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The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Saskatchewan has increased for a third straight year.

There were 177 new cases of HIV diagnosed in the province in 2017, up from 170 the year before.

Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical health officer, said she doesn’t think there are any surprises in the 2017 stats.

Injection drug use is still the main driver of the illness in the province, she said. Of the new cases, 67 per cent cited self-reported intravenous drug use as their main exposure to the virus.

“Some of this is related to increased testing, but is also related to the complex nature of the drivers of HIV in this province,” Werker said.

A 2016 federal government report – the most recent data available – found there were 2,344 new cases of HIV reported in Canada in 2016, an 11.6 per cent increase from 2015. It was also the highest rate since 2011.

Saskatchewan had the highest diagnosis rate of HIV at about 15 cases for 100,000 population. That’s more than double the overall Canadian rate of 6.4. Manitoba was the next closest at 9.5 cases per 100,000 population.

The 2016 rates were more than 10 times the national average in some regions of Saskatchewan. Nearly 80 per cent of people with HIV in that province are Indigenous.

Werker said the challenges in Saskatchewan are huge.

“The persons that have these infections have multiple issues that they are grappling with ... there is no magic bullet to improve the lives of these people,” she said.

“It is a complex issue and it requires multiple and ongoing efforts.”

Saskatchewan is currently reviewing and completing a full report for 2017 HIV statistics which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

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