The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority has launched a new campaign to get more Indigenous people tested for HIV.

The campaign targets Indigenous leaders in the hopes this will decrease some of the current stigma around testing.

NITHA Medical Health Officer, Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, says there are various reasons people are hesitant to get tested for HIV.

“They think that once they come forward, they will see them as being labelled and being involved in behaviours that are not seen to be normal within the community,” he says. “So, it will drive them away.”

At the same time, Ndubuka says they encourage everyone get tested and to do it sooner rather than later.

“They really want people to test because if they know the HIV status, they are then able to get into the care that they need and get the supports they require.”

Other members of the initiative include the Prince Albert Grand Council, Prince Albert Metis Women’s Association and the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Ndubuka says the initiative is part of an overall effort to meet the United Nations Triple 90. This UN program aims to achieve a number of goals by 2020.

These include having 90 per cent of people with HIV knowing they are HIV positive. Ninety per cent diagnosed with HIV infection are receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy.

Ninety per cent of people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.

(PHOTO: NITHA Executive Director Mary Carlson (left) is given a point-of-care HIV test by community outreach nurse Jesse Depell (right). Photo by Fraser Needham.)