Prof wants to eliminate barriers to health care for black community

A Wilfrid Laurier University professor says a protocol is needed to guide health care professionals in their treatment of HIV in Canada's black communities.

Ciann Wilson developing protocol for those working with African, Caribbean and black communities

Ciann Wilson is an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. (Wilfrid Laurier University)

A Wilfrid Laurier University professor says a protocol is needed to guide health care professionals in their treatment of HIV in Canada's black communities.

Ciann Wilson said black patients may have their complaints or ailments dismissed, or be "spoken down to" by doctors in an "authoritative tone." 

"People avoid health care spaces because of the racism that they face, feeling that it's a really unsafe space," she said.  

Barriers to health 

Wilson said sexual health for everyone can be a "taboo subject," but it can be even more uncomfortable if a patient faces additional barriers to health care, including things like accents and skin colour.

She said Canada's Indigenous communities also face barriers in accessing services, both because they are visible minorities and because the physical communities can be isolated from centres of health care. 

"It's stigmatizing in a lot of different ways, especially when we're thinking about STI or HIV," she said. 

Solutions 

Wilson said solutions should start with acknowledging racism still exists in Canada and then recruiting practitioners of colour.

Right now, she's working with the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo Area, along with University of Toronto doctoral student Llana James, to develop a research ethics, data collection and evaluation protocol for researchers working with African, Caribbean and black communities. 

In addition, she said doctors need to practice "culturally responsive care" and understand the cultural nuances that their patients have by establishing a rapport. 

"Some of the things we can think about would be training and retaining young medical practitioners or health care providers who are from these respective communities," Wilson said.