskatchewan and why regional funding is needed to run them.

“With every transmission of HIV that we can prevent at our site, we know we are saving huge dollars to the health care system,” de Monge said.

The Saskatoon Prairie Damage Reduction site was filmed, a safe consumption site. CEO Kayla de Monge says more facilities like this are needed. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

For three years in a row, the Saskatchewan government has rejected Physicians for Human Rights’ request for funding amid a bloated overdose crisis. To stay open, it relies solely on donations and merchandise sales.

“The people we serve here are people affected by homelessness who have complex health issues and complex mental health issues and don’t participate in a lot of services in our community,” Demong explained.

“The more investment we can make towards this population, the better the effect will be in the reduction [HIV] transmission rates.

The PHR does not provide medications to people but does provide a space in which they can use them under medical supervision. The site can also check medications for tethered items, and help people access sterile equipment and stents.

“It’s a service that saves lives,” said Obondo.

Education and testing are among the best preventative measures

While the use of injectable drugs is a major driver of HIV numbers in Saskatchewan, Dr. Larissa Kiesman — a family physician and medical director at Westside Community Clinic in Saskatoon, an HIV care center — says people should not lose sight of Other risk factors.

She says the high rate of sexual transmission in the past year shows that the virus is spreading widely among non-drug users as well.

“Isolating this as a problem among people who inject drugs is not appropriate,” Kisman said.

“We are seeing a lot of transmission among people who have never used intravenous drugs – and they are very, very shocked by this diagnosis.”

listen | Sask. Infectious disease doctor puts his weight on record height of HIV:

Afternoon Edition – Sask8:00Sask. Infectious disease doctor puts his weight on record height of HIV

237 cases of HIV were reported in 2021 – a 30 percent increase from 2020 that puts the regional rate at more than double the national average. Dr. Alexander Wong, an infectious disease physician with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, joins host Garth Materei to tell us more.

Robin Hilton, sexual health outreach coordinator with the University of Regina Students’ Union, says the sudden rise in sexual transmission of HIV could be linked to a lack of updated sex education in schools.

“If we have that ability on this basis to have conversations about sexual health and feel comfortable going into it [HIV] Hilton said.

“We know that with HIV, knowing your condition is the best possible way to prevent the spread of infection.”

This is where the test comes in.

Throughout the pandemic, Saskatchewan has seen a significant drop in HIV testing. 78,858 tests were performed in 2021 – a slight increase from 71,681 in 2020, but still down from 93,832 in 2019.

Free HIV self-testing kits are now available to the general public in Saskatchewan at 23 locations across the province. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

In January, the Saskatchewan government made HIV self-testing kits available at pharmacies and community organizations across the province, with the goal of aiding early diagnosis.

Kiesman says she hopes this will help the county return to pre-pandemic testing levels.

However, she added, with that comes an inevitable influx of cases, the county government will need to implement its nearly $6 million HIV strategy and allocate the appropriate amount of resources to deal with it.

With early testing, diagnosis and treatment, Kiesman believes there is a chance the county may one day come close to eliminating HIV.

“We know because of the coronavirus that we can do this kind of work; we can identify problems and we can respond,” she said.

“We just have to be very proactive. This is an urgent public health imperative – it is a public health crisis.”

2022-05-27 12:40:40

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.