The Mino Pimatisiwin project was created to improve prevention and treatment services of Sexually Transmitted Blood Borne Infections (STBBI) among our relatives. Ka Ni Kanichihk works in partnership with health clinics and front-line workers to enhance health services through Indigenous leadership and a model of cultural safety. Covid forced many to temporarily put their STBBI work on hold. A hard choice considering that the transmission of STBBIs continues.

We applaud the work of Indigenous leadership in the Covid response over the last year, while reminding our community members that we have been calling for a similar dedicated response in the world of STBBIs and Harm Reduction. What if similar resources had been so swiftly directed toward controlling the transmission of STBBIs?

While access to STBBI care for Indigenous people is already limited by culturally unsafe services, Covid restrictions make things even more challenging. Over the past year, many of us have been worried about the potential impacts of decreased accessibility to testing and treatment and wonder how many more people have gone undiagnosed and untreated. To support each other during these times we put aside our professional hats and sat as community, sharing and listening to each other with our hearts.

It has now been a year since the Mino Pimatisiwin Advisory Council members and participants, the Sisters of Fire and our Knowledge Keepers Albert McLeod and Leslie Spillett held our first weekly Sharing & Knowledge, Translation & Exchange Circle. Once a week, with support from our Knowledge Keepers we share our experiences of keeping ourselves and our families safe. We also share our knowledge of Covid resources and opportunities to provide public health-related feedback. We received self-care wellness bundles containing plant medicines, food hampers, and, to acknowledge the loss all around us, we accepted grieving bundles.

As we enter the project’s final year, we look forward to continuing our work on supporting people with STBBIs and challenging systems to change. We deserve the best health care possible.