Saskatchewan remains number one in Canada for the number of HIV cases reported.
Data released by the Sask. Ministry of Health and Population Health Branch this year shows Sask. had 2,091 HIV cases from 1985-2016.
In 2016, there were 170 preliminary cases reported in the province. That number is up by 10 compared to 2015.
The biggest increase by far was in the Sunrise Health Region due to an outbreak. They had an 800 per cent increase as they had 18 preliminary cases in 2016, compared to their yearly average of just two.
“It’s a significant increase,” said Dr. Ashok Chhetri, medical health officer for the Sunrise health region.
“The increase is due, in part, of (an) increase of access to testing.”
Dr. Chhetri said there was 70 per cent more testing done last year compared to years prior.
“We also have to celebrate that we did find the cases,” he said. “If we were not doing lots of testing, lots of education to the community — that undiagnosed person would still be in the community and they would have been spreading the (virus) without knowing they have a (virus) … so we have to celebrate the testing.”
He said in the future he’d like to see HIV testing a permanent part of a person’s routine checkup. He added that it would help break down the stigma around it.
“One of thing the Saskatchewan government policy two years ago said that you know, we’ll have to start routine testing for HIV, so that you know the stigma may be minimized down the road,” Dr. Chhetri said. “We know one in five Canadians with HIV, they don’t know their HIV status so the testing is so so crucial.”
Other health regions in the province in 2016:
Regina Qu’Appelle had 23 preliminary cases, a decrease of 38 per cent
Saskatoon had 45 preliminary cases, a decrease of 27 per cent
Prince Albert Parkland had 56 preliminary cases, an increase of 73 per cent
Prairie North had 11 preliminary cases, an increase of 80 per cent
North (three regions) had 13 preliminary cases, an increase of 26 per cent
The Ministry of health said most new cases in the past 10 years were found in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. However, in the past two years the number of cases have decreased in Saskatoon and Regina.
Top three risk factors
The ministry said the main reason for the number of HIV cases is due to injection drug use. There was an increased high of 79 per cent (157 cases) in 2009. However, there was a low period when there were only 55 cases in 2014.
The second most common risk factor was sexual contact, which has doubled in the past four years.