Why do First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada carry such an unfair burden of hepatitis C in Canada? It is estimated that hepatitis C among Indigenous people is five-times higher than non-Indigenous Canadians. In particular, Indigenous women represent almost half of all hepatitis C cases in their communities, a much higher proportion than among the non-Indigenous Canadian population. Young Indigenous people (24 years and under) represent 70% to 80% of hepatitis C infections among people who inject drugs in Canada.
L’an dernier, le rassemblement annuel du Réseau canadien autochtone du sida (RCAS) avait pour thème « Transformer les approches holistiques en santé autochtone ».
Ce rassemblement de personnes des Premières Nations, Métis et Inuit combine une réunion d’affaires, une rencontre de personnes autochtones vivant avec le VIH et la conférence « Pratiques sages » sur la recherche.
Mais surtout, c’est un rassemblement de collègues qui sont devenus des amis, de clients qui sont devenus des pairs, de personnes vivant avec le VIH qui sont devenues des leaders communautaires, et de membres d’une grande famille. Des Aînés y accueillent les participants sur leurs terres ancestrales et des enfants sont également présents – les plus jeunes jouent entre eux et les plus âgés apprennent et participent avec leurs mères.
Lack of access to HIV treatment and care among other complex factors contributes to these alarming rates: in many rural or remote areas, HIV-specific services are simply not available, or the small size of the community creates concerns around confidentiality for those accessing care. Indigenous people in Canada — many of whom are surviving a legacy of colonization and the intergenerational effects of residential schools — continue to experience systemic discrimination and extremely high rates of incarceration. In this context, the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure may be perceived as yet another form of institutionalized violence and discrimination, amplifying the negative impact of the HIV epidemic on Indigenous communities.
By Sarah Flicker and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network
Taking Action II is a community-based action research project about building and supporting Indigenous youth leadership in the HIV/AIDS movement. We are a group of Indigenous youth leaders, Indigenous community-based organizations and university-based researchers. We wanted to create awareness around HIV, sexual health, and decolonization in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities across Turtle Island (also known as Canada).
In Taking Action I, we worked with over 100 youth in six Indigenous communities across Canada to make art about the links between HIV and colonization. We did this as a way of broadening the conversations about HIV – to move away from the individual shame-and-blame discourse. We wanted to help communities understand and respond back to all the structural factors that have conspired to make them vulnerable to HIV: racism, poverty, land theft, residential schools, loss of language/culture, epidemics of addiction, the Sixties Scoop (the practice of taking Indigenous children and placing them in foster homes beginning in the 1960s) and ongoing child welfare involvement, incarceration, etc. Youth created a lot of amazing art that took up these themes. They loved our workshops and asked for more opportunities to get together with youth from other communities.