The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) has developed a theme for Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week (AAAW) for December 1 – 6, 2018 that parallels the international theme for World AIDS Day, Know Your Status.
Health For All – Know Your Status
During AAAW, Indigenous people across Canada will share lessons learned in order to build community readiness and inform culturally safe approaches to wholistic 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.
HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that Indigenous People Living with HIV and AIDs can lead healthy and productive lives. It is also crucial to achieving the 90–90–90 targets and empowering Indigenous Peoples to make choices about HIV prevention so they can protect themselves and their loved ones.
These year’s theme will raise awareness about the importance of knowing one’s status and call for addressing stigma and discrimination barriers to culturally safe access to HIV testing. AAAW will bring awareness to the issues surrounding knowing your status so that no one is left behind.
Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week 2018 will also act as a platform for CAAN to continue to lobby for an urgent review of the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund, which has left so many long-standing organizations crippled by reduced funding or no funding. CAAN is experiencing the harsh impact of a 46% funding cut from the Community Action Fund.
Testing to Know Your Status
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.
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.
Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week is an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples, researchers, and policy makers to share wise and promising practices, learn from each other and build relationships across the country. I invite you to join us through the week, as we share lessons learned in order to create community readiness and culturally safe approaches to testing, care and treatment.
Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network