HIV on the rise in Sask.

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October 6, 2016 12:00 AM

Some doctors want a state of emergency declared

A recent report showed a number of Saskatchewan doctors want the provincial government to declare a state of emergency over the growing number of residents testing positive for HIV.
The report said there were 114 new cases of the disease in 2014, 158 more last year, with a total of 1,500 people infected in the past decade.
“What we know is HIV is a serious issue for everyone in the province, including this region, and all organizations are doing what they can to address this problem,” said Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, medical health officer with the Prairie North Health Region.
“There are a few things we have to be aware of; first of all, the fact is almost 26 per cent of the people living with HIV are not aware of their HIV status and the only way to know is to get tested for HIV.”
Nsungu added for the time being, provincial health professionals are giving thought to creating routine HIV tests, saying of course people have to give consent before being tested, but until then, anyone unsure of their HIV status should get checked out right away.
If a person gets tested, they’re protected, Nsungu said, and if results come back positive they can begin treatment immediately and work on suppressing the virus. 
There’s no current cure for HIV, but if an infected person stays on treatment, the virus won’t evolve to it’s final stage, which is AIDS, quite so quickly.
In fact, Nsungu said if a person gets tested soon enough and stays on treatment, they can end up with the same life expectancy as someone without HIV.
“They’ll have a much better quality of life, and most importantly, when the virus is suppressed the person infected with HIV will not transmit HIV at the same rate as if they were not treated,” he said.
“So what I’m saying is the treatment will reduce tremendously the further transmission of HIV, so those are the benefits of being tested, and of course if you know that you are negative then continue to take precautions for you to remain negative.”
For people who want to get checked out, they can just see their family physician or local nurse practitioner, who will explain to them what the tests mean, and the results will be available within a couple days of the visit.
Aside from basic treatment and medication, Nsungu reminds there are also other support services, like case managers who can help patients navigate the healthcare system and also help with making and keeping appointments.
As to why the numbers of infected Saskatchewan residents is so high, he said the issue is so complex, with so many factors at play, there’s no specific answer to that question.
“From 2010 to 2014 we had a provincial HIV strategy; there was a lot of information that was shared about HIV and what I know is the number of tests has been increasing, so definitely if you test more you find more, but what I’m saying is HIV is a complex issue, so it’s not just one factor that can explain that,” said Nsungu.

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