Saskatchewan has highest HIV rate in country: health department

The Saskatchewan Health Department says the province has the highest reported number of HIV cases in the country. File / Global News

The provincial government says Saskatchewan has the highest number of HIV cases reported in Canada.

Data released by the Saskatchewan Health Department and population health branch shows the province had 2,091 HIV cases from 1985-2016.

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The ministry says the main reason for the number of HIV cases is due to injection drug use, with sexual contact being the second most common risk factor.

Last year there were 170 preliminary cases reported, up by 10 from 2015.

The biggest increase by far was in the Sunrise Health Region in southeastern Saskatchewan, where there were 18 preliminary cases last year compared to the usual yearly average of two.

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Dr. Ashok Chhetri, medical health officer for the Sunrise Health Region, says the significant increase can be attributed in part to an increase in access to testing.

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Chhetri says 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 says. “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).”

He says in the future he’d like to see HIV testing a permanent part of a person’s routine checkup because it would help break down the stigma around it.

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