HIV and syphilis outbreaks declared in northwest Saskatchewan areas

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is reporting an increase in the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis cases in northwest areas of the province.

As a result, health officials announced on June 14 that two outbreaks have been declared.

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An HIV outbreak has been declared for North Battleford, and SHA said it’s primarily among people who inject drugs and share needles.

From January to the end of May, 15 new HIV cases of were reported in North Battleford. Between 2013 and 2018, an average of four new cases were reported annually.

A syphilis outbreak has aloso been declared, particularly the Battlefords and Lloydminster areas.

In the former health region that included the Battlefords, Lloydminster and areas, fewer than seven new cases of syphilis were recorded annually. From January to the end of May 2019, 42 cases of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) occurred, SHA said.

“HIV and syphilis are treatable diseases. It is important that individuals who are sexually active know their own status for HIV and syphilis,” Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, area lead medical health officer for the north with the SHA, said in a press release.

“Knowing your status means that treatment can be provided and individuals can be helped to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.”

A multi-disciplinary team focused on testing and treatment is providing a response in these communities, according to SHA. It includes health professionals from SHA, the Ministry of Health, Battle River Treaty 6 Health Services, and Indigenous Services Canada.

Anyone can request free and confidential testing to learn their HIV and STI status by visiting their doctor, or by attending a walk-in or sexual health clinic. If required, treatment will be offered immediately.

An outbreak may be declared when more cases of disease than expected occur in a given area or among a specific group of people over a particular period of time, SHA said.

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