Heterosexual sex HIV transmission on rise in Sask.

November 28, 2014 - 3:10pm
AIDS Saskatoon logo. Provided
AIDS Saskatoon logo. Provided

Complacency, along with the belief that "it's not going to happen to them," are some of the reasons why heterosexual transmission of HIV is on the rise in Saskatchewan, according to an AIDS Saskatoon coordinator.

"People tend to think that if they're not using injection drugs that they're not at risk," education and prevention coordinator, Cathy Johnson said.

When she goes to high schools to talk about HIV, Johnson said she hears from students who believe medication is a cure.
"They get confused with the difference between prolonging your life... and thinking that that's a cure, which it's not," she said.
Injection drug use is still the highest cause of HIV infection in the province, Johnson said the number is starting to come down. She said users are becoming more aware and are accessing services such as needle exchanges, testing and medication.
"In North America, they say probably a quarter of the people living with HIV don't even know themselves that they have it," Johnson said.
AIDS Saskatoon has offered various educational events in the city to mark AIDS awareness week this week. On Friday, the organization will send volunteer elves to hand out free condoms at bars to remind people about safe sex.
"Sexually transmitted infections are relatively high in Saskatchewan and people need to be concerned about HIV; just have fun, but be safe," Johnson said.
It's not uncommon for people in the province to find out they have HIV only once they get really sick. The virus damages their immune system enough that they start becoming affected by other infections.
Johnson said work is being done to change late detection, including a potential province stratefgy to encourage physicians to test everybody between the ages of 13 and 64 who are sexually active.
She said the goal would be to normalize testing and make it part of a yearly physical so that particular groups of people are not targeted.
"I think that will really help with that category of people who think that it's not them," she said.

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