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Organizations say free self-test HIV kits are a "huge step forward" – Regina Leader-Post

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The tests are available at 23 locations with several spots in La Ronge, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.

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That’s what Vidya Reddy, education and information specialist with APSS, said of the government’s announcement this week to give out free kits at 23 locations. He hopes they can meet the demand and ramp up distribution if needed.

“We are very, very happy with the fact that they’ve made these test kits available across the province,” said Reddy. The tests are 99.5 per cent accurate and offer an on-demand option for people who might be at risk of contracting the disease.

He hopes this will make further steps to reduce Saskatchewan’s high rate of HIV infections.

“In 2020, we had 175 new cases that were diagnosed in Saskatchewan,” he said. “Compared to the rate of infection, the HIV infection rate, Saskatchewan has twice the national average.”

Injection substance use and the sharing of needles and other implements drive the high rate of infection, said Reddy, and disproportionately Indigenous people are affected.

The test takes one minute and is easily administered at home.

Leona Quewezance, the program co-ordinator for All Nations Hope, said the ability to get a free test that can be done alone is a huge help to people who might be at risk of contracting HIV. All Nations Hope is one of the 23 spots where a test can be picked up.

“Over the pandemic, testing wasn’t readily available for people. So the frontline services that were normally offered closed down considerably,” she said.

According to Quewezance, she could not believe how fast their 50 test kits flew out of the building.

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“They didn’t sit on the shelves very long, let’s just put it that way. They didn’t collect dust,” she said.

There are a number of benefits to the way these kits are administered, according to Quewezance. She hopes those afraid of the stigma associated with such a test can now do one in private, breaking down a barrier for people who have previously hesitated to get tested.

“Linking people to care, treatment and support, it always hasn’t been friendly when people go to a hospital. And needless to say, the hospitals are busy,” she said.

“Some people already know they’ve been at risk for communicable diseases, so this will just help confirm it.”

In a release from the Government of Saskatchewan, Health Minister Paul Merriman said, “We have seen the clear benefits of having quick and easy access to at home testing options.”

The full list of locations giving out the tests is available online, but there are multiple locations in La Ronge, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.

Reddy emphasized the importance of seeking treatment and counselling should a test come back positive. He said there is a great deal of shame and stigma around HIV, but there is an effective treatment that can be offered. At this point, Reddy said a person can live with HIV with a virtually zero chance of spreading it.

“If the person has an undetectable viral count, and practises safe sex and remains on treatment, they cannot spread HIV so undetectable, equals untransmittable,” he said.

alsalloum@postmedia.com

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Regina Leader-Post has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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Monkeypox: Cases found and suspected in Portugal, Spain – CTV News

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LISBON –

Portuguese authorities said on Wednesday they had identified five cases of rare monkeypox infection and Spain’s health services are testing eight potential cases after Britain put Europe on alert for the virus.

The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspected cases, are all stable. They are all men and they all live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, the Portuguese health authorities said.

European Health authorities are monitoring any outbreak of the disease since Britain has reported its first case of monkeypox on May 7 and found six more in the country since then. 

None of the eight suspected cases in Spain has been confirmed yet, the Spanish Health Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder, first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.

Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.

It is not particularly infectious between people, Spanish health authorities said, and most people infected recover within a few weeks, though severe cases have been reported.

Four of the cases detected in Britain self-identified as gay, bi-sexual or other men who have sex with men, the U.K. Health Security Agency said, adding evidence suggested there may be a transmission in the community.

The agency in Britain urged men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.

The Spanish Health Ministry and Portugal’s DGS health authority Spanish did not release any information on the sexual orientation of the monkeypox patients or suspected patients.

The two countries sent out alerts to health professionals in order to identify more possible cases.

(Reporting by Patricia Rua in Lisbon and Christina Thykjaer in Madrid; Editing by Inti Landauro and Alison Williams)

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Long Covid Patients' Symptoms Helped After Vaccination in Study – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Fewer Covid-19 patients reported lingering symptoms from the infection after getting vaccinated, according to a study that suggests the shots could help alleviate the burden of long Covid. 

