Canada: First Nations Women's Conference Reveals "Hidden Epidemic" of HIV
November 18, 2009
Aboriginal women of Canada are recognizing the "hidden epidemic" of HIV and AIDS in their midst.
"I'm seeing women who are leaders in our community, women who are living with this virus step up and say, 'That's enough now. We have a voice, and our voice needs to be heard,'" said Margaret Akan, head of the All Nations Hope AIDS Network.
Canada's First Nations women are meeting the challenge of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C with a mixture of traditional teaching, science and conventional public health measures. They came together recently in Saskatchewan for their third annual HIV/AIDS conference, "Women: Keepers of the Tipi."
Akan said Saskatchewan reported 174 new cases of HIV last year, a significant increase from 2007, as well as one-fourth of Canada's HIV-positive babies.
"Twenty years ago, this virus was impacting the gay population. Today, in Saskatchewan, it's impacting young aboriginal women," Akan said.
Addressing HIV/AIDS in aboriginal populations is complicated by denial, addiction, poverty, lack of education, residual effects of aboriginal residential schools, and unstable family structures, said Leona Quewezance, a member of the conference planning committee.
"I hope people will leave here feeling supported, and that people will take those feelings home to their community and share them," she said. "And maybe people can open their hearts and open their minds to those who are living positive."
11.16.2009; Jana G. Pruden
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.