Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week

By Chantelle Archambault, November 30th, 2017 in

Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week takes place during the week leading up to World AIDS Day on December 1. The aim of this week is to provide information, education, and prevention around HIV/AIDS.

Despite laws protecting their rights, people living with HIV/AIDS still face all forms of discrimination. Many people living with HIV face stigma and isolation due to misinformation about the condition, which is now treatable, manageable, and completely different than it was in the 1980s.

In honour of Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, PHAN staff members have highlighted some key issues about HIV in a Canadian context. Rouguy Balde discusses the effect of HIV on black women; Rajnish Sharma notes the importance of PrEP; and Adam Chalcraft draws a link between the 1980s AIDS crisis and the current overdose crisis.

Rouguy Balde, ACB Health Promotion Coordinator: HIV and Black Women

Rouguy Balde ACB Health Promotion Coordinator

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, “My Health, My Right”, embodies the universal human right to the highest attainable standard of confidential health care without discrimination.

Social norms often hinder African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) women from fully benefitting from their right to sexual health care. Gender inequality, discrimination, and racism play a large role in limiting the accessibility of health care for ACB women, making them more vulnerable to HIV. As such, ACB women currently represent the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in Ontario.

In response to the lack of access and systemic silencing of ACB women, PHAN developed the Young Black Women’s Project. The project aims to provide a safe space for the young black women to connect and learn about topics like sex and relationships, mental health, and leadership. An anthology of works from the participants of this project will soon be published to amplify the voices of young black women in Peel.

Rajnish Sharma, Women’s Community Development Coordinator: PrEP

Rajnish Sharma Womens Community Development Coordinator

PrEP is a drug taken by HIV-negative people to prevent HIV. It is taken once a day consistently before exposure to HIV. PrEP offers HIV-negative people a proactive way to prevent HIV transmission.

Anyone can take PrEP, regardless of birth-assigned sex, gender, or sexual orientation. However, there are specific considerations to be taken for cis and trans women interested in taking PrEP. It is important to talk to health care providers to help with your decision making.

There is coverage for PrEP through the Ontario Drug Benefit program and for First Nations and Inuit people (with status) through the federal non-insured health benefits program.

Adam Chalcraft, Harm Reduction Coordinator: The Overdose Crisis

Adam Chalcraft Harm Reduction Coordinator

The current overdose crisis is deeply affecting our community much like the AIDS crisis did, and the Federal Minister of Health has stated that the number of overdose deaths has exceeded the number of deaths during the height of the AIDS crisis. Much like during the AIDS crisis, the immediate response to the overdose crisis has been based on stigma rather than facts.

It is essential that we address the growing number of overdose-related deaths with prompt, practical, evidence-based interventions such as overdose prevention sites. As an extension of our current work with harm reduction, PHAN is advocating around issues relating to substance use to reduce drug-related harm.