Even with access to care, I saw the Afro-Canadian positive community around me failing to receive the care they need. Refugees face many challenges -- being a newcomer, being alone, dealing with trauma. In addition, the shame of having HIV was profound; merely walking into an HIV clinic caused widespread gossip and shaming within the community.
Speaking at the recent Global Fund replenishment conference in Montreal, Mr. Trudeau touted that "Canada will continue to lead by example, and show the world what we can accomplish when we unite in pursuit of a larger goal." However, this declaration came at a time when HIV rates have been steadily rising across the country, people with HIV being criminalized for non-disclosure and underfunding for HIV organizations.
Global Fund announced that pledges totalling US$12.9 billion were made. This is almost US$1 billion more than what was raised at the previous replenishment conference in 2013 and represents a significant commitment to fighting the three diseases over the coming three years. But will it be enough to end the three epidemics for good?
In many parts of Africa, there are women who have no way of negotiating the choice, or use, of contraceptives with a partner. There are women in relationships who have no option of refusing sex, nor the power to require use of a condom. While HIV infections among the general population of eastern and southern Africa have been plummeting, it has resurfaced and started to grow among adolescent girls and young women.
In the most affected countries, girls account for more than 80 per cent of all new HIV infection cases among adolescents. This is an alarming statistic. Entire generations of young women are seeing their lives shattered before they even begin because, through lack of education and, primarily, the violence they suffer, their rights are not respected.
Are We Making Progress In The Fight Against HIV/AIDS In Canada's African, Caribbean And Black Communities?
The vulnerability of Black Canadians to HIV is highly complex and requires a better focus on prevention, education, harm reduction and testing. Our biggest challenge is the high and especially persistent levels of HIV stigma and homophobia in our communities. These attitudes severely limit our success in engaging Canada's Black communities in a dialogue about HIV, and get in the way of our HIV prevention, testing and treatment efforts. This is what our awareness day is all about. We want to both celebrate our successes and make an objective assessment of where our community is at in this fight to engage people in HIV prevention.