Halifax, NS – The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), is proud to prepare for the first virtual Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week (AAAW).
Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week occurs each year from December 1 to December 7, beginning on World AIDS Day on December 1. AAAW increases awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS, including establishing ongoing prevention and education programs in Indigenous communities, and addressing attitudes that interfere with prevention, care and treatment.
This year’s AAAW theme is Shared Responsibility: Connecting relationships, culture, and health. Under this theme, CAAN will share knowledge about culture and health with other Indigenous community members and relevant stakeholders in order to reduce stigmas surrounding HIV and to work towards bettering the lives of those living with HIV.
“Stigma related to HIV is still very prevalent in Canada, and we know that stigma generates more harm and prevents us from reducing the impacts of HIV/AIDS impacts,” stated Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis, CEO of CAAN. “We cannot pretend HIV doesn’t exist in our communities – it does, and it is more prevalent in Indigenous communities when compared to the rest of Canada.”
This year’s AAAW is different than most, with all events and awareness campaigns being hosted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and gathering restrictions. CAAN will host a series of virtual events throughout the week addressing different issues relevant to HIV in Indigenous communities including sessions on youth leadership, Indigenous research in HIV, and harm reduction; such as, Keynote speakers Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada; Carrie Bourassa, Scientific Director, the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health; Clement Chartier, President, Métis National Council; Dr. Alexandra King, Nipissing First Nation, Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health and Wellness, University of Saskatchewan; Dr. Randy Jackson, Professor, McMaster University, and co-Director, FEAST Centre; Dr. Albert McLeod, Knowledge Keeper and Director, Two-Spirited People of Manitoba Inc.; Rick Kotowich, Educator, Advisor and ‘Knowledge Keeper’, CAAN’s AHA Research Centre; and Dr. Jack Janvier, Infectious Disease Specialist, Alberta Health Authority and Faculty at the University of Calgary.
“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities are also struggling with rises in HIV cases, we need to not forget about this significant disease during this time”, added Renee Masching, Director of Research at CAAN. “Knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS are one way to address and respond to the fear, shame and stigma that contribute to each new infection.”
During AAAW and all year round, CAAN seeks to raise awareness about HIV prevention and for alI Indigenous people to have the knowledge to make a difference and be inspiring leaders in their own communities.
For a full list of virtual sessions during AAAW and to register visit here.
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The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) is a non-profit organization that leads a collective response to protect the wholistic wellness of First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples impacted by HIV, hepatitis C and related diseases and issues, such as mental health, addictions and aging. Through research and programming, it informs and influences public health policy from an Indigenous worldview and advances self-determination to address health determinants with Indigenous traditions, values and knowledge.