Saskatchewan has a health crisis on its hands. The province continues to have the highest rates of HIV in the country at twice the national average and experts say 70 per cent of new cases are among First Nations and Métis people.
“Clearly there’s a lot of work to be done to work with those communities to prevent new cases,” said Dr. Ryan Meili.
At the Westside Community Clinic, where he works, physicians have seen the caseload for HIV positive patients go from 50 to 500 in eight years. Meili said the likelihood of getting infected really has nothing to do with race but rather living in poverty.
“They’re more likely to struggle with substance abuse or find themselves in situations where they’re practicing or exposed to unsafe sexual practices so risk factors are just higher when people live in poverty.”
Intravenous drug use continues to be the leading cause of HIV and not only are infection rates in Saskatchewan higher, but so are bad health outcomes with quicker mortality rates said Meili, one of seventy healthcare professionals, aboriginal and government representatives at a two-day conference to address issues of addiction and indigenous health at the University of Saskatchewan this week.