HIV testing event coming to New West

June 28, 2018

A New Westminster location has been added so locals can take part in Canada’s first country-wide HIV Testing Day.

The Canadian AIDS Society and community-based organizations across Canada announced the event will be held on June 27 in more than 40 sites across Canada.

The goal of the day is to effectively target groups disproportionately affected by the disease, said Gary Lacasse, executive director of CAS, the organization spearheading this new initiative.

“A National HIV Testing Day will help reduce the stigma associated with testing,” Lacasse said. “Knowing your HIV status is important for your health. If you are living with HIV, you should start treatment as soon as possible. HIV medicine can keep you healthy for many years and greatly reduces your chance of transmitting the virus.”

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

“The only way to know for certain if you’re HIV-positive is to get tested,” stressed Lacasse. “The sooner you know, the sooner you can control the virus and prevent damage to your immune system.”

The National HIV Testing Day will aim to reach individuals at risk for 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 that more than 1,500 people will participate in the initiative and that the pilot project will lead to more newly identified patients with HIV in the month of June 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.

In New West, the event will take place at the Lower Mainland Purpose Society for Youth and Families, 40 Begbie St., from 4-9 p.m.

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. 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.

On HIV Testing Day, rapid HIV tests will be administered using point-of-care testing kits, 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. 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 wellbeing.

Information on the testing site locations is available on CAS’ website, and will continue to be updated leading up to June 27.

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