New Brunswick

Free HIV tests being offered today in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton

Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton are among 70 Canadian communities where free HIV testing is being offered Thursday.

1 in 5 HIV-positive Canadians don't know it, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada

Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble, the organization formerly called AIDS Moncton, says the sooner HIV can be detected, the better. (Pierre Fournier/CBC )

Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton are among 70 Canadian communities where free HIV testing is being offered Thursday.

With a simple prick of a finger and one drop of blood, a nurse can tell participants within one minute whether they're HIV-positive, said Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble, the organization formerly called AIDS Moncton.

About 65,000 people across the country have HIV, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

And an estimated one in five people who are HIV-positive don't realize it, which increases the chances of transmitting the virus.

Early detection is also important because treatment with medication can suppress the virus and keep it from spreading, said Warren.

But the number of new cases keeps growing.  

People seem to think that it's a thing of the past.- Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble 

There was a 17 per cent increase in HIV cases in Canada between 2014 and 2017, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Warren said there could be a variety of reasons for the increase.

"People seem to think that it's a thing of the past," she said. "We have good treatment, so the viral load can be suppressed so they think there's a cure, which there isn't.

"The other thing we could have dropped the ball on continuing to talk about prevention measures, right, to reduce the risk of infection."

In addition, some jurisdictions may have ramped up testing.

Where to get tested

HIV tests are being offered until 3:30 p.m. at Ensemble on Weldon Street.

In Saint John, Avenue B on Waterloo Street is offering tests until 2 p.m.

And in Fredericton, AIDS New Brunswick in the Victoria Health Centre building, is offering testing until 4 p.m.

Last year, a combined total of 30 tests were conducted in the three cities. None of the results were positive, said Warren.

Thursday marks the second annual national HIV testing day.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

now