The Saskatchewan Health Authority says HIV and syphilis outbreaks have been declared in northwest Saskatchewan which includes the North Battleford and Lloydminster areas.

42 cases of syphilis were reported in the Battlefords and Lloydminster area over the last five months. During the same time, 15 new cases of HIV were reported in North Battleford, which SHA says was primarily spread through sharing needles.

HIV cases average to four per year, while annually syphilis cases are around seven or less.

SHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu says the public needs to be aware of the risks that come with these infections, and how they can be prevented and treated.

“HIV and syphilis are treatable diseases. It is important that individuals who are sexually active know their own status for HIV and syphilis. Knowing your status means that treatment can be provided and individuals can be helped to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.”

A response team including health professionals from Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Ministry of Health, and Battle River Treaty 6 Health Services are responding to the communities. Testing, treatment and information on services to reduce risks will be provided during the response.

Most cases of HIV and syphilis have no symptoms according to the SHA. Anyone can receive free and confidential testing through their family doctor, or walk-in or sexual health clinics in the province. SHA reminds residents that treatment will be offered immediately if needed.

An outbreak may be declared when more cases of a disease than expected happens in a given area or amongst a specific group of people.