Toronto, ON (Dec 1, 2016) --- World AIDS Day is a day dedicated to commemorate those who have passed on and to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and the global spread of the HIV virus, particularly within the Indigenous communities.
“This week is an opportunity for reflection on what we still must achieve in terms of lowering Indigenous peoples over-representation in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Canada. The rates of new infections for HIV in Indigenous peoples are 2.7 times higher than other Canadians and this must stop,” said Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, who oversees the AFN's national health portfolio. “A sad reality is the fact that HIV rates on reserve in Saskatchewan are 11 times the Canadian average, and higher than in some Third World countries. The Ontario HIV Treatment Network reports that HIV infection rates among Indigenous peoples in Ontario is 1.7 times higher than the general population, although there may be under-reporting of those who have not yet been diagnosed in remote and northern communities.”
First Nation overrepresentation in the epidemic is linked to the social detriments of failing health and poverty in First Nation communities which are a direct result of Canada failing to honour the Treaties. These are systemic facilitators where First Nations people are the victims once again of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases such as Tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections.
Most recently, several HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C community organizations historically funded by the federal government through the Public Health Agency of Canada were informed that their proposals had been rejected or cut back just six months before their funding was to run out. This will impact the sustainability of the organizations and their ability to continue their work.
Trevor Stratton, a member of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, who has been living with HIV since 1990 and a strong advocate on behalf of First Nations in Canada is Vice-President of the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE).
“We applaud activists like Mr. Stratton who are working to raise awareness, as well as much needed funds, to not only educate our people, but to provide much needed treatment to those living with HIV,” Regional Chief Day said.
UNAIDS has put out an urgent call for front-load funding so that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression in order to end the epidemic by 2030. This is why the federal government has pledged $804 million to international efforts on AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; yet within Canada, CAAN and other HIV service organizations have had their federal funding drastically cut or completely discontinued all across the country.
“We need Canada to increase funding, not claw back funds as communicable diseases run a tragic wake through our communities. This is an epidemic and has been for decades under-funded, we require equitable funding to do this important work for the future of our communities” said Regional Chief Day.