National HIV Testing Day will take place at Aids Vancouver Island in Langford on June 27. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

National HIV Testing Day comes to the West Shore

17.1 per cent increase in new HIV infections in Canada between 2014 and 2017

On June 27, 70 communities across Canada participate in an annual national HIV Testing Day and one of those communities is Langford.

National HIV Testing Day aims to reduce the stigma that is often associated with HIV testing as well as effectively target groups disproportionately affected by the virus.

“Building on the success of last year, this event is truly about normalizing HIV testing, increasing Canadians’ capacity to make informed decisions regarding their own sexual health and decreasing stigma,” said Gary Lacasse, executive director of the Canadian Aids Society.

READ ALSO: Study finds West Shore lacks standalone HIV-related services

The theme for this year’s testing day is “Know Your Status.” According to Aids Vancouver Island, one in five Canadians living with HIV are unaware that they have HIV, making the possibility of transmitting the virus to others more likely. The only way to know for certain is to get tested.

About 65,000 people in Canada have HIV.

HIV Testing Day was created in response to a rising HIV rate in Canada. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s 2017 HIV Surveillance Report, there has been a 17.1 per cent increase in the number of new HIV infections in Canada between 2014 and 2017.

A major priority for this year’s event is to reach undiagnosed Canadians who may be disproportionately affected by HIV as well as Canadians who have never been tested for HIV and other infections.

A new component of this project will be the presence of Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) spokespeople. U=U is an initiative based on the scientific consensus that when you achieve viral suppression from taking HIV medication and continue to stay at undetectable levels of HIV, you can stay healthy and have no risk of transmitting the virus to others.

READ ALSO: US begins organ transplants from living donors who have HIV

In some communities on June 27, a person living with HIV who is undetectable will also be available at testing sites to explain the campaign and how someone living with HIV can have a healthy sex life and not pass the virus on to others.

On HIV Testing Day, rapid HIV tests will be administered using point-of-care testing kits which give results in under a minute. If a positive result is detected, blood draws will be administered which will also be used to test for other sexually transmitted blood borne infections (STBBI). Pre- and post-test counselling will be provided to all participants to help determine their risk factors.

If a participant tests positive for HIV or another STBBI, the local organization will be able to form a long-term relationship with the individual and work toward ensuring their physical, mental and emotional well being.

Last year’s national HIV Testing Day saw over 800 Canadians get tested for HIV and other STBBI’s. The Canadian Aids Society is hoping to increase testing numbers this year.

The HIV Testing Day event in Langford takes place at 111-2787 Jacklin Rd. on June 27 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and features an HIV information session, speakers, drop-in testing, snacks and refreshments.

Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison offers opening remarks at 5 p.m.and there will be conversations with HIV positive individuals as well as a U=U spokesperson.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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