Know your Status
Big River First Nation
Big River, SK
Big River First Nation (BRFN), located 120 km northwest of Prince Albert, Sask., has been running a successful HIV screening program called Know Your Status since 2011. Know Your Status was piloted by Health Canada to respond to the high incidences of HIV, Hep C and other STBBIs among Indigenous people. To address the health issues of their community, band council members, Elders and healthcare workers created the Know Your Status program, which provides HIV prevention and testing services in a culturally appropriate manner. The Chief was instrumental in making the program happen, advocating for community involvement in the program’s development and implementation. What makes the program unique is the anti-stigma work that was carried out beforehand to make HIV point of care testing more socially acceptable.
Know Your Status has expanded beyond testing over the years to include treatment, harm reduction, food assistance and mental health counselling, to the 2,800-plus people living on reserve. “There is no longer this revolving door of HIV-positive patients being treated poorly when they seek services outside the community,” explained Ruby McAdam, Health Director for BRFN. The services are offered mostly at the First Nation Health Centre, but some testing and prevention takes place offsite. An infectious disease doctor visits the community every three months for appointments and follow-ups.
Since its implementation, the community has noticed an increase in undetectable viral loads among their HIV-positive clients. The confidence of people has also increased. “People are no longer shunned by the community. When they walk into the clinic, they hold their head up high,” says Ruby.
Know Your Status credits its success to the strong leadership they received, as well as the caring professionals who work for the program.
For more information, contact the Big River First Nation Health Centre at (306) 724-4664.