HIV and syphilis outbreaks declared in northwest Saskatchewan

WATCH ABOVE: SHA is reporting an increase in the number of HIV and syphilis cases in northwest Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is reporting an increase in the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis cases in northwest areas of the province.

As a result, health officials announced on June 14 that two outbreaks have been declared.

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An HIV outbreak was declared for North Battleford, and SHA said it’s primarily among people who inject drugs and share needles.

From January to the end of May, 15 new HIV cases were reported in North Battleford. Between 2013 and 2018, an average of four new cases were reported annually.

A syphilis outbreak has also been declared in the Battlefords and Lloydminster areas.

In the former health region that included the Battlefords, Lloydminster and areas, fewer than seven new cases of syphilis were recorded annually. From January to the end of May 2019, 42 cases of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) occurred, SHA said.

“HIV and syphilis are treatable diseases. It is important that individuals who are sexually active know their own status for HIV and syphilis,” Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, area lead medical health officer for the north with the SHA, said in a press release.

“Knowing your status means that treatment can be provided and individuals can be helped to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.”

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A multi-disciplinary team focused on testing and treatment is providing a response in these communities, according to SHA. It includes health professionals from SHA, the Ministry of Health, Battle River Treaty 6 Health Services, and Indigenous Services Canada.

Nsungu added studies have shown supervised consumptions sites could make a difference in preventing the spread of HIV in cases like this.

It’s something AIDS Saskatoon is working towards setting up in Saskatoon’s Pleasant Hill neighbourhood.

“Instead of people using potentially in a trap house, or in groups and sharing one needle, they can come and get clean supplies, use on their own, not share those needles, not share those pipes and help to minimize the spread of HIV and hepatitis C,” Lauryn Kronick, an education and prevention coordinator at AIDS Saskatoon, said.

Anyone can request free and confidential testing to learn their HIV and STI status by visiting their doctor, or by attending a walk-in or sexual health clinic. If required, treatment will be offered immediately.

An outbreak may be declared when more cases of disease than expected occur in a given area or among a specific group of people over a particular period of time, SHA said.

-With files from Kyle Benning

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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