03/28/2013 03:18 EDT | Updated 05/28/2013 05:12 EDT

About half of Regina aboriginals who tested positive for HIV didn't know: study

REGINA - Almost half the people who tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS in a survey of aboriginal people in Regina didn't know they were infected.

The preliminary finding is part of a pilot study of First Nations people that looks at HIV prevention, sexual activity and drug use.

Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the survey found that of 1,045 people who gave blood samples, five per cent tested positive for the virus.

The survey was conducted between December 2011 and June 15 of last year with the help of the aboriginal community, Regina health providers and AIDS groups.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health says there were 186 HIV cases reported in the province in 2011 — an eight per cent increase compared to the previous year.

Of those cases, 81 per cent of the people were aboriginal.

Dr. Maurice Hennink, deputy medical health officer with the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region, says the study isn't just about collecting numbers.

"The information that we have ... is used to support some of the health-care services that we are providing and inform where perhaps some of those services can be expanded, improved upon, or give a better direction to some of the services," he said at a news conference Thursday.

Margaret Poitras with the All Nations Hope AIDS Network said it's a good starting point, but the aboriginal community hopes health officials will dig deeper.

"Some of those services and programs that are now available in the city of Regina are what I would say are Band-Aids which aren't very good," she said.

"We do need those services up and running in the city of Regina, but we need more deeper services that are going to deal with the trauma and conditions that are facing aboriginal people."

Darryl Caldwell is a First Nations man living with HIV who hopes something positive comes from the survey.

"Now that we see what's affecting our people let's ... address the issues and increase the funding in areas that need to be addressed."

(CKRM, The Canadian Press)