HIV/AIDS care home to bring hope to city's patients

NEWS TALK 650 CKOM, September 19, 2015- Saskatchewan HIV/AIDS patients will soon have a new place to get the care they need.

The province's first care home will open up a 10-bed house in Saskatoon in November. The home will provide health care, social services and housing to those who are sick, but don't need a hospital bed.

Sanctum, the non-profit heading the project, is using the former Grey Nuns' residence behind St. Paul's Hospital. The home has the exact number of rooms the group needs, with the added bonus of several bathrooms, a wide open and bright common room, and a sink and mirror in nearly every room.

"It's almost too good to be true really. It couldn't have been more perfect. Even the number of rooms. Everything about this, it couldn't have been more perfect," Sanctum co-found and executive director Katelyn Roberts said.

Many of Saskatoon's HIV patients also use intravenous drugs and live on the streets.

The  facility will also fill the current gap in the system for HIV/AIDS patients who need health care, but because they may lack stable housing, can't manage their disease, Roberts said.

Sanctum co-founder Morris Markentin said the home will have a dramatic impact on the lives of patients.

"The research shows that if you're diagnosed with HIV and homeless without support, that your life expectancy is five years, but with treatment and housing, you can actually live a normal lifespan," he said.

The project began two years ago and has since brought in the help of the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) and St. Paul's Hospital. SHR provided $850,000 for Sanctum's first year of operating the house while St. Paul's donated the building.

Volunteers began renovating the house in August. Over the weekend they built a new yard fence and removed everything inside so new floors could be installed.

The event was open to anyone because Sanctum also wants to dispel the stigma surrounding HIV and create an open community space, Markentin said.

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of HIV in Canada with 11.5 cases for 100,000 in 2013, double the national average. Markentin hopes the new home means a diagnosis does not become a death sentence.

"Instead of having someone dying of AIDS, they will transition into someone living with HIV," he said.

Link to Story