The Saskatchewan Health Authority says they are working for progress on HIV testing in rural areas.
According to the Saskatchewan Government’s 2016 information, the most recent report with HIV information, Saskatchewan had the highest rate of new HIV cases in the country, and the Prairie North region, which houses Lloydminster, saw an 80% increase, or 11 new cases, over 2016.
Medical Health Officer for the Prairie North Region Doctor Mandiangu Nsungu says there are challenges with getting HIV testing to rural communities, but they are working towards widening the pool of family physicians being able to provide HIV tests, treatments and medication, and counselling in rural areas.
“Patients who are not able to go to all their appointments where the infectious disease specialists are, we know that those specialists do organize outreach clinics to areas that are out of town. There are more and more family physicians who are working with those infectious disease specialists to the extent that progressively more family physicians are developing more skills to be able to look after those HIV positive patients.”
Nsungu adds that all physicians, under the Saskatchewan HIV testing policy, should be bringing up HIV testing with anyone 13 years and older whenever the situation allows. He says 26% of people in the province who are HIV+ are not aware and by knowing their status early, more effective treatments can be used.
“Not only the quality of life but the life expectancy itself also with treatment is not very different than what it is for people without HIV. The big thing also is that the earlier the infection is detected, once they are on treatment and remain on treatment the HIV viral load will be suppressed, and once it is suppressed the person actually stops transmitting the infection.”
Nsungu says that in areas where HIV testing is regularly available, he has seen an increase in people getting tested.
People in Lloydminster wanting to get tested for HIV can visit the Lloydminster Community Health Centre.