We are the Medicine – HIV ‘Lived Experience’ as the Home-fire

By Doris Peltier & Trevor Stratton
APHA Liaison(s) – CAAN – May 2016

Have you ever wondered what goes in inside the CAAN Aboriginal People who live with HIV and AIDS (APHA) National Caucus? The best answer we can give you is likely encapsulated in this one word – LEADERSHIP. And so, this article will focus on the leaders who work hard behind the scenes. When APHAs attend our national caucus, generally, they come for answers, they come to connect with peers, they come with emerging issues, they come to be engaged, they come to learn about living with HIV, and more importantly they come with their voice and their lived experience. Usually, upwards of 25 APHAs are in attendance, and it can get quite lively in the caucus, but always respectful, it is very much like a family coming together, which it is.

Generally, leading up to the caucus, both APHA Liaisons work with the APHA Leadership Standing Committee (ALSC) to develop a two day agenda; this important work usually starts 3 months prior to the actual caucus. We should mention that the ALSC is comprised of APHAs who volunteer their time to this standing committee, and it needs to be noted that they come from different regions across the country and are a very dedicated group of people. In the last two years, the terms of reference was updated and the ALSC is now moving forward in staggered two year terms. A canoe or boat always needs a rudder, hence, the leadership body is co-chaired by the two members at large’ on the CAAN Board of Directors; it is also important to note that the two ‘members at large’ are elected onto the board from within the caucus to provide that important and direct link to the CAAN board.

APHA-cover-72dpiAfter two years of hard work, and under the leadership of the ALSC, we are happy to announce that the CAAN APHA Welcome Guide: Our Home Fire has been completed! This document can be viewed as both a leadership document, and as a guide in how to conduct business respectfully within our caucus. It is a document that is used to orient everyone on where the caucus is positioned within the organization, as the core and as the central home fire within the organization.

The Welcome Guide acknowledges all leadership within the caucus, premised on the understanding, that as a caucus, we are all leaders and that we each have a role. It is also important to highlight that we have adopted indigenous protocols that acknowledges that we are ceremony when we gather. In 2013, the caucus discussed developing protocols grounded in Indigenous values and principles. Our process also recognized that protocols are critical to establishing positive and respectful relationships when conducting the business of the caucus.

In the last three years, much discussion has taken place about the broadened mandate of CAAN, some of the discussion centered on how HIV stigma and discrimination is still very much a reality in the lives of APHAs, and that the stigma experienced is greater to a greater extent. It was the consensus of the caucus that CAAN continue to protect the privacy of APHAs by maintaining the APHA Caucus as a leadership body within CAAN, and that CAAN approach the broadened mandate through an HIV lens.

In closing, this is the last newsletter article coming from us, as we leave our roles as APHA Liaisons. Good leadership is about working alongside budding leaders and old leaders, to establish a strong foundation, and then passing on the baton that allows for an infusion of new ideas and new leadership. It has been an honor, a wonderful adventure and experience in nation-building for us, with Doris being in this role for eight years, and Trevor being here since the position was created, for much longer than eight years!!! Miigwech, from both of us.

Filed Under: Summer 2016 Newsletter

About the Author: Brought to you by the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN).

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