Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that breaks down the immune system. It can be transmitted by blood and other bodily fluids. Ways of transmission include but are not limited to unprotected sexual activities and sharing needles. HIV, if not treated, will eventually develop into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a terminal disease that often results in death because it shuts down the immune system completely. There is no cure for HIV but it is preventable.
HIV/AIDS is a growing problem in Aboriginal communities. The National Aboriginal HIV and AIDS Toolkit will be focusing on the following four target populations; Aboriginal women, Aboriginal Youth, Men who have sex with men, and People who are incarcerated or who were incarcerated.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Aboriginal people are overrepresented in the HIV epidemic in Canada. Between 1979 and December 31, 2008, there have been 21,300 AIDS cases reported to the Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control (CCDIC), of which 16,824 (79%) included information on ethnicity. Of these 16,824 cases, 690 were reported to be Aboriginal people (4.1%).Yet, according to Census Canada (2006), Aboriginal people only make up 3.8% of the population.
In 2008, PHAC surveillance data demonstrated that Aboriginal people make up a growing percentage of positive HIV test reports and reported AIDS cases, with injecting drug use (IDU) being a key mode of transmission in the Aboriginal community. IDU accounts for more HIV infections and AIDS cases among Aboriginal women than Aboriginal men. Between 1998 and the end of 2006, IDU was the exposure category for 53.7% of HIV-positive test reports among Aboriginal men and 64.4% of HIV-positive test reports among Aboriginal women. In reported AIDS cases among Aboriginal people between November 1979 and the end of 2006, injection drug use was the exposure category for 62.3% of reported AIDS cases among Aboriginal women and 32.1% of reported AIDS cases among Aboriginal men.
This draws attention to the need for community based culturally appropriate interventions to reduce the spread of new infections. It is essential that as members of these communities that we are prepared. Being prepared includes having the tools on hand to respond to the needs of our people. CAAN believes that education is the key to building HIV and AIDS awareness. Therefore, when developing this Toolkit, is actively partnering with organizations across the country to help gather resources to help you reach the target populations who are at highest risk.
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