“Be open with people. Talk about HIV and AIDS. Spread awareness and I think most importantly get tested. I encourage everyone to get tested. If you have sexual partners, even just one, getting tested can make all of the difference when it comes to HIV.”
Dec 1 - 7 is Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week in Canada.
Indigenous Canadians are 2.7 times more likely to get HIV compared to non-indigenous Canadians, but Alisha McKen, Outreach Coordinator with the Northern Indigenous Health Alliance says awareness efforts have made the numbers more encouraging than before.
“There’s never a limit to how much information we should be getting out there and encouraging people to access testing. When we talk about biological risk factors and social deterrents to help, I think it’s really important to look at that when we’re looking at that other communities and we’re looking at out indigenous communities, just the barriers to treatment.”
McKen says breaking the stigma around HIV and AIDS is one way people can raise more awareness for this disease. She adds it is a “very manageable” condition if it’s caught in time and treated.
At a national level, according to a report released in 2018 from the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were 2,402 new cases of HIV in Canada, this was up three per cent from the previous year. Approximately 20 per cent of those were Indigenous people, who make up nearly five per cent of the national population.