The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) has developed a theme for Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week (AAAW) for December 1 – 6, 2019 that parallels the international theme for World AIDS Day:
Communities Make the Difference
Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week offers an important platform to highlight the role of Indigenous communities at a time when reduced funding and a shrinking space for civil society are putting the sustainability of services and advocacy efforts in jeopardy.
The series of nationwide events provide an important opportunity to recognize the essential role that Indigenous communities play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels. The leadership and advocacy of Indigenous communities ensure that the AIDS response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people and human rights at the centre and leaving no one behind.
During AAAW, Indigenous peoples across Canada will raise awareness about the critical role of community to inform culturally safe approaches to wholistic HIV testing, care and treatment. Wholistic means in a manner that reflects Indigenous cultures and traditional knowledge, and also the unique social, spiritual, economic and political needs of specific communities.
It will also address the barriers that stop communities from delivering essential services. We will promote ‘Communities Make the Difference” with an Indigenous approach, and do so within the context of these factors:
- Canadian government’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
- Canada’s progress towards 90/90/90 strategy and the critical role Indigenous people play in achieving that.
- Alignment with the “Strong Medicine” documentary messaging in order to bridge the way for testing to become a sacred practice.
Leading an Indigenous Response
Solutions to addressing HIV in Indigenous communities must come under the leadership of those who are most directly affected. We must be visionary leaders on the matter of HIV in Indigenous communities and be actively engaged in shaping our culturally safe, tailored responses to HIV and AIDS.
Testing to Know Your Status
This is a call for Indigenous communities to reduce the number of new HIV infections by promoting prevention, education, and testing. HIV is in our communities and our people continue to contract the virus – so we must stand up and take action! Getting tested and knowing our HIV status, so we can get early treatment to significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
Eliminating Stigma & Discrimination
Our communities must fight against discrimination and keep the circle strong by including those living with HIV and AIDS. There must be zero tolerance for gender-based violence. We must have services that do not racially discriminate against Indigenous Peoples, which often become great barriers to getting tested, accessing treatment, and supports.
Ensuring Equitable Access
HIV is no longer a death sentence and a person may live a long healthy life if they receive proper testing, care and treatment. We must push towards zero barriers to treatment for all. We must insist that increased culturally relevant support and services are provided to Indigenous peoples, so that they do not become isolated, can feel safe to get tested, and increase options and access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV; including access to traditional medicines and ceremonies.
Protecting Our Whole Community
We must address the alarming numbers of Indigenous youth and women disproportionately impacted by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Our youth are contracting HIV at a younger age than other Canadians – they are a generation at risk who most need our help. We must also eliminate transmission of HIV from mother to child, which means zero babies are born HIV positive. And we must work to address and to decrease preventable HIV transmission among people who use drugs by meeting them where they are at and utilizing what works.