author: kristian ferguson | news editor
Sask. rates twice the national average
Doctors are reporting that the rate of people with HIV and AIDS in Saskatchewan is alarmingly high. This also appears to be an increasing trend over the past few years.
Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili reported to CBC on Sept. 19 that Saskatchewan is currently in “a public health state of emergency.”
“When you look at the pockets of real outbreak, it’s extremely severe. We’re seeing numbers at the level of developing countries with high levels of HIV,” Meili reported to CBC.
This is especially disheartening amidst news that Saskatchewan has seen an increase in new cases of HIV or AIDS being reported every year. There were 114 cases in 2014 and 158 in 2015. Saskatchewan has been the highest nationally since 2010 according to skhiv.ca.
That is not to say that nothing is being done about the rising rates of patients in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan HIV Collaborative is a team of doctors and medical professionals working together in order to provide comprehensive care and education for people in at risk areas.
Some of the areas the collaborative focuses on are implementing standard protocols for HIV screening and prevention, free baby formula for HIV-positive mothers, rural outreach clinics for areas that are far away from large medical care providers, as well as continuing to grow and support things already in place to support people already HIV-positive.
These services are in dire need according to Doctor Stephen Sanche.
“Two people are dying every month. Over ten people are being diagnosed with new infection every month and that’s only going up,” stated Sanche in an interview with CBC.
This also raises the issue of stigma towards people who have HIV or AIDS. With the rates climbing steadily, it could partially be associated with people being ashamed to get tested. HIV and AIDS are still very negatively associated with people in the LGBT community, particularly gay men, even though HIV does not discriminate who is at risk.
Jason Mercredi of AIDS Saskatoon wanted to be clear about the importance of regular screening, saying, “We have people from all walks of life that are diagnosed being positive and we just need to get the message across that it doesn’t matter if you think you’re at risk or not, just make it part of your standard, normal, physical procedures,” in an interview with CBC.
This is an unfortunate wake-up call for the people of Saskatchewan, that people can no longer stay willingly in the dark about the nature of HIV and AIDS. The stigma is not helping anyone, whether someone is in an at risk area or not. This is an excellent opportunity to begin a discourse and educate the populace on their health, not only as individuals, but as a community and a province.