AIDS in Aboriginal People from Canada

August 25, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Blogging, Health | Leave a comment
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A very interesting post from the blog “Back on this side of the door“. The author, Meghan J. Ward, explains some facts about the situation of the AIDS in Canada:

As I take a break from writing an essay for AIDS, Power and Poverty, the last of the assignments I will ever write for my minor in International Development Studies, I can’t help but want to express to you something that has really convicted me. As many of you know, I am an active advocate for raising awareness and funds for HIV-related issues in Africa. However, I recently became convicted of my lack of personal knowledge about issues with HIV in Canada. While HIV rates are increasing on the whole within Canada, research led me to an interest in Canada’s First Nations populations, a sector of Canadian society that has already been ravaged by high suicide rates, unemployment rates, a lack of adequate housing, and alcoholism, to name only a few. Is this the Canada you know?

To give you some data that I am currently using for my paper, Aboriginal groups make up approximately 3.3% of the total population of Canada, however, they represent 5-8 percent of people currently living with HIV in Canada (2,3). Furthermore, in 2002, aboriginal people comprised 6-12 percent of the new infections found in Canada (2). The Assembly of First Nations projects that infections in the aboriginal community actually represents 16% of new infections (1). Faced with these numbers one finds a dire situation occurring in the First Nations communities in Canada. But these are only numbers, and numbers are not completely accurate, so let us remember that there are people behind the statistics who feel and think and emote just like everyone else.

As the 2006 World AIDS Day approached, Dr. Pierre Duplessis, Secretary-General of the Canadian Red Cross, brought the news about HIV back into focus in the Canadian context:

“It is a devastating reality that Canadian aboriginal communities are plagued by HIV infection rates mirroring some of those in developing countries. We are responding to this global pandemic around the world and see the effects of it on communities around the world, but we are also deeply concerned about our on First Nations communities in Canada.” (4)

Likewise, I am deeply concerned about our First Nations communities and so I am extending that concern to you, as awareness is the first step to taking serious action in the face of such devastation. That is the sole purpose of this entry – maybe you knew all this already, but if you did not, now you do. What you will do with that knowledge is up to you.

(1) AFN. (n.d.). Fact Sheet: The Reality for First Nations in Canada. Retrieved February 28, 2007, from click here.

(2) Health Canada. (2006). First Nations and Inuit Health: HIV and AIDS. Retrieved February 28, 2007, from click here.

(3) PHAC. (2003). HIV/AIDS Among Aboriginal Persons in Canada: A Continuing Concern. Retrieved February 27,2007, from click here.

(4) Canadian Red Cross. (November 28, 2006). Canadian Red Cross calls for awareness of HIV rates among First Nations. Retrieved February 28, 2007, from click here.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2007

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Survival’s campaign: Progress can kill

July 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Canada, Rights | 1 Comment
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And actually, it does kill, as it shows one of the most shocking campaigns. To keep the post on topic I will include here only the information related with polar tribes, but please, go and check the full campaign as it deserves all your attention.

Progress can kill

Forcing ‘development’ or ‘progress’ on tribal people does not make them happier or healthier. In fact, the effects are disastrous. The most important factor by far for tribal peoples’ well-being is whether their land rights are respected. Some of the problems affecting tribal peoples are HIV/AIDS, starvation, obesity, suicide or addiction. The last three specially affect the indigenous people living around the polar circle.

Obesity
Tribal peoples without land are forced into a sedentary life and many become dependent on processed foods. This change in lifestyle and diet – from high-protein to high-fat food – is often disastrous, leading to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In the Pima reservation (Arizona), more than half of Indians over the age of 35 have diabetes; while those living in the mountains suffer far less from this condition. The International Diabetes Federation predicts that excess weight and diabetes will lead to ‘earlier deaths and disabilities’. If untreated or detected late – as is common with tribal peoples – diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease and amputations. The impact on future generations will be catastrophic.

‘The human costs of unrestrained development on our traditional territory, whether in the form of massive hydroelectric development or irresponsible forestry operations, are no surprise for us. Diabetes has followed the destruction of our traditional way of life and the imposition of a welfare economy. Now we see that one in seven pregnant Cree women is sick with this disease, and our children are being born high risk or actually sick.’
Matthew Coon-Come, Cree, 2002

Addiction
Dispossessed and alienated tribal peoples often take to drugs, usually the cheapest and most easily available such as alcohol and petrol. The health of individuals and families collapses. Babies are born with foetal alcohol syndrome, children get little care from addict parents, teenagers follow suit, and once-respected elders are alienated from younger generations. Cycles are fixed which cannot be broken by merely treating individuals or symptoms. The entire society falls apart.

Among Innu youth, sniffing petrol is an acute problem. In the long term this addiction can cause convulsions and permanent damage to the kidneys, eyes, liver, bone marrow and heart. In 2000, 11-year-old Charles Rich died by accidentally setting himself on fire when sniffing petrol. A child who witnessed this horrific death said:

‘My name is Phillip. I’m a gas [petrol] sniffer. I sniff gas with my friends. In wintertime, we steal skidoos and we steal gas… I don’t go home because I sniff gas. And I sniff gas because both my parents are drinking and I’m mad at that… At one point Charles ran towards me when he was in flames but because I was sniffing gas and the fumes were very strong on me, I ran away. I was afraid I would be caught on fire too.’

Suicide
Tribal people across the world suffer from the trauma of forced relocation and settlement. They find themselves in an environment they are not used to, where there is nothing useful to do, and where they are treated with racist disdain by their new neighbours.

Their children may be taken to boarding schools which separate them from their communities and often forbid or ridicule their language and traditions.

Alienated and without hope, many take to drugs and alcohol. Domestic violence and sexual abuse soar. Many resort to suicide. In Canada, Indian groups who have lost their connection to their land have suicide rates up to ten times the national average; those with strong links often see no suicides at all.

The Guarani are committing suicide because we have no land. We don’t have space any more. In the old days, we were free, now we are no longer free. So our young people look around them and think there is nothing left and wonder how they can live. They sit down and think, they forget, they lose themselves and then commit suicide.’
Rosalino Ortiz, Guarani Ñandeva, Brazil, 1996

I think that the words speak for themselves. If you want to learn more about it, you can take a look at the whole campaign and also read the full report.

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