Awareness Day Sheds Light on the High Risk of HIV Infection in Canada’s African, Caribbean and Black Communities

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BY KEVIN YEBOAH

Canada’s second African, Caribbean and Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day is set to be underway this week, in hopes to raise awareness on the reality, risks and outcome of HIV in our community. Which is the highest amongst other groups in Canada. The Canadian Census taken in 2006 revealed there were over 780,000 Black Canadians that accounted for 2.5% of the nation’s populous. It was estimated that by 2008, a total of about 65,000 Canadians were infected with the HIV virus. 9,250 of those infected were, you guessed it, African Canadians. A hulking 14% of those infected coming from our own backyard. Not only is this a stark demographic, but it begs the issue of why. Why is it that nearly 14% of HIV victims are from the African, Caribbean and Black communities? The biggest issue for being a sucker to anything is not knowing, not knowing anything past the social or cultural implications of issues like sex and protection are the issue.

Men may not be akin to getting tested in our community because of what that may mean to some people; church goers, family members and likewise for women. Yet women are always held to a higher and stricter standard when this should very well not be the case. HIV can be found in many different types of bodily fluids like blood, vaginal discharge, semen and breast milk. Considering all the many ways it can be passed on, how simple would it be to cut oneself cooking and accidentally give it to a loved one at home or to be breastfeeding your child, unknowing that you’re a carrier? A conversation needs to be had in our homes, churches, mosques, temples among friends, strangers and family. In doing so, strengthening the cohesion among the African, Caribbean and Black communities and more over being within the know. The youth of these communities are at risk as well, exploring sexual acts, as well as sex at a young age is often stigmatizing and even more so embarrassing to admit to family if a problem should arise. Being understanding, informative and passionate about protection and abstinence needs to always be first and formally elaborated to the children. Not agreeing to things like sexual education or blocking the access to contraceptives in the school system is a parent taking full responsibility of the child’s sexual wellbeing. As good as that may be, neglecting any information that will have been thoroughly taught in school is irresponsible parenting to the child.

There is standard testing, where one simply takes a blood sample and submits it to the public health laboratory. Results come in about two weeks. Anonymous testing is done as well, where no names or records are submitted or filed, but you will still know your results. These are done all over our province by contacting The Aids Network, Halton Health Department or even by calling the Aids and Sexual Health Info Line toll free at 1-800-668-2437. It makes the world of difference by just being educated, the one thing that isn’t taking precedent in the African, Caribbean and Black community when it comes to such a troubling issue.

For further information please visit www.BlackHIVDay.ca for details such as statistics within the African, Caribbean and Black communities as well as how many resources are available to the public as a whole.

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