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Health Officials in Canadian Province Develop Communications Strategy to Address Increase in HIV Cases

March 31, 2009

Health experts are developing plans to increase HIV/AIDS awareness in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in response to the virus' rising incidence in the province, Moira McKinnon, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said recently, the Regina Leader-Post reports.

McKinnon said a committee recently created to address the province's HIV incidence has "met with a number of stakeholders and devised a plan" and also has developed several additional steps that can be taken to curb the spread of the virus, including increased HIV testing. "We've still got a lot of work to do in looking at the challenges from different points of view," McKinnon said, noting that both the federal and provincial governments and various other partners are involved in the process. According to the Leader-Post, Saskatchewan recorded 174 new cases of HIV in 2008, an increase from the 124 new cases recorded in 2007. About 60% of the new cases in 2008 were associated with injection drug use.

McKinnon said a communications plan that targets specific groups, especially young women, is important to address HIV in the long term. McKinnon said, "We need to work out what we're saying to people. We want to keep it positive: Get tested, get on treatment. Those kind of messages." The plans for how those messages will be conveyed to the public still are under development and additional funding and advocates on the ground will be needed, she noted. The partners in the communications plan "know that there are resource implications, so we'll be sitting down and getting final detail on that in the next week or so," McKinnon said. Don McMorris, Saskatchewan's health minister, said that the government "is supporting aggressive measures to respond to this important public health issue, in addition to the current programs and services already funded" (Hall, Regina Leader-Post, 3/28).

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