News / Winnipeg

Indigenous response to HIV: Local groups plan awareness event

Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week spurs conversations in Winnipeg

A HIV-positive person from the Support and Care Centre of the Sumanahalli Society prepares 'red ribbons' on the eve of World Aids Day in Bangalore on November 30, 2015.

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A HIV-positive person from the Support and Care Centre of the Sumanahalli Society prepares 'red ribbons' on the eve of World Aids Day in Bangalore on November 30, 2015.

Several indigenous groups have gotten together to organize a Winnipeg event for Aboriginal AIDs Awareness Week that will include discussions, art and indigenous healing ceremonies.

Laverne Gervais of Ka Ni Kanichihk said HIV has been portrayed as a men’s illness, so there’s a lack of resources geared towards women.

“HIV doesn’t care what gender you are,” Gervais said.

Indigenous Gender Based Responses to HIV & Hep C—organized by Ka Ni Kanichihk, Two Spirited People of Manitoba, Sisters of Fire, and Canadian Aboriginal Awareness Network (CAAN)—is designed to highlight that the virus can infect anyone.

“There’s going to be a panel of speakers all speaking from their perspective of either male, female, trans female,” Gervais said.

According to the CAAN, 38 per cent of new patients in the Manitoba HIV Program were Aboriginal in 2010.

Albert McLeod, the co-director of Two Spirited People of Manitoba, pointed out that about 15 per cent of Canada’s indigenous population lives in Manitoba, making the issue particularly important here.

“It’s important to highlight as an issue in the community as well as address some of the fear and stigma,” McLeod said.

Gervais said many services don’t address social issues that reflect indigenous lives and with particularly high rates in the community, they want to put some focus on it so they can look at solutions.

“There’s fears around getting tested. There’s a lack of resources for proper testing to happen and support people to get tested,” Gervais said.

This event is focusing on healing with indigenous methods, including a sweat lodge, cedar bath and jingle dress dance.

“We know the importance of including those ceremonies,” Gervais said.

If you're planning to go to the event:

-It starts at 2:30 p.m. with a pipe ceremony at Thunderbird House.

-After a 4:30 p.m. feast, there will be healing activities including a sweat lodge and art.

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