First Nations forum focuses on ‘Know Your Status’ program success to combat HIV
Health care professionals from First Nations across Saskatchewan are meeting a focus on sharing the successes of the “Know Your Status” program.
Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and Big River First Nation are believed to be the only communities in Canada with programs that have achieved UNAIDS 90-90-90 standards, in which 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status, are treated and have viral suppression.
“You need to have the right team, the right training, a lot of testing, harm reduction services, there’s quite a package of services that need to be there and currently every community has those packages of services,” Dr. Ibrahim Khan, a regional medical health officer for Health Canada, said Monday.
“But the way these two communities have achieved that in a way that all services are integrated and a patient walks into the clinic and they get those services under one roof.”
According to one chief, communication and confidentiality are key.
“If they get tested, nobody’s going to know you’re tested. Our nurses are going to go right to your home if you don’t want to come to our health clinic, we’ll send our nurses … nobody will they’re there for you to get tested,”Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation Chief Larry Ahenakew said.
“We highly recommend that other communities adopt the program. We are extremely proud of our health care workers and community members for embracing this life saving program.”
In 2015, 81 per cent of newly diagnosed HIV patients self-identified as aboriginal. In 60 per cent of those cases, injection drug use was the primary risk factor.
“The two-day forum is an opportunity for First Nations from across our treaty territories to come and learn and share their experiences dealing with HIV,” Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), said.
“We will get the message out to our communities that HIV is preventable.”
The forum will continue Tuesday at the Saskatoon Inn.
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