A first vaccine dose after infection with the virus was associated with a 13% decline in the odds of having long Covid and a second shot with a 9% drop in the study published Thursday in the BMJ. Over the course of seven months in 2021, researchers regularly visited the households of more than 28,000 people to ask whether they were experiencing symptoms long after infection.

The findings, together with evidence that long Covid is reduced in those infected after vaccination, suggest that jabs may help decrease the prevalence of persisting symptoms.

“The large scale of this study means that we can be fairly confident about what has been observed, but it does not mean we can be sure what it means,” said Peter English, a former chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee. 

“The most obvious — and perhaps the most likely inference — is that vaccination does prevent at least some cases of long Covid, and may reduce the severity of symptoms,” he said in emailed comments. But “we cannot yet say this with any confidence.” English wasn’t involved in the research. 

An estimated 1.8 million people in the UK had reported experiencing long Covid as of April 2022, with two in three people saying the symptoms had affected their day-to-day activities, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.

The scientists who ran the study called for more research to “understand the biological mechanisms underpinning any improvements in symptoms after vaccination, which may contribute to the development of therapeutics for long Covid.” 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Europe, US on alert after new monkeypox cases emerge – Al Jazeera English

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US, Spain and Portugal announce cases of rare viral infection, two weeks after UK identified its first case.

Health authorities are on alert for the spread of monkeypox, a rare viral disease first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s, after new cases emerged in Europe, and the United States confirmed its first infection.

Portugal said on Wednesday it had identified five cases of monkeypox, Spain said it was testing 23 potential cases, and the US state of Massachusetts announced it had found a case in a man who recently travelled to Canada.

The United Kingdom was the first to confirm a case of monkeypox earlier this month. It has now detected seven cases and is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate the virus’s spread after being unable to make a link between the initial case, in a man who had travelled from Nigeria, and the more recent ones.

Health authorities suspect some of the infections may have occurred through sexual contact – in this instance among gay or bisexual men – with four of the UK cases identified among people who visited sexual health clinics after developing the rash associated with monkeypox.

“No source of infection has yet been confirmed for either the family or GBMSM clusters,” the WHO said in a statement in Wednesday. “Based on currently available information, infection seems to have been locally acquired in the United Kingdom. The extent of local transmission is unclear at this stage and there is the possibility of identification of further cases.”

Monkeypox, which is similar to human smallpox, typically begins with a flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, followed by a rash on the face and body. Most people recover from the illness, which is endemic in parts of central and western Africa and usually the result of close contact with infected animals, within a few weeks, but it can be fatal.

The five Portuguese patients, out of 20 suspected cases, are all in a stable condition, according to the country’s health authorities. They are all men who live in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, they added.

Health authorities in Madrid said the cases discovered in Spain appeared to be linked to sexual contact.

“In general, its transmission is via respiratory drops but the characteristics of the 23 suspected infections point to it being passed on through bodily fluids during sex relations,” they said in a statement, without giving further details.

“All of them are young adult males and most of them are men who have sexual relations with other men, but not all of them,” Elena Andradas, head of public health in the Madrid region, told Cadena Ser radio.

US health officials said the Massachusetts man who developed monkeypox went to Canada to see friends at the end of April and returned home in early May. He is currently being treated in hospital.

Jennifer McQuiston from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said while it was the only case the CDC was aware of, “I do think we are preparing for the possibility of more cases”.

The agency is in contact with its counterparts in the UK and Canada as part of the investigation, but McQuiston said no link had been established so far.

There are two types of monkeypox virus: the West African clade and Congo Basin (Central African) clade. The case-fatality ratio for the West African clade has been documented to be about 1 percent, and up to 10 percent for patients with the Congo Basin clade.

The WHO said that while smallpox vaccination has been effective against monkeypox, the end of mass vaccination programmes for smallpox meant people under the age of 40 or 50 no longer had that protection.

The UK has previously reported cases of monkeypox – all linked to travel to Nigeria – as has the US. An outbreak there in 2003 was traced to pet prairie dogs that had been housed with small animals imported from Ghana that were found to have the virus.

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