The Saskatchewan Health Authority says there are HIV and syphilis outbreaks in several communities in northwest Saskatchewan.

An HIV outbreak has been declared in North Battleford. The health authority says the disease is being spread mainly through people injecting drugs and sharing needles. HIV can also be spread through unprotected sex.

The SHA has also declared an outbreak of syphilis in the Battlefords and Lloydminster areas. The sexually transmitted infection is spread by person-to-person contact with a syphilis sore.

According to the SHA, an outbreak is declared when there are more cases than expected in an area or group of people. There have been 15 new HIV cases reported in North Battleford between January and May 2019. There were an average of four new cases per year in the area between 2013 and 2019.

The health authority also says there have been 42 cases of syphilis in the Battlefords and Lloydminster over the past five months. There are usually fewer than seven new cases each year.

“We want the public to be aware of the risks associated with these infections, and how they can be prevented and treated,” Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, Medical Health Area Lead North with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said in a news release. “HIV and syphilis are treatable diseases. It is important that individuals who are sexually active know their own status for HIV and syphilis. Knowing your status means that treatment can be provided and individuals can be helped to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.”

Many people who have STIs like syphilis and HIV don’t have any symptoms. Testing for these infections is free and confidential. Testing can be done by a physician, nurse practitioner or at a walk-in or sexual health clinic.