The focus of Positive Impact is to increase supportive environments for individuals infected with, or at risk of sexually transmitted blood and body fluids infection (STBBI), including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis.
The Positive Impact social worker provides support for individuals and connections to community supports and services.
The goal of SIGN Positive Impact is to decrease the stigma of STBBIs through community engagement and education as well as increasing access to supportive services and resources for individuals.
Presentations and education are available on many topics including HIV, Hepatitis C, and harm reduction.
The program has offices in Kamsack at 359 Queen Elizabeth Blvd. East and in Yorkton at Room 106, 345 Broadway St W.
For more information contact the Positive Impacvt Social Worker.
Box 368, Kamsack, SK S0A 1S0
by Dick DeRyk
It seemed, to me, a rather unnecessary question.
We were talking about HIV and hepatitis C. I was asked by Candice Nelson, who runs the Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours (SIGN) Positive Impact program, if I knew my HIV and hep C status.
Well, I said, I'm not in any of the groups of people who would be at risk for that, if that's what you mean.
That's not what she meant. "But do you KNOW your status?" she asked again.
Um, no, not really. Don't think I've ever been tested for that, despite having had more blood tests than ever in the past five years for some other issues I've dealt with.
I checked back into my previous blood test results (I signed up for eHealth way back when, and get all my test results online within a day or two), and found that yes, there were lots of tests for "hepatic function", which indicates how well your liver is working and whether you might be at risk for hepatitis. But it does not tell you if you are at risk for viral hepatitis, which includes hep C.
Here are a few other things I didn't know: those born between 1945 and 1975 are a group at greater risk for hep C. Turns out that 75 per cent of people with hepatitis C living on the prairies are in that age group, and that includes me. I am in the higher risk group but had no inkling. And an estimated 44 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis C in Canada don’t even know they have it! As Candice would ask, do they know their status? Nope!
As far as HIV, I had never been tested for that. Apparently I could have been if I had asked for it, but it is generally not included in a complete blood workup ordered by a family doctor.
Why not? Well, how would you feel if your doctor told you he was testing for HIV? Would you be offended that he might think your lifestyle needs that type of test? Would you be concerned about the stigma attached to HIV?
That's the problem: the stigma of it all... what other people will think.
As a result we don't know as much as we think we know about our own bodies. We don't want to ask, or don't want others to ask, or don't want to know. How dumb is that?
Pretty dumb, I decided. So when SIGN Positive Impact and the Turning Point program with Saskatchewan Health Authority Public Health Department observed National HIV Testing Day and offered tests in Yorkton and Kamsack in June, I went for it.
It's a simple process. They take a drop of blood from the end of your finger and put it on a test strip. It provides instant feedback if HIV should be of a concern to you. And they take a vial of blood and send it away to the lab for detailed testing.
Within a few days I had my results online -- everything tested normal. And a few days after that, a public health nurse phoned to discuss the results with me. Normal. Did I have any questions? No, but if anything had been abnormal, I would have wanted to know more, and she would have been more than willing to get into details with me.
We all have an HIV status. And a hepatitis status. I now know mine, and that's a feel-good thing, and something I probably should have checked into long ago. But didn’t.
An estimated 14 per cent of people with HIV in Canada are unaware of their status, and Saskatchewan has nearly triple the Canadian rate of people living with HIV.
By the way, there are more ways to contact HIV than unsafe sexual activity. It can be spread by blood-to-blood contact, sharing needles and other drug use equipment, and sharing equipment used for tattooing, piercing or acupuncture. Or if a mother has HIV, known or unknown, she can pass it on to her baby.
Free HIV and hep C testing is available from many sources. Ask your family physician or nurse practitioner; stop at any health centre emergency room weekdays between 8:30 am and 4 pm to request the HIV test; call Turning Point in Yorkton at 306-786-0637 (it's located at SIGN on Broadway); or call your local Public Health office. Need to talk? Contact Candice at SIGN Positive Impact by phone or text at 306-590-7994 or email email@example.com.
And what if you do test positive for hep C or HIV? Well, times have changed a lot since the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis some 40 years ago. Hep C can be cured and HIV can essentially be put to sleep. So even if you did test positive there is help, there is hope, and there is a team of professionals available at Public Health and at SIGN so you don’t go it alone.
None of those people will judge you for getting tested, or for the test results. All of them will tell you that making sure you know your status is the smart thing to do.
Dick DeRyk is a longtime Yorkton resident, writer and business owner whose company provides communications services to SIGN.
Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours
83 North St. Yorkton SK S3N 0G9 | Tel 306-783-9409 | Fax 306-786-7116