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International News

HIV Epidemic Feared on Ontario Reserves

February 24, 2012

A rise in injection drug use on reserves in northern Ontario could fuel an HIV epidemic, health officials are warning.

In January, the remote community of Cat Lake declared a state of emergency over IV drug use there. Up to 70 percent of Cat Lake residents are addicted to prescription drugs such as OxyContin, according to Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political group representing 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. In 2009, NAN declared a similar state of emergency over its entire territory.

The situation parallels that in Saskatchewan, where a spike in injection drug use has led to an HIV outbreak in the province during the last eight years. Injecting drugs became popular around 2004, said Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Moira McKinnon. A rise in HIV rates soon followed, and the province currently has an HIV rate more than two times the national average.

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