It was one of the hardest groups we had to talk too. The group of aboriginal high school students sat quietly in their seats. Few made eye contact and looked down at the HIV/AIDS literature I handed out around the circle. I often found it easy to hand out literature during the condom demonstration because many of the students found it embarrassing or difficult to watch a condom being put on a wooden replica of a penis. The biggest success was that no one left the room, one or two had enough courage to ask a question in regards to HIV/AIDS transmission, most quietly sat or giggled. After the barrier demonstration the most important part of our presentation began, the story from an aboriginal person living with HIV.
Bill had been living with HIV for 28 years. Now 72 years old Bill still had a drive and determination to talk about his story to the aboriginal community. Bill always express that there was a need to talk about HIV, especially when there was an increase in HIV diagnosis in the aboriginal community, mostly with youth and women. Bill also enthusiastically shared his story for the Strong Voices graphic novel as one of the four true stories of aboriginal people living with HIV.
We had been doing HIV presentations together for about a year. Every time we had a group Bill always manage to end the session with his favorite motto, “It’s not negative to be positive”.
I work with the Strong Voices Aboriginal Program for AIDS Calgary, and Bill has been an active member in the HIV/AIDS Community long before I joined the AIDS Calgary crew. For the first time AIDS Calgary will be hosting a Strong Voices Gathering in recognition of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, Bill has accepted to tell his story at the gathering.
In partnership with Tipi of Courage (Red Cross) and the Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative, Strong Voices will be hosting a gathering on Thursday December 5, 2013 at the Coast Plaza Hotel.
There are various events and activities happening across Indian country in recognition of aboriginal people and HIV/AIDS which could be seen on the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network website www.caan.ca. The goals for Aboriginal AIDS Awareness week include:
· Increase awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
· Establish ongoing prevention and education programs in Aboriginal communities.
· Address common attitudes that may interfere with prevention, care and treatment activities.
· Reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. (Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network)
Other speakers include Pam Heavy Head (Tipi of Courage), Denise Lambert (Tree of Creation) and Scott Calling Last (Elbow River Healing Lodge).
Please come and join us for our day of learning about HIV/AIDS and the aboriginal people. It is free, space is limited, and it is family friendly. To register or learn more you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
or phone 403-508-2500 ext. 113/115
Source: Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. (n.d.). Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network: http://www.caan.ca/projects-and-programs/aboriginal-aids-awareness-week/