Unsafe sex, needles, continue to spread HIV in Sask.
As the spread of HIV in the province continues, officials say what's fueling that growth isn't just a needle use. Needles used to be the most common way to contract HIV in Saskatchewan, but the statistics for 2011 show a new trend.
Dr. Saqib Shahab, with the Ministry of Health, says another culprit is picking up steam. "Initially, when we saw HIV in Saskatchewan, it was predominantly in IV drug users, but as we're tracking the numbers over the years, we're seeing that now about a quarter of all HIV transmissions are actually through heterosexual activity."
In 2009, there were roughly 200 reported cases of HIV in Saskatchewan, and that number went down to 170 in 2010. However, the province warns those numbers only go so far in explaining the big picture, since about a third of all HIV infections in Canada remain undetected and as a result, go unreported. "More than half of all women actually get HIV before the age of 30. We have to remember that HIV is asymptomatic for five to ten years. You can't tell by looking at someone that this person may have HIV or not," says Shahab.
Dr. Lalita Malhotra has treated many HIV positive patients, including several expectant mothers. She says part of the problem is an all too casual attitude about sex. "The young girls I see, I tell them that pregnancy is not the problem. The problem is you are getting a disease and protection is your own responsibility," says Malhotra.
In Saskatchewan, the number of men being affected by the virus continues to outweigh women, but the gap between the sexes isn't as big as it used to be. That's why Malhotra continues to urge patients to use condoms and other forms of protection when they have sex. "You do not expect the other person to be protecting you if you are not careful, yourself. You are going to get the disease and there's no point in thinking about it later."