“Two people are dying every month, and ten more people are diagnosed."From: NewNowNext
Medical experts and native leaders are alarmed over what they call an epidemic of HIV infections in Saskatchewan, Canada.
According to the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, more than 17 per 100,000 people in the province were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2012. That’s nearly three times the national average. Many of those living with HIV/AIDS are from First Nations communities, and lack awareness, education, and resources available in large cities.
While HIV is often regarded as a manageable illness in larger urban environments, in rural areas it can be a killer.
At a gathering of doctors, patients and indigenous leaders in Saskatoon, the province’s largest city, infectious disease specialist Stephen Sanche lamented that “people are become ill and dying from a treatable and preventable disease.”
The crisis could be stemmed, he said, “if it is recognized and managed as the emergency that we believe it is.”
“We have the tools to manage this now,” he added, “but we aren’t able to do it with our current infrastructure.”
Danita Wahpoosewyan, who has been HIV-positive for more than a decade, told the gathering, “My people do not have that support… we live with the stigma and the discrimination every day.”
She says because of ignorance about the virus, she wasn’t even allowed to kiss her own grandchildren at one point. In the last three years, three of her cousins have died of AIDS-related complications.
While some are calling for a medical state of emergency, health officials say that’s not likely. A four-year strategy for dealing with HIV was implemented in 2010, but its unclear how much of an effect its having.
Activists say increased funding has meant more cases are able to be reported, but it has not addressed the crisis as a whole.
“This is an emergency,” insisted Sanche. “Two people are dying every month, and ten more people are diagnosed.”