AFN Sexual Health: HIV/AIDS Canadian Attitudes on HIV and AIDS: What the latest national survey is telling us. Insights and analysis from a First Nations Perspective April, 19th, 2012, Montreal, QC Prepared by: Jessica Demeria, Sexual Health Policy Analyst
Who We Are The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the national representative organization of the First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nations communities in Canada. The AFN Secretariat, is designed to present the views of the various First Nations through their leaders in areas such as: • Aboriginal and Treaty Rights; • Economic Development; • Education, Languages and Literacy; • Health and Social Development; • Justice; • Taxation; • Land Claims; • Housing; and, • Environment.
Situating the Context of HIV/AIDS and First Nations •
Colonialism has dramatically contributed to the poor health and socioeconomic conditions in which First Nations currently reside, including the incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Colonialism is broadly defined as “the control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent country, territory, or people; the system or policy by which a nation maintains or advocates such control or influence.” Colonialism works at both the formal and informal levels to separate First Nations people from their territories, identities and ways of being.
The ongoing consequences of colonialism must be understood when working with First Nations.
Situating the Context of HIV/AIDS and First Nations (cont’d) • What the current numbers do illustrate is that there is a significant over representation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FN/I/M) among HIV and AIDS cases in Canada. • These numbers show that First Nations are highly overrepresented in the breakdown of identified AIDS cases, such that, of 605 AIDS cases: – 442 identified as First Nations; – 22 as Inuit; – 44 stated they were Métis; and, – 97 were unspecified Aboriginal.
Situating the Context of HIV/AIDS and First Nations (cont’d) • FN/I/M represent only 3.8% of the total Canadian population (2006 Census). • The estimated prevalence of HIV/AIDS among FN/I/M in 2008 was 24% higher than the original estimation in 2005. • In 2008, an estimated 4,300 to 6,100 Aboriginal people were living with HIV/AIDS; 8.0% of all prevalent infections and 12.5 % incidence for the same year. • In 2008, FN/I/M in Canada had an estimated 3.6 times higher HIV infection rate than non-Aboriginal people. 5
Situating the Context of HIV/AIDS and First Nations (cont’d) •
Aboriginal youth (15-29 years) represent 40.9% of all Canadian positive tests for this age group (Public Health Agency, 2010).
HIV/AIDS has a significant impact on Aboriginal women in particular. During 1998-2008, women represented 48.8% of all positive HIV test reports among Aboriginal people, as compared with 20.6% of reports among those of other ethnicities.
Among Aboriginal Canadians, the estimated proportion of new HIV infections in 2008 attributed to the IDU exposure category (66%) was much higher than among all Canadians (17%).
It becomes quite apparent that a distinct and unique strategy is needed to address these numbers.
Testing • In the National HIV/AIDS Survey, the main reason for testing was through blood donation but there is no ethnic data available to see if the same holds true for First Nations. • There is some limited data available surrounding First Nations youth and attitudes towards testing. The study “AIDS is Something Scary: Canadian Aboriginal Youth and Testing” (Mill, Wong, Archibald et. Al, 2011) provides some insight to the barriers that youth face. • 413 FN/I/M youth from all ten provinces and one territory participated in the mixed method study. • Just over 50% of the youth that completed the survey stated that they had been tested for HIV, while 89.2% who were interviewed had been tested at some point (Mill, 2011). 7
Testing • Some of the reasons for testing: – – – – – –
having sex without a condom (43.6%); being pregnant or thinking they were pregnant (35.4%); part of regular testing (28.9%); feeling like they were at risk (27.5%); being in a new relationship (23.7%); and, part of the sexually transmitted infections (STI) screening (20.9%).
• Within the larger cohort of FN/I/M, the demographics of the group with the highest testing rates were: – – – – –
First Nations older youth; lived outside of a First Nations community; received some type of social assistance; had a history of STIs; and, for females, had a history of pregnancy (ibid).
Testing • Zin (pseudonym), a First Nations youth, stated, “It’s probably the worst thing you could ever hear, depending on whether you care or not…I’m sure it would be like the end of the world, like a wall could come crashing down”. • Other factors identified that limited youths decision to get tested included: – the fear of discrimination 13.3%; – fear of people finding out 10.8%; and, – that they felt “nothing could be done about it” 10.8%.
• Rates of HIV infections between 1998 and 2006 for FN/I/M comprised 1/3 of new infections in those under the age of the 30 compared to 21% of non-Aboriginal cases it is clear that we need to focus on preventing new infections within our youth.
PHAC, 2010 11
Conclusions • While it has become clear that HIV testing and services need to be accessible and appropriate for youth, there is a significant lack of STI “youth-friendly” services (Shoveller, 2009). • What this translates into is the need for relevant, culturally safe testing programs for STI’s and HIV prevention programs targeted at the most vulnerable populations including youth. • Prevention and education programs need to be tailored to facilitate reductions in future infections.
Next Steps • The AFN will continue to increase awareness and decrease stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS through the broader spectrum of sexual health. • The AFN will continue to engage in strategic partnerships and networks to foster knowledge exchange to work towards alleviating the higher HIV/AIDS rates in First Nations communities. • First Nations need to work together to address these rates and ensure that the prevention and education strategies are tailored to meet the needs of those most at risk and marginalized within the Canadian system. 13
Next Steps • The AFN will continue to try and increase awareness of the current status of First Nations and HIV/AIDS rates on an international level. • The AFN will continue to be respectful and responsive to the needs of First Nations living with HIV/AIDS in Canada. • The AFN will provide support to Aboriginal AIDS Service Organizations (AASO’s) and continue to work in partnership with AIDS Service Organizations (ASO’s). 14
For more information please contact: Jessica Demeria, Policy and Research Analyst [email protected]
or 1-866-869-6789 ext. 248 www.afn.ca