World AIDS Day kicks off Indigenous AIDS week in Regina

Dec. 1 is a day of awareness and celebration for those who are impacted with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and a local organization is using World AIDS Day to kick off Indigenous AIDS week in Regina.

All Nations Hope is a network that provides supports and services to those impacted with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C in the city. The program director said they are dedicating a week to celebrate and focus on those impacted by HIV and AIDS.

“We dedicated each day to a group of people,” said Leona Quewezance. “We will have something special for them every day.”

Read more: Saskatchewan government apologizes after World AIDS Day tweet draws ire

Quewezance said during the week-long activities, they will also be testing those who wish to be tested.

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“We encourage people to get tested, if they wish that,” she said. “We would like access them to link them into care for treatment and support.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was difficult to focus testing on HIV/AIDS in the city. However, All Nations Hope have took it upon themselves to find data within Regina.

“For the past nine months…people had issues accessing testing,” said Quewezance. “We did testings on Wednesdays for the last nine months and the nurse seen approximately 316 people. We had 21 new HIV identifying cases and eight new cases for syphilis.”

In a statement, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health stated in 2019, Saskatchewan had roughly triple the national average of newly-diagnosed HIV cases at 16.4 per 100,000, while the national rate was 5.6 per 100,000 people.

Read more: History shows COVID-19 may fade out, but likely won’t disappear

“Preliminary data indicates there were 185 cases of HIV identified in 2020, a decrease of seven per cent, down from 199 cases in 2019,” according to the statement.

“However, testing numbers for 2020 are lower, likely due to fewer public HIV testing events, front-line health-care providers being focused on COVID-19 response, and fewer individuals presenting for testing due to the pandemic.”

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Work through All Nations Hope will continue to break down the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS and will provide awareness is all year round, not just one day out of the year.

“The people that are living with HIV and AIDS are no different than us,” said Quewezance. “They are no different than people living with diabetes and any other kinds of illnesses. They are people just the same as we are.”

The province said work initiated through the HIV Strategy continues and is supported by annual Ministry of Health funding of approximately $4.86M to support HIV services in the Saskatchewan Health Authority and community-based organizations.

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Saskatchewan government apologizes after World AIDS Day tweet draws ire – Dec 2, 2020

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