February 7, 2013
According to the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, hepatitis C virus infection has increased in the region throughout the last two years. The health authority attributed the increase to the spread of drug abuse and needle sharing for the purpose of injecting drugs.
Dr. Kathy Pouteau, a physician at Kasibonika Lake First Nation, Sioux Lookout announced the launch of a new awareness campaign, called "Get Informed. Get Tested," on February 4. The region's First Nation chiefs endorsed the campaign, which focuses on respecting oneself and respecting others, getting more specific about ensuring that drug users have clean equipment, and using protection to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Pouteau explained that the region-wide ad campaign will also encourage testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C, and will provide information on reducing the risk of acquiring or transmitting infections for persons who choose to use drugs.
The program seeks to educate and empower individuals to make choices that will help them protect themselves and others. It will feature culturally relevant print and radio advertisements for the next two months on regional media, and will include postcards and audio and video public service announcements for distribution to First Nations communities. Staff will also provide as much personal outreach as possible at events such as hockey games and at schools. Dr. Pouteau commented that people are beginning to get the message that they should not share needles, but needles are not the only potential source of infection. She noted that any drug-related equipment could possibly be a contaminant and stressed the importance of ensuring that such items are for single-person single-use only.