Saskatoon Health Region says HIV rates dropping, Report
Saskatoon Health Region says HIV rates dropping, Report

Saskatoon Health Region says HIV rates dropping, Report

The Saskatoon Health Region has released a new report today on the status of HIV in the city, and while the region is seeing progress in the fight, the overall infection rates remain twice the national average.

The online report, entitled Better Health For All, shows more people are getting tested and less of those in high-risk populations are testing positive. In a news release, the region indicates there was a 50 per cent increase in HIV testing in 2013 compared to 2011.

One reason for the declining transmission rates is early detection, said Danielle Genest, executive director of AIDS Saskatoon. Because of improved access to testing, more people can get tested early and start receiving treatment, thus preventing the spread of HIV.

Even though the organization is seeing an increase in HIV testing, Genest said it’s still not enough.

“More testing, more prevention work, more education is always needed. I think until we see numbers comparable to the rest of Canada and below, more support is always a good thing,” she said.

The health region points to factors like inadequate housing, ethnicity and gender as reasons why HIV rates remain high in Saskatoon.

“Trying to directly impact the rates of HIV in our communities really have to be supported in a collaborative model that take into account things like safe, affordable housing and mental health care,” Genest said.

That being said, Genest believes less people are contracting the virus because of better collaboration and communication between organizations.

Other statistics contained in the report include more women being screened for HIV during pregnancies. No HIV-positive mothers have passed the virus to their babies since 2011 because of antiretroviral treatment, according to the news release.

Genest said early detection is crucial in saving lives as it prevents HIV from developing into AIDS. She encourages people to not let the fear and stigma of having HIV hold them back from getting tested.

“The fact of the matter is, if you are positive, you already are. Knowing your status doesn’t change that fact, however it does open your options up,” she said.

“HIV isn’t a death sentence. We know lots and lots of people who are living very full and happy lives who are HIV positive. The treatment is getting better and better all the time.”


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