June 27 will officially be known as the Provincial Human Immunodeficiency Virus Testing Day in Saskatchewan.
The day coincides directly with the annual National HIV Testing Day in both Canada and the United States.
“We are proud to align with the national HIV Testing Day, as this day raises awareness around the importance of getting tested, and reducing the stigma associated with HIV,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a press release.
“We hope this will encourage our residents to feel more comfortable getting tested, whether it’s in a clinical setting or from a self-testing kit.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 per cent of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who don’t know they have the virus.
The day is meant to encourage people to test and catch the infection before it is spread to others.
“Increasing HIV testing, early diagnosis and treatment are critical to fighting the HIV epidemic in Saskatchewan,” AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan Inc. executive director Shiny Mary Varghese said.
The provincial HIV testing day is meant to increase testing in Saskatchewan, but also help break the stigma associated with HIV.
“HIV testing is the first step we can take to effectively diagnose people with HIV, get them on treatment and that will help us prevent the further spread,” said Vidya Reddy, an education and information specialist with AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan.
“We need to overcome this stigma about HIV. HIV today is a completely treatable and preventable infection.”
It is recommended that individuals should consider being tested for HIV every five years, and more often if sexually active, sharing drug equipment or pregnant.
Saskatchewan residents can get an HIV test through their physician, nurse practitioner, local public health office, community-based organization or testing clinic. Testing is free, confidential and available across the province.
Standard blood tests can take a few days for results, or rapid HIV point of care tests provide preliminary results within minutes that are confirmed by a lab test. HIV self-test kits available at over 25 locations across the province can be done at home and only require a small sample of blood from your finger tip.
For information on HIV the public can also call HealthLine 811.