09/20/2016 06:26 EDT

Saskatchewan's HIV Crisis Warrants A State Of Emergency, Doctors Say

Saskatchewan's last HIV strategy ended in 2014.

Doctors in Saskatchewan say it's time for the province to declare a state of emergency as more and more citizens are diagnosed with HIV.

“People are becoming ill and dying from a treatable and preventable disease … the time to act is now,” infectious disease specialist Stephen Sanche said on Monday, according to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

The province's HIV rate is twice the national average, The Globe and Mail reported.

Doctors are calling for the Saskatchewan government to cover all antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients. (Photo: Getty)

On Saskatchewan reserves, the number could be nearly eight times as high — or possibly more, as there is little testing done on many First Nations communities.

"Two people are dying every month. Over ten people are being diagnosed with a new infection every month and that's only going up. So we're really sounding the alarm," Sanche told CBC News.

Sanche is part of a group of doctors that work with HIV-positive patients. The group is not only calling for the state of emergency, but for the government to fully cover anti-retroviral medication.

"Two people are dying every month."

Saskatchewan's HIV strategy ended in 2014, but the government still provides $4 million in funding each year for testing and treatment programs.

While the strategy was in place, the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases dropped 44 per cent. Since then, numbers have risen.

Saskatchewan's ministry of health is holding a mobilization event in October to work on a multi-year approach to lowering HIV rates, a ministry spokesperson said in an emailed statement to The Huffington Post Alberta.

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