Episode 13 - AIDS Saskatoon
Jason Mercredi is the Executive Director for AIDS Saskatoon. He has gained extensive knowledge from the front line and an advocate for Harm Reduction. He urges for a safe injection site in Saskatoon, as well as safe smoking supplies.
For over a decade, Saskatchewan has had the highest HIV rates; mainly from intravenous drug use. AIDS Saskatoon is an outreach center with support workers. It provides a safe place for people with HIV or Hepatitis C to receive testing and support in a welcoming environment. AIDS Saskatoon has been operating a needle exchange program for 10 years, with over 100,000 clean needles given out a year.
Jason truly values the importance of the relationships with his clients and meeting them where they are at.
In this episode Jason and Matt speak at length about AIDS Saskatoon and what attitudes and supports they provide. They cover topics around stigma, prevention, HIV rapid testing, the “Wrap it Up” Indigenous condom initiative, and the cost effectiveness of Harm Reduction.
-Jason gives details about the HIV centre in Saskatoon, what they provide and their beliefs, such as the importance of building trusting relationships with the clients. He talks about the importance of not giving up on clients if they act out, as well as the benefits of hiring peers. The centre offers a safe, welcoming place without judgment; clients can come eat, or have a coffee. They can also get info about using drugs safely and can get testing for HIV or Hep C when the client is ready.
-AIDS Saskatoon has 350-400 clients that are HIV+ but also clients that have Hepatitis C. HIV rates are 3 x’s the National average in Saskatchewan. Contrary to popular belief, the gay community is the least of the HIV rate. Highest risk is injection use, next is from Heterosexual sex.
- Jason speaks about AIDS Saskatoon working towards deregulation of HIV rapid testing, and how it would eliminate barriers. Similar to a diabetic test, a blood sample would reveal the results in less than a minute.
-Jason discusses National HIV testing day, and partnering with Canadian AIDS society, and success of National testing day.
-Jason talks about partnering with Saskatoon Sexual Health, developing ‘’Wrap it Up’’, providing 100,000 condoms in Cree, Dené for the for the Northern Indigenous population.
-Jason says that they want to see safe injections sites in Saskatoon, the benefits of safe consumptions sites and access to safe pipes.
-Jason and Matt talk about Harm reduction, what works and what doesn't. Forcing people into treatment may seem like the right choice but it is actually counter productive, and may cause more harm.
-Jason and Matt talk about the struggles of explaining to the community that financially investing a small amount into harm reduction can have a huge impact, and overall save more money in the long run.
-Jason explains why it's cheaper to give a person a Naloxone kit and how it actually saves countless dollars long term. A Naloxone kit costs $40, which is a fairly small price - compared to thousands of dollars spent on ambulance, hospital and funeral costs.
-Saskatchewan became the 2nd province to have Universal HIV and Hepatitis C medication coverage.
-Jason and Matt discuss having conversations with people who disagree with harm reduction in a way that doesn’t create more conflict.
“We need to save lives, because dead people can’t recover.”
“One prevention of HIV saves you over a million dollars a year.”
“We need to be able to provide an environment that’s welcoming, that’s relationship based, and where people can use in safe way so that we can engage them in care if they want to be.”
“If your goal is to get a behavioral change out of somebody, you’re coming into that relationship with an agenda. That’s not an authentic relationship.”
“We’re not gonna quit on them (the clients), just because they’re having a bad day.’’
“You started talking to them about the dollars that its costing to keep things the way they (currently) are, then you realize their conversation isn't about dollars - it's about morals. They're just masquerading it with dollars”
“If you're a true harm reductionist; why aren’t you meeting that person where they’re at?”
AIDS Saskatoon Website: www.aidssaskatoon.ca
Official Say Know homepage: http://www.sayknow.org/
Canadian Research Initiative of Substance Misuse (CRISM) Prairies website: https://crismprairies.ca/
SayKnow.org Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sayknoworg
SayKnow.org Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/SayKnowOrg
Music provided by Redbull DJ Champ, Charly Hustle: http://www.charlyhustlemusic.com