REGINA -- The Government of Saskatchewan has apologized for a social media post that appeared to depict a gay couple on World AIDS Day.

The post shows a photo of two men posing with each other and a quote "HIV is on the rise in Saskatchewan" appears above them.

The post was shared on the government's official Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The post was deleted by Wednesday morning, and an apology issued.

"Yesterday in marking World AIDS Day, Government of Saskatchewan social media pages used a photo that stigmatized HIV/AIDS and those that live with the disease," the government said in a statement. "The photo has been deleted, and we unreservedly apologize."

“I don't think it portrays everybody that is fighting HIV or AIDS. I don't think that’s a clear message that we should be sending of people that are suffering from HIV and AIDS the message is that this is treatable,” Paul Merriman, Saskatchewan’s Health Minister, said.

Many on social media replied saying the post depicts the wrong message.

One Regina area MLA voiced her concern with the message the post presented.

"So, AIDS isn’t a gay disease, and Saskatchewan’s HIV rate was up 18% this year. ONE CBO in Regina exchanged 14000 needles in a single day," Aleana Young wrote. "And the government refused to fund @prairiehr. And still won’t. But yeah, let’s restigmatize gay men."

"You see how the LGBTQ community is responding to that, feeling really stigmatized by that choice,” Ryan Meili, the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, said. “We know that HIV in Saskatchewan is not simply a disease of the LGBTQ it is a disease that can effect everyone and is largely driven by poverty and addiction here in Saskatchewan.”

Saskatchewan had the highest rate of HIV in Canada in 2017. According to the province’s HIV Prevention and Control Report from 2017, 67 per cent of persons who tested positive for HIV reported injection drug use. Injection drug use is identified as the “primary risk factor” in these cases.

“The government needs to understand that were looking at epidemic numbers within the Indigenous population and within the populations of people that are actively using we need safe consumption sites in every city in this province,” Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis, the CEO Canadian Aboriginal Aid’s Network, said.

In 2019, injection drug use was the primary risk factor for HIV in the province with 67 per cent,  while heterosexual couples follow behind at 16 per cent and men who have sex with men at nine per cent.

Click here to learn more about the stigma around HIV. 

With files from CTV News Regina's Alison MacKinnon.