Those living with HIV or Hepatitis C are getting the opportunity to share their stories at an event in Saskatoon this week.
The Saskatoon Tribal Council along with Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and Big River First Nation are hosting the second annual Know Your Status forum Tuesday and Wednesday.
Among several workshops around HIV and Hepatitis C will be the “Speaking from the Heart” workshop, which will give First Nations people living with either virus a platform to share their stories.
Also featured at this year’s forum is Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
Sidibe is the pioneer of the 90-90-90 target, which hopes to have 90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status, with 90 per cent of those who know their status accessing treatment and 90 per cent of people on treatment having a suppressed viral load, meaning they cannot transmit the virus.
Both Ahtakakoop and Big River have received recognition for their targets on the UNAIDS 90-90-90 standard.
“We highly recommend that other communities adopt the program,” said Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation Chief Larry Ahenakew. “We are extremely proud of our health care workers and community members for embracing this life saving program,”
The Saskatoon Tribal Council has also been a leader in HIV, Hep C and harm prevention programming and outreach in and around Saskatoon