Hep-C, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rampant, increasing on Sask reserves
Cost of treatment to taxpayers rising daily
Two hundred of the 1,700 people living on the Ahtahkakoop First Nation have Hepatitis C according to the chief.
That means about 12 per cent of the band's population is infected; 170 times the national Hep-C infection rate.
Chief Larry Ahenakew says the band is attempting to tackle that problem along with an HIV epidemic. He said in order to get help the band has decided to be transparent.
"I think it was important to talk to you today just to let other communities know that there is positive results out there," Ahenakew said. "There's hope for families and those affected with HIV and Hepatitis C."
The regional medical health officer responsible for Saskatchewan First Nations, Ibrahim Khan said co-infection makes matters much worse.
"When people are sharing contaminated needles with a bunch of people who may be HIV infected the risk of them spreading doubles if somebody is Hep-C and HIV positive and sharing needles. So that transmission happens fairly easy."
The Hep-C rate on Saskatchewan First Nations is five times higher than the national average. And the problems don't end there.
The rates of several sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the rise on Saskatchewan reserves.
"The trend of STI has been historically high in First Nations," explained Khan. "But in the last couple of years it has gone up and that is a concern for us in public health."
Rate of chlamydia, gonorrhea also growing
In Saskatchewan, new cases of chlamydia have grown by 60 per cent over the past decade. In 2012, the on-reserve rate was seven times the national rate
And over the past decade, new cases of gonorrhea more than doubled. In 2012, the on-reserve gonorrhea rate in Saskatchewan was 17 times the national average.
Health Canada says it takes an "integrated approach" to dealing with HIV, HEP C and STIs.
In a written statement it says "anyone who is tested for HIV is also tested for Hep C and STIs so the care is comprehensive to help reduce co-infections and assure early diagnosis and treatment."
She said on reserves "there's no widespread HIV-testing programs happening" and as a result "we just don't know what's happening. And I think that that's very worrisome."
She said both the federal and provincial governments need to be much more aggressive about testing and offering treatment, and not just for humanitarian reasons.
She said these growing epidemics are going to get very costly.
Loutfy points out that a typical HIV treatment costs $1,500 per month. She pointed out the costs can add up because on some Saskatchewan reserves people as young as 13 are being diagnosed with the disease.
She said Hep-C is also a massive drain on the system.
"The cost of the treatment of hepatitis C is close to $80,000 per treatment," Loutfy pointed out. "So if they don't address the hepatitis C problem and get the rates down and get the transmission down it's going to cost of millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to treat this problem."
So she said everyone should care about this issue, both for humanitarian and financial reasons.