Honouring Community Leaders for Indigenous HIV/AIDS Awareness Week

Did you know the rate of people living with HIV in Manitoba increased 52 per cent from 2018 to 2021?

According to the most recent Manitoba HIV Program Report, “Indigenous Peoples in Manitoba are disproportionately affected… due to the ongoing impacts of colonization, structural racism, and intergenerational trauma.”

This year, we recognized Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week (IAWW) from December 1 (World AIDS Day) to December 7.

On December 6, Ka Ni Kanichihk hosted an event at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights for Indigenous HIV/AIDS Awareness Week. The event, Keesaywatisiwin: Grace and Kindness, honoured community members and their efforts in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS in our Indigenous community.

Ka Ni Kanichihk would like to thank all of the honourees for their hard work in uniting our communities in the effort of prevention, education, and awareness surrounding HIV and AIDS.

The honourees are as follows: Gayle Pruden (2Spirit Knowledge Holder and Mino Pimatisiwin Sexual Wellness Lodge Kookum); Jackie Flett (Mino Pimatisiwin Sexual Wellness Lodge Auntie/Community Host, Mother and Activist); Dr. John Kim (Public Health Agency of Canada National HIV Lab); and Peetanacoot Nenakawekapo (2Spirit Knowledge Keeper).

A blanketing ceremony was held in recognition of each honouree, symbolizing their significant contributions in service of our community (pictured above).

We would also like to thank those who spoke at the event: Dr. Albert McLeod (2Spirit Consultants of Manitoba), Dodie Jordaan (Ka Ni Kanichihk Executive Director), and Hon. Uzoma Asagwara (Manitoba Minister of Health, Seniors, and Long-term Care).

“Rates of HIV have increased in Manitoba, not gone down,” said Dr. Albert McLeod. “So, whatever we’re doing isn’t working. Last year it increased. This year it increased as well. These are just the people who have the wherewithal to be tested.”

“This is a preventable infection and has been from the very beginning,” said McLeod.

“As a community, we all walk with each other and look out for each other,” said Gayle Pruden. “[But] we start walking alone. That’s what makes it so difficult, especially at these times with the availability of all these drugs that are killing our youths and our people, our knowledge holders.”

“That’s what we’re all here for, is to help one another, to embrace one another, to walk with each other. Through the Creator we can all do that.”

To learn more about Indigenous HIV/AIDS week, and related education or resources, please visit www.caan.ca.

For the Manitoba HIV Program Report, visit www.mbhiv.ca