Saskatoon’s HIV numbers appear to have stabilized after a spike in new cases last year.
2015 saw a 51 people infected, according to a report from the Saskatoon Health Region. That translates to a 55 per cent jump in new cases.
Dr. Johnmark Opondo said that as of Nov. 30, the number of cases reported in 2016 sat at 35, which is much closer to the average of 30 new infections per year.
While the reduction is cause for relief, Opondo said there is some concern at the region about the sources of new infections.
The majority of Saskatoon’s new cases of HIV are the result of intravenous drug use with dirty needles, according to Opondo. But, he noted that the number of people infected by needles has actually come down somewhat.
“So, people are starting to get the message to use clean needles every time,” he said.
Opondo said there is an increase in the rates of people infected through unprotected sex. He said the region was going to re-focus some of its efforts, particularly as people’s datings habits have changed, with many people finding potential sexual partners online.
Whatever the source of infection, Opondo stressed that the region is seeing better and better outcomes for patients, provided they stick with their treatment plan. He emphasized that these days, managing HIV is similar to other chronic health conditions, such as diabetes. He noted that a young person infected in 2016 can expect to live a full lifespan with treatment.
Overall, the health region report concluded that Saskatoon had an HIV infection rate of 14.6 per 100,000 people — double the national average.