Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week

Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week Activity Guide

Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, which is scheduled every year from December 1 to December 5 beginning on World AIDS Day – December 1, is an opportunity to:

  • Increase awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
  • Establish ongoing prevention and education programs in Aboriginal communities.
  • Address common attitudes that may interfere with prevention, care and treatment activities.
  • Reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.

This activity guide is intended as a resource to help you and your community think about what HIV/AIDS awareness activities you might plan for Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week as well as throughout the year. 

We cannot pretend HIV doesn’t exist in our communities – it does!

Every First Nation, Inuit and Métis community is affected by HIV/AIDS. Knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS is one way to address and respond to the fear, shame and stigma that contributes to each new infection. It is important to raise awareness about this preventable disease and for all Aboriginal people to have the knowledge to make a difference and be leaders in their own communities. 

Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week Activities – Just a Beginning

Every year, between December 1 and December 5, you have an opportunity to begin a dialogue about HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) among people in your community – especially among the young men and women who may be at greatest risk of infection.

It is an ideal time to begin to raise knowledge about HIV – what the virus is, how it is spread, the importance of knowing how to prevent infection and regular testing, and how the virus is best treated.   Or perhaps it is an ideal time for your community to remember your friends, family and community members who may have lost their brave struggle against HIV and died as a result of (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) or AIDS-related illnesses.

Or perhaps it is an ideal time to sit with community Elders and leaders to begin the necessary dialogue about what is needed to educate your community’s young people or how best to reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, or how to best support and care for Aboriginal People Living with HIV/AIDS (APHA) from your community.

But remember, the activities which you may have started during Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week need to continue throughout the year whenever there is an opportunity to raise awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS. 

Getting Started

This is your opportunity to make a difference in how your community responds to HIV/AIDS risks and realities locally. Be proud that you have chosen to use Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week to take the first step. Here is a simple check-list to help make sure your activity, personal project or planned program gets off to a good start.

1.      Do you know what you would like to achieve with your project?

  • I want to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
  • I want to share knowledge about preventing infection.
  • I want to remember friends who have died.
  • I want to encourage our community to do more.
  • I want to reduce stigma and discrimination in my community.

2. Who are you hoping will participate in your project or attend your activity?

  • Everyone in the community.
  • Our community’s young women and men.
  • Elders and community leaders.
  • My students.
  • Media.

3. Have you told them? Invited them?

  • Informed them personally.
  • Emailed them.
  • Put up posters or notices.
  • Made it part of their school course.
  • Mailed them a notice or invitation.

4. Do you have the information, resources and support you need?

  • Yes, I have done some research and have spoken with our community’s health representative.
  • Yes, I have checked with a member from CAAN in our community and they will help me.
  • Yes, I downloaded more of the posters and fact sheets from CAAN’s web site and have them ready for my students.
  • Yes, I have invited a health expert to speak to our community leaders and Elders about doing more.
  • Yes, I am working with the local AIDS Service Organization and the Friendship centre.

 Opportunities to Inform, to Discuss and to Take Action

 Traditional Activities – Aboriginal communities often have regular or traditional gatherings where you may be able to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS by distributing information, setting up a display or information table, or preparing a presentation or discussion.

 These may include:

  •  Community Feasts or Dances
  • Women’s Gatherings
  • Community Meetings

 HIV and AIDS-Specific Activities

You may choose to organize a specific activity where the main focus is on raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. You may want to get help from one of CAAN’s member organization close to your community or a local AIDS service organization or community’s health office to help in sharing more technical information, like what HIV does to cells in the body, and different treatment options, for example. It is important to remember that it is better to answer a question with ‘I don’t know’ than to provide inaccurate information – you can document ‘unanswered’ questions and publish the answers to these questions on a website, in a community paper, or in a information poster as one way of addressing ‘knowledge gaps’.

Activities may include:

  • An open house at a local AIDS service organization;
  • An HIV Resource and Information table or display at local events;
  • An HIV/AIDS Awareness fair and/or panel discussion;
  • Community toll booth – where you can collect change to host other AIDS Awareness activities, and hand out HIV/AIDS awareness information; and/or
  • A Candle Light Vigil or Memorial Service for people who have passed on.

 Youth and School Activities – As a concerned teacher or student, you may wish to raise awareness about HIV,   discuss important HIV prevention practices or address HIV/ AIDS stigma and discrimination in art, drama, video arts, or writing classes.

These may include:

  • A Youth-Only Dialogue about Safer Sex and HIV-Prevention
  • An HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination Art, Video or Writing Assignment.
  • Organizing guest speakers for the school during Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week.

 Media Activities – You would like to share how your com- munity reduced HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, or invite the community to an event or simply do you part to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS through your local media.

These may include:

  • Write a public service announcement, a community HIV/AIDS Success Story or a personal story for your community newsletter, or for the local newspaper or radio station
  • Invite Aboriginal or local media to attend your Activity

Need Additional Help

In addition to this activity guide, you may request additional support, resources or advice from the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) or from one of CAAN’s member organizations or individuals located across the country.

To contact CAAN or to reach one of its members,

Phone:  1.604.266.7616

Internet:  www.caan.ca

email:  info@caan.ca

CAAN is currently under construction. Please check back soon for updates.