Programming Connection

Paramedic-led HIV Testing Program  

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service
Winnipeg, MB
2016

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) offers point-of-care HIV testing (POCT) in one of the city’s three main homeless shelters. Paramedics are on staff 24/7 and offer testing to one of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations. The testing program began in 2013 as a partnership with the Manitoba HIV Program in order to address gaps in care for vulnerable populations, and to help re-engage patients who were HIV-positive and disengaged from care.

Testing is performed directly by the paramedics, who offer an HIV test to all clients using the shelter as well as during primary care episodes, and to clients on discharge from the detoxification facility. Additionally, WFPS offers monthly testing fairs at the shelter as well as harm reduction tools and information to encourage more clients to get tested.

In the first year of the program, 1,200 individuals were tested for HIV and the paramedics have tested approximately 100 people per month since 2014. They have also re-engaged several HIV-positive clients back into the healthcare system, and have helped them become compliant with taking their HIV medications. “The biggest strength of the program is the therapeutic relationship,” says Ryan Sneath, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Liaison Officer. “The paramedics are there all the time and have built relationships with the clients, and have created mutual trust.” Clients who are diagnosed with HIV at the shelter are directly referred to Nine Circles Community Health Centre for follow-up, a partnership that is integral to the success of the program. The paramedics perform more POC HIV tests than anyone else in the province – it’s been so successful, that two other shelters in the city have asked WFPS to hold testing fairs at their facilities.

For more information on the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service HIV point-of-care testing program, contact Ryan Sneath at ryansneath@winnipeg.ca.