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article imageSaskatchewan doctors — public health emergency over HIV/AIDS

By Karen Graham     Sep 20, 2016 in Health
Saskatoon - A doctor's group working directly with HIV-positive patients in Saskatchewan is calling on the provincial government to declare a public health state of emergency because of the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases.
The group of medical professionals reports the HIV rate in the province is almost double the national average. It has become such a problem that almost everyone knows someone with the virus.
“We’re trying to raise the alarm and say this is an emergency, we’re seeing it, we perceive this as an emergency,” said Dr. Stephen Sanche, a Saskatoon-based infectious disease specialist, who is part of the group who called on the government to act Monday, according to Global News.
Dr. Ryan Meili, a physician in Saskatoon, broke it down by the numbers, telling CBC News Canada, "For example, there were 114 new cases in 2014, 158 in 2015. In the last 10 years, we've seen over 1,500 people infected with HIV in the province."
Dr. Meili adds that "when you look at the pockets of the real outbreak, it's extremely severe. We're seeing numbers at the level of developing countries with high levels of HIV."
Perceiving the HIV problem as an emergency, and trying to sound the alarm, the physician's group wants the government to make resources available to help in fighting the epidemic.
Records show that two people are dying every month and over 10 people are being newly diagnosed with HIV every month.
Resources could include provincial, federal and First Nations leadership coming together to tackle the problem through educating the public, universal screening, and support. The group also wants universal coverage of antiretroviral treatment for all HIV-positive patients in Saskatchewan. That price tag would come to at least $500,000 per patient every year.
Dr. Denise Werker, the deputy chief provincial medical health officer, pointed out that under the Public Health Act, states of emergency do not exist. She also cited an annual $4 million HIV-specific investment by the provincial government in the HIV battle coming from a provincial strategy that ended in 2014.
“The HIV strategy in Saskatchewan introduced significant new funding into the system and that funding continues to this day,” Werker said.
Both sides in this issue came prepared to the meeting. The provincial government pointed out that 30 full-time positions have been created, including the hiring of 10 registered nurses. and $416,000 in funding to the Westside Clinic in Saskatoon.
The provincial government also initiated the Infant Formula Program for babies born to mothers with HIV and outreach clinics in remote communities.
The provincial government cited the 48 percent increase in the number of people getting tested for HIV since 2009. Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas said the indigenous communities have been hit hard by HIV but he also said it affects all of our society.
More about Saskatchewan, public health emergency, HIVAIDS, Indigenous people, rates double
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