Canada’s inaugural national HIV Testing Day will take place Wednesday, June 27. Photo: Contributed

Canada’s inaugural national HIV Testing Day will take place Wednesday, June 27. Photo: Contributed

Kelowna agencies participate in National HIV Testing Day

Goal to help reduce negative stigma associated with HIV blood testing

Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, Living Positive Resource Centre and Outreach Urban Health will join more than 40 community based HIV/AIDS organizations across Canada to deliver the country’s inaugural national HIV Testing Day.

The inaugural event will be held June 27 at three locations:

Livin Positive Resource Centre—255 Lawrence Ave. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ki-Lo-Na Friendship Society— 442 Leon Ave. from 2 to 4 p.m.

Outreach Urban Health—455 Leon Ave. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“The goal of the day is to effectively target groups disproportionately affected by the disease,” said Virginie Fostroy, aboriginal outreach worker at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society.

“A National HIV Testing Day will help reduce the stigma associated with testing. Knowing your HIV status is important for your health. If you are living with HIV in BC, you have the option to start free treatment as soon as possible. HIV medicine can keep you healthy for many years, and when achieving an undetectable viral load, eliminates your chance of transmitting the virus, ” added Candice Berry, executive director of Living Positive Resource Centre.

“Know Your Status” is the theme of this year’s testing day event.

“The only way to know for certain if you’re HIV-positive is to get tested,” said Gary LeCasse, executive director of the Canadian AIDS Society. “The sooner you know, the sooner you can control the virus and prevent damage to your immune system.”

Related: Men living in smaller cities reluctant to take HIV test

Locally, KFS, LPRC and OUH have partnered with Men’s Health Initiative, Options for Sexual Health, REL8 Okanagan, and Senior Gay Men in Kelowna to expand on the event’s reach, to provide an opportunity for cross-connection with our effected communities, make testing available while providing free treats provided by Okanagan Ice Pops and So Sweet.

The National HIV Testing Day aims to reach individuals at risk of HIV exposure who lack adequate sexual health resources and capacity for HIV testing, including members of the LGBTQ2 community, off-reserve Indigenous communities and people who use drugs.

It is expected more than 1,500 people will participate in the initiative and the pilot project will lead to more newly identified patients with HIV in the month of June across the country, compared to other months of the year.

The project also aims to transfer knowledge to vulnerable populations and drive behavioural change to adopt best practices for sexual health and drug use.

About 75,000 people in Canada have HIV, and one in five HIV-positive Canadians are not aware of their status, which makes the possibility of transmitting the virus to others much more likely.

Related: INSTI and HIV testing program within IH communities deemed a success

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were 2,344 new HIV infections in Canada in 2016, an 11.6 per cent increase from 2015.

Local and provincial health authorities across Canada are also collaborating to deliver the project, stating it addresses an unmet need in the current Canadian health care system.

On HIV Testing Day, rapid HIV tests will be administered using point-of-care testing (POCT) kits (where available), 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 STBBIs (sexually transmitted and blood borne infections).

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 community based organization will be able to form a long-term relationship with the individual and work toward ensuring their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

“This inaugural National HIV Testing Day provides an opportunity for Canadians to take charge of their health to learn their HIV status, particularly in rural and remote areas with one-minute testing at the point-of-care in both conventional and unconventional settings,” said Livleen Veslemes, of bioLytical Laboratories, the maker of the INSTI (Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitors) test kit.

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