February 13, 2017 8:04 pm
Updated: February 14, 2017 6:34 am

First Nations forum focuses on ‘Know Your Status’ program success to combat HIV

First Nation organizations are hosting a forum at the Saskatoon Inn to break down stigmas and stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Dayne Winter / Global News
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More than 135 people are meeting in Saskatoon for a two-day forum on the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS.

Health care professionals from First Nations across Saskatchewan are meeting a focus on sharing the successes of the “Know Your Status” program.

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 READ MORE: World AIDS Day: Saskatoon’s HIV rates more than twice the national average

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.”

READ MORE: HIV-positive babies born in Sask. have physicians sounding the alarm

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.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan HIV rates: ‘We’re going to be facing a catastrophe’

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.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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