HIV workshop educates Métis women, youth
HIV rates in remote, northern First Nation communities continue to rise, despite the downward trend of the disease globally
Posted: Jun 14, 2012 3:16 PM ET
Last Updated: Jun 15, 2012 9:00 AM ET
Organizers of a Sudbury conference say the HIV rate among First Nations people in rural northern Ontario communities is continuing to rise, and they're hoping that educating people will help slow the growing trend.
This week the Native Youth Sexual Health Network ran a three-day workshop for Métis women and youth in Sudbury to discuss the issue.
The idea came from Erin Konsmo, a Métis woman originally from Alberta, who is employed by the network.
“Really, this was a chance to get together and creatively talk about the strengths we have as Métis communities to combat some of the things that are happening [like] the high rates of HIV, but also the destruction on our lands,” Konsmo said.
Experts at the workshop say HIV rates in remote, northern communities continue to rise, despite the downward trend of the disease globally.
Stopping 'this epidemic'
Dale Xilon had her two young children in mind when attending the workshops.
“I want to be able to have the knowledge to pass on, so they stay safe, so we can stop this epidemic of HIV from spreading,” she said.
Xilon is with the Sudbury branch of the Métis Nation of Ontario.
She said it's the lack of understanding and funding that leads to high HIV rates in northern communities.
“To go to a corner store and pick up a pack of condoms, you're dealing with your auntie, you're dealing with your uncle,” Xilon said. “We need free access to resources that are anonymous.”Jessica Danforth, executive director with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, took part in a three-day workshop that focused on HIV prevention among Metis women and youth. (Hilary Duff/CBC)
As well as addressing HIV in these communities, the workshops were also about how a person's environment can influence the spread of the disease, said Jessica Danforth, executive director with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.
“We need environmental justice,” she said. “At the same time, we need reproductive justice. And when we don't have those things, sometimes HIV, for example, can be the outcome of that.”
Danforth said that, while there are services to help people with HIV in urban centres like Sudbury, these same options aren't available in smaller communities.
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