Northern Health is distributing $1.6 million dollars towards HIV and Hepatitis C initiatives to eight communities and 23 First Nations areas in the north. The funding is building on previous work to provide education along with treatment and sustainable care for those in need.
One of those key programs is through educational support at the Fire Pit Cultural Drop In-Centre. Passing out bingo cards, HIV Educator with Positive Living North, Stacey Hewlett, brings people together to learn about AIDS prevention strategies. They learn how HIV is transmitted, how it’s prevented, just the very basics of HIV and how not to get it.”
The AIDS virus is 100 per cent preventable. Northern Health’s contribution hopes to reinforce that statistic. Executive Director with Positive Living North, Vanessa West says the money will have a big impact. “It’s making an impact by providing awareness, information, how to protect yourself, prevention techniques, and more in those areas, also it will allow us to do direct support services to people living with HIV.”
West adds that raising awareness ultimately starts with you. “When you’re doing your regular blood work, ask for an HIV test, because not only does that raise the awareness not only with your health care professional, but it also brings down the stigma and the discrimination that’s associated with testing.”
In fact, a simple HIV test and further research is providing even better treatment says Northern Health’s Director of Regional Chronic Diseases, Ciro Panessa. “HIV medications are much less toxic than they used to be, they’re more effective than they used to be, also for Hepatitis C, they’re at a point where many people can be cured from their Hepatitis C infection.”