The revelation has sent a shockwave through the medical community, especially for those who deal with HIV head-on. Not only have researchers found that HIV has mutated, but it has also found a way to advance to AIDS-related illnesses faster and has found a way around the immune system of Indigenous people. Making matters worse in Saskatchewan, our province is considered one of the worst regions in North America for HIV incidents and 80% of HIV patients are Indigenous, setting off alarm bells.
The AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan is on high alert after the announcement with Education and Information Specialist Vidya Reddy calling it troubling news for a province that is already struggling to deal with the spread of the virus.
"Newly diagnosed people, 60% of them are reporting injection drug use," said Reddy. "That is the main cause for HIV, injection drug use and sharing of needles."
"It escalates the crisis because unless we get really get a grip on the high incidents of HIV, especially in our First Nations People, we are not going to be effective and the fact that this is immune resistant and progresses faster, is only going to worsen the situation," added Reddy.
While HIV is no longer the death sentence that it used to be, the spread of the virus is still a major concern. Saskatchewan has been in the fight for decades with no strong signs of improvement. New treatments are being found every year with Reddy saying it can depend on how advanced each case is, but some treatments are as simple as taking one pill a day. The new study went on to explain that the mutated strain still responds to some of the treatment options.
"It's resistant to a person's immune system but not resistant to the treatment... and the treatment is still quite effective."
Reddy hopes the news will create a sense of urgency in the community and will get agencies to re-double their efforts in funding research while also spreading awareness. One major effort right now is trying to pull back the stigma of getting tested. Reddy says an HIV test is very simple and shows responsibility for your own health and the health of others.