HIV/AIDS awareness initiative launched in northern Saskatchewan

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Saskatchewan are not aware that they have the infection. The number of people living with HIV differs across different communities in northern Saskatchewan.

Individuals who get tested for HIV and know their status, can access treatment and care early, stay healthy longer, and reduce the risk of transmission to others.

The Northern Healthy Communities Partnership (NHCP) is implementing an HIV/AIDS awareness initiative in northern Saskatchewan to enhance the awareness of HIV and AIDS. “The objectives of the campaign are to increase knowledge and understanding of HIV and AIDS; encourage people to get tested for HIV; and to reduce the stigma and discrimination related to HIV and AIDS,” said Dr. James Irvine, Medical Health Officer for the three northern health authorities through the Population Health Unit.

"We support the HIV campaign initiative and encourage our people to get tested for HIV," said Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, Chairperson for Northern Intertribal Health Authority Board of Chiefs.

Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, Medical Health Officer for NITHA, said “HIV is a chronic disease that is manageable with medication. HIV does not discriminate and anyone can get HIV regardless of race, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation.”

HIV/AIDS-related stigma remains a challenge in communities across the north and can be a barrier to people accessing testing, care, and understanding how to prevent getting and transmitting HIV. “We are hopeful that this initiative will enhance knowledge and reduce myths about HIV in order to maximize prevention,” agreed Claire Larocque, Tina Rasmussen, and Ron Woytowich, the Board Chairs for Athabasca, Keewatin Yatthé and Mamawetan Churchill River Health Authorities.

Key campaign messages regarding HIV/AIDS are being disseminated through various means including the Health Is Vital mobile phone app, posters, radio ads, and websites.

NHCP is a group of organizations (public, private and non-for profit) working together to enhance the well-being of individuals, families and communities throughout northern Saskatchewan. Please see www.nhcp.ca for more information.

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For more information please contact:

Elaine Kaloustian, Director of Communications

Mamawetan Churchill River Health Region

306-425-4812

Elaine.Kaloustian@mcrhealth.ca

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