St. Paul’s Hospital is set to roll out point-of-care HIV testing in its emergency department this summer.Under the initiative, anyone coming into the department who already requires blood work will receive an HIV test as well, with the ability to opt out.The rate of new diagnosis of HIV in Saskatchewan is about two and a half times higher than the national average. According to provincial government data from 2017, the number of newly-diagnosed people in the province has continued to rise since 2015.It’s estimated that one out of five people in Canada living with HIV doesn’t know they have it.
The testing is set to roll out in the emergency department of St. Paul’s Hospital this summer.
Michelle Berg /
Chris Rusnak, an emergency room physician at St. Paul’s Hospital, said there are often missed opportunities when earlier diagnosis and treatment could have made a patient’s outcomes much more favourable. The project’s aim is to catch those cases slipping through the cracks.“If you successfully start treatment you essentially can have a normal life,” Rusnak said. “You cannot infect your partners, you can have children, you can have a good quality of life.”The initiative will be facilitated by nurses, instead of individual physicians having to order the test.Jason Mercredi, executive director of AIDS Saskatoon, said it could help fight some of the stigma around testing.“The more we can normalize testing and treatment, the better,” he said. “We still hear stories from people who are going for blood work and they’re being instructed by physicians that they don’t really need an HIV test, even though it’s something they specifically ask for.”The goal is to do 1,000 tests over a two-month period, with the potential to start the testing in other hospitals in Saskatoon and then some of the bigger emergency departments around Saskatchewan.“Roughly 90 per cent of new infections come from people who don’t know they are HIV positive,” Rusnak said. “So we’re really trying to get everyone to know their status.”There’s been a soft rollout of the initiative, with plans to start the project sometime this summer. That coincides perfectly with the second annual National HIV Testing Day on June 27, an event that got its start in Saskatoon, Mercredi said.On last year’s testing day, 835 Canadians were tested for HIV at more than 60 sites nationwide.In a release, the Saskatchewan Health Authority confirmed it is “considering a new quality improvement project at St. Paul’s Hospital.“This pilot project would provide an option for patients being tested as part of their clinical care in the St. Paul’s Hospital emergency department, to also be tested for HIV.”Staff and leadership are currently working on an operational plan for the firstname.lastname@example.orgRelated