World Aids day presentations focussed on importance of testing

Reseau Access Network RN Heather Jennings and two other reps talk AIDS testing with students.

MANITOULIN—Many people who have HIV are not aware they have it, which makes public education on the disease/virus vitally important.

“One in five people have HIV and don’t know they have it,” stated Heather Jennings, a registered nurse and outreach testing nurse with Reseau Access Network (RAN) who, along with two other representatives with RAN helped with presentations made in M’Chigeeng and Sheshegwaning First Nations on World Aids Day December 1.

“One of the biggest things we wanted to bring out is the importance of testing for HIV,” said Ms. Jennings. She explained RAN had been invited to Kenjgewin Teg in M’Chigeeng First Nation and the Sheshegwaning First Nation on World Aids Day. At the session held at Kenjgewin Teg in M’Chigeeng they joined with the M’Chigeeng Health Centre and community health nurses in attendance. In Sheshegwaning Lance Panamick planned the evening including holding a community meal.

“Our first stop was at Kenjgewin Teg where we went in and provided educational brochures, and swag,” said Ms. Jennings. “We were very happy to visit the Island to provide information on HIV and AIDS, and to promote the use of self-testing kits. At M’Chigeeng we met with students to provide them with information and to show them how to use the self-testing kits.” A similar presentation was made in Sheshegwaning.

An HIV self-test (or rapid self-test) is an antibody test that can be used at home or in a private location. With an HIV self-test, you can get your test results within 20 minutes.

“That is why we visited the Island, it is underserved for this type of information, and we were happy to provide this educational information on HIV,” said Ms. Jennings. “We were very well received in both communities. Sharing this information is the important thing.”

“There are different tests available for people to test for HIV,” said Ms. Jennings. “And to bridge the gap we will go into communities to offer screening and testing.”

“The self-testing kits are new, they only came out three weeks ago,” said Ms. Jennings. “There are a number of other ways to get self-test kits, if you access Insti.com, online, you can have a test sent to you, and there are also pick-up spots for getting self tests, like Getakit.ca and Ready to Know.

“Testing for HIV is the best way to know if you have it,” added Ms. Jennings.