Health professionals continue to try to reduce the rate of HIV in Saskatchewan, as the province promotes World AIDS Day.

A flag promoting AIDS awareness was raised outside the legislative building during World AIDS day on Friday morning.

In 2015, Saskatchewan had the highest HIV diagnosis rate in the country, which makes world AIDS day all the more important in the province.

"What we need to do is raise awareness, education and this empowerment among people to come forward and get tested...know your status,” said Dr. Ibrahim Khan, Saskatchewan medical health officer, during an interview on Friday.

Rates of people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS have historically been high in Saskatchewan. In 2016, the number of people newly diagnosed increased by 170 cases, up from 160 in 2015, and 112 the year before.

The numbers in the Indigenous community are alarmingly high, making up 79 per cent of those who are newly diagnosed.

"As we begin to move forward, Canada has to understand that we need to have more resources here in this province to deal effectively with what we're seeing among the Indigenous populations,” said Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis/ CEO, All Nations Hope, during an interview on Friday.

World AIDS Day 2017 happened to fall around the beginning of Aboriginal Aids Awareness Week in Saskatchewan. The hope is to help break down barriers and end the stigma, starting at the community level.

"This is where it begins ... community work. We have to be able to bring the services to people. To make sure people know where to find help,” said Lincoln Brown, Student, Bachelor of Health Studies, University of Regina, during an interview on Friday.

According to Dr. Khan, Health Canada invested $3.2 million for HIV programming within Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. Coverage for HIV medication was $11 million. 

"Irrespective of where you live...if you live in Saskatoon, or Kenaston, or any first nations community...your HIV medication will be covered,” said Dr. Khan.

The goal is to help more and more people with HIV in Saskatchewan to manage the condition with medication.

“So gone are the days when people used to call hiv the death sentense. It has become a chronic disease, but the good thing is that treatment is so effective that you can live as healthy as anybody else,” said Dr. Khan.

Dr. Khan says the HIV numbers in remote communities are staggering, but Health Canada is working to get more testing sites to get the services they so desperately need.

With notes from Jessica Smith