Push continues to bring HIV testing into more Nova Scotia communities

Click to play video: 'HIV infections in Canada have increased over the past decade: Health Canada' HIV infections in Canada have increased over the past decade: Health Canada
WATCH: An HIV outbreak happened in Nova Scotia in 2018. Since then, a focus has been placed on getting high-risk populations tested in the province. Alexa MacLean has more – Jul 3, 2019

Hundreds of Canadians were tested for HIV during the second annual national HIV Testing Day in Canada.

While the event encourages people to get tested so they know their status, health-care practitioners in Halifax are pushing to bring point-of-care testing into the community on a more regular basis.

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“There are lots of plans both, I’m sure, within government and within the Nova Scotia Health Authority to move forward with getting a very co-ordinated approach to really using and utilizing the community expertise that’s out there, building that expertise and moving forward with getting care and testing out into the community where it belongs,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, a clinical scientist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Dr. Lisa Barrett is a clinical scientist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and aims to increase access to HIV supports through continued point-of-care testing clinics. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

In July 2018, public health officials flagged an increase in confirmed HIV cases throughout the province.

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By November, the number of confirmed cases had increased from 16 to 25.

People who inject drugs were identified as being at high risk of infection.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia experiencing ‘significant increase’ in newly diagnosed HIV cases

Barrett says point-of-care testing breaks down barriers that people may face when trying to access basic health-care services such as testing and consulting a health-care practitioner for HIV support.

“Getting tested should be part of your routine health checks, especially if you’re at risk for HIV or Hepatitis C, so going into the community, it’s been really amazing just to meet people where they are, see what their concerns are and provide some more information around these infections that helps them, gets people tested and gets us out of our comfort zone, too, which is amazing,” Barrett said.

Point-of-care testing sessions have been held throughout the city, and Barrett hopes the service helps eliminate some of the stigma people may be feeling when it comes to knowing their status.

“Testing is the start, not the end, and so once we can get people diagnosed then you come into care and, really, that’s what we want for people, is care,” she said.

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