Thursday, June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, and Saskatchewan residents are being reminded of the importance of getting tested. 

There were 1,833 new cases of HIV diagnosed in Canada in 2022. 

The national rate of new cases was 4.7 per 100,000 population. In Saskatchewan, the rate was the highest of all regions in Canada, at 19.0 new cases per 100,000 population. 

The virus spreads through blood and bodily fluids and impacts a person’s ability to fight off infections, according to Dr. Hortense Tabien with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. 

She said anyone who is sexually active should be getting tested regularly, with some risk factors for transmission of HIV being unprotected intercourse and sharing needles. “It is considered a prevention strategy. You can be infected with HIV and not know about it. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get that simple blood test.” 

She said that for those who are diagnosed with HIV, it can be managed with a pill. “It has no side effects or very minimal side effects, and within a short time after starting treatment, the viral load goes down and it becomes undetectable.” 

“Undetectable also means untransmissible.”  

Public Health Nurse Denae Elford works out of the Moose Jaw Wellness Centre. She, along with other public health nurses, will be at the Moose Jaw Public Library with information on HIV on Thursday, June 27. “We’ll be in the Moose Jaw Public Library, in the Reading Room, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.” 

“We just encourage anyone who’s been even thinking about getting tested for HIV to come and chat with us and learn more about your options for testing,” she added.  

“We will have HIV self-test kits, take home naloxone kits, free condoms, we’ll have coffee and snacks, and we’ll just be there, ready to chat and provide some education.” 

The self-testing kits can give results in minutes in the privacy of your home. “If an HIV self-test kit was positive, then you would have to do confirmatory bloodwork, and then you would be able to start on treatment very quickly,” added Elford.  

Elford said that people unable to attend are encouraged to talk to their primary care providers or call Public Health for more information about HIV testing in the province.  

You can find more information on HIV on the SK HIV Collaborative and also on CATIE