Know your status. That’s the theme of this year’s Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Grande Prairie. As part of that week, the Northern Indigenous Health Alliance will be holding on-site AIDS testing next Monday.
Grande Prairie Friendship Centre Cultural Navigator Natascha Okimaw says the last Canadian stats she has from 2015/2016, shows that there has been a 29 per cent increase in the number of cases of HIV and AIDS in the Indigenous community.
“We are one of the smallest populations in Canada but yet we are overrepresented when it comes to the amount of cases of infections.”
AIDS is an advanced form of HIV which is a virus that attacks cells in the immune system. If left untreated it can weaken the immune system so much it is no longer able to defend itself. HIV can be contracted through things like unsafe sex and sharing needles.
While the event is targeted towards the Indigenous community, Okimaw says everyone can and should get tested.
“Part of the idea is to help remove the stigma and discrimination that prohibits access to culturally safe treatments and support. Indigenous people are labelled at risk but being Indigenous is not a risk factor. Everyone’s at risk of contracting HIV.”
Along with the on-site testing done from 10 to 3, there will also be a presentation and a full dinner starting at 4. The full event will be held at the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre on December 3rd.
Author: EMMA MASON