Sask. Researcher associates high HIV rates with social assistance issues Pi News

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A researcher at the University of Saskatchewan says lower social assistance rates are contributing to the spread of HIV throughout the province.

Holly McKenzie, a graduate of the University College of Medicine, noted in her recent article that Saskatchewan has the highest HIV rates in Canada and more than three times the national average.

Although the issue of HIV transmission is complex, McKenzie says changes in the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program have made the situation worse.

“We have enough income, enough resources to meet the basic needs of the people and what they and their families need, and we do not have the policies to understand the relationship between these opportunistic infections,” McKenzie told CBC Radio. Morning Edition.

“We still have individuals who formulate blaming policies on risk behaviors rather than looking at the broader structures of HIV and syphilis infection and the root causes of these rates.”

Ask | McKenzie spoke with host Stephanie Langenger Morning Edition:

Breakfast Edition – Sask8:35Researcher warns that reducing social support increases the risk of children contracting HIV and syphilis

We have heard a lot about the high prevalence of HIV and syphilis in Saskatchewan. But now researchers are warning that the risk of these diseases spreading vertically from mother to child is rising – amid high cost of living and cuts to social assistance. Holly McKenzie works with women and families through a community-based trust strength program.

McKenzie said more children with HIV or syphilis were recently born in Saskatchewan. This year alone, two babies have been born with HIV, one of the most unheard of in North America.

Meanwhile, the number of cases of congenital syphilis in children with the disease has risen exponentially in the province from four in 2016 to more than 50 in 2020. Babies born with syphilis can experience many problems ranging from deafness to neurological problems.

According to Caitlin Roberts, Managing Director of Sanctum Care Group, there is an obvious link between adequate social assistance rates and the spread of HIV.

“Treatment [for HIV positive people] Simple. It’s a pill, once a day, “said Roberts.

“But if you’re homeless, for example, you’re trying to survive every day, you’re getting your food, you’re trying to figure out where you’re going to sleep, you’re not thinking about drugs. You’re thinking about the term, ‘What should I do today to spend tomorrow?’

The SIS scheme has been controversial since it was introduced by the provincial government. Critics say the social assistance program does not provide people with enough money to live on.

On average, an adult living in Regina or Saskatoon can receive $ 600 a month for shelter and utilities, and $ 315 a month for food and other expenses – however the amount each person receives is determined on a case-by-case basis. Basically and the person’s circumstances are reviewed every month.

“When people have to use different social services and government services to meet their basic needs, when they do not have access to sustainable housing, it becomes difficult for them to make their parental appointments,” McKenzie said.

“When they go to so many different services to access what they need, it can’t be primary.”

McKenzie has a number of issues with the new system, including SIS’s policy of paying rent to recipients rather than paying landlords directly.

In the 2022 budget, the government increased basic benefits to $ 30 per month and shelter benefits to $ 25 per month.

In November, the province launched a program to pay rent and utilities directly with high-demand customers.

However, McKenzie said people in the project continue to struggle. He said spending more money on stabilizing people for social assistance would pay off in the long run.

“Adequate social assistance rates are less expensive than syphilis and HIV treatment,” he said.

“But it should not even be an economic question. If people are to meet their basic needs for access to prenatal care, we must provide it.”

Jeff Redigop, managing director of income assistance services at the provincial Ministry of Social Services, told the CBC that Saskatchewan was one of Canada’s leading providers in providing uniform income ratios for the basic needs of the population. Better than fees in other provinces.

“Since the launch of the Saskatchewan Income Assistance Program two years ago, it has enabled thousands of individuals and families to be more self-sufficient and independent of their abilities as our employees work with them to meet their lives,” Redekop said.

“Benefits go beyond the basic and shelter rates for adults to address clients’ personal needs, and increased income deductions ensure families keep more of what they do when they switch to employment.”