HOW DOES HIV AND AIDS AFFECT ABORIGINAL PEOPLES IN NORTHERN TERRITORIES?
Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory
- In general, Aboriginal people experienced HIV at rates about 3.6 times higher than other Canadians in 2008. (1)
- Less than 3% of the First Nations population lives in the North, primarily in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon; and 1% of the Métis population lives in the Territories. (2)
- There are 50 Inuit communities that span a vast area of Northern Canada.
- 78% of the total Inuit population in Canada resided in one of these four regions in 2006: Nunavut (49%), Nunavik (19%), Inuvialuit (6%), and Nunatsiavut (4%).
- Between 1996 to 2006 the number of Inuit people living in urban areas outside the Inuit regions increased by 60%.
- In 2006, about 17% of the total Inuit population lived in Ottawa-Gatineau, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Montreal and Winnipeg. (3)
- HIV/AIDS numbers among Aboriginals in the North appears low because of the smaller population as compared to the rest of Canada and the limited data available. (4)
High rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the North, among other factors, suggest HIV rates will increase in the future
The levels of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in general are exceedingly high compared to the Canadian average. For example:
- Chlamydia is reported at 3-17 times the national average in the North; and,
- The North has the highest rates of Gonorrhea in Canada at 18 times the national average in the Northwest Territories and 30 times the national average in Nunavut.
These high and increasing rates of STIs, “along with limited access to healthcare, remoteness of communities, harsh climate and other factors, are raising concerns that, without changes, the rates of HIV infection in the North will increase dramatically in the future.” (5)
The Aboriginal population is more vulnerable to contracting HIV and AIDS because of unique factors and social determinants of health
A person’s vulnerability [to HIV infection] increases or decreases based on:
- access to stable housing,
- early childhood development (e.g. history of child abuse),
- physical environments (e.g. geographically isolated communities, prison environments),
- access to health services,
- support networks and social environments (e.g. homophobia, HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination),
- a history of sexual violence, and,
- for this [Aboriginal] population in particular, face racism and the multigenerational effects of colonialism and the residential school system. (6)
(1) Public Health Agency of Canada, Population-Specific HIV/AIDS Status Report: Aboriginal Peoples, 2008 at 19, [PHAC].
(2) PHAC at 4 to 5.
(4) Canadian Institutes of Health Research, retrieved at: http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/43766.html on October 20, 2011, [CIHR].
(6) PHAC at vii.