REGINA, Jan. 21, 2019 /CNW/ - Wellness Wheel, a non-profit organization working to improve access to care for chronic diseases including HIV, is pleased to outline two groundbreaking innovative programs it has launched that will support people living with HIV in Saskatchewan. About 1 in 4 individuals with HIV do not know their status and do not receive the treatment needed to suppress their viral load.
"Saskatchewan has the distinction of having the highest rates of HIV infection in Canada. Provincial health systems are not doing enough to ensure that everyone, including those individuals who may have more risks are getting tested for HIV, and that adequate care and treatment options are available for those living with HIV," said Susanne Nicolay, clinic and project coordinator for Wellness Wheel. "Through our groundbreaking innovative pharmacy testing program and the launch of our 'Get Tested' guide, Wellness Wheel is working with communities and local health officials to offer new resources in addressing the challenges facing our province with HIV."
Offering HIV point-of-care (POC) testing through pharmacists to all clients including people at higher-risk of contracting HIV helps reduce the risk of not knowing their HIV status. People who inject drugs and Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by HIV in Saskatchewan.
As part of addictions care for those who inject drugs, treatment and support through opioid substitution therapy (OST) is often used, with methadone being the most common drug used. Many pharmacists who dispense methadone may also dispense antiretrovirals to people living with HIV and this has been an effective program in the province.
"By facilitating the ability for pharmacists to administer POC HIV testing, they can ensure those clients who may not have been offered a test or who may not know their status, are getting tested," added Nicolay. "It is imperative that we work to reduce the stigma that individuals may face and offer easier avenues for testing. People should be able to access care where and when it works for them, especially those with no regular health providers."
The free 'Get Tested' (https://sidcn.ca/get-tested-project/) guide by Wellness Wheel follows many months of consultations with communities to create a testing guide which may be used to offer HIV and other forms of testing in and with Indigenous and other communities across Saskatchewan. It builds on existing materials to successfully plan and hold local events to create awareness as well as access to testing for HIV. It also includes information for how to ensure anyone who does test positive is given the support and treatment information necessary.
"This guide will serve as a useful resource for communities to organize testing, care and treatment options locally, and offers support for the planning for these events," said Nicolay. "It has now been adopted and implemented in five communities, and the guide along with all corresponding materials are available for download online."
Both projects are supported by a ViiV Healthcare Canada grant awarded through its healthcare organization support for innovative programs across Canada. ViiV's program aims to support healthcare-related organizations across Canada in their goal to improve health outcomes and/or the quality of life for patients living with HIV/AIDS.
"It is absolutely vital that at-risk individuals for HIV are offered the testing needed so that they know their status, and for treatment options to be accessible for those living with HIV," said Sara Leclerc, General Manager of ViiV Healthcare Canada. "ViiV is proud to support organizations like Wellness Wheel who are developing innovative programs to address ongoing health challenges related to HIV in Saskatchewan."
Wellness Wheel is a non-profit organization comprised of physicians, nurses and allied support staff, whose aim it is to increase access to care to chronic diseases, including HIV in Saskatchewan. All the physicians who are part of Wellness Wheel participate on a very part-time basis, and all have their own clinical practices outside of Wellness Wheel and the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region (RQHR).
ViiV Healthcare is the only company 100% dedicated to developing HIV treatments to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS and ultimately improve the health of those whose lives are touched by the virus. Learn more about ViiV Healthcare and how we are supporting the HIV/AIDS community at www.viivhealthcare.ca.
SOURCE Wellness Wheel
For further information: Susanne Nicolay, Wellness Wheel, [email protected]; Christian von Donat, Impact Public Affairs on behalf of ViiV Healthcare Canada, O: 613-233-8906, C: 613-410-9858, [email protected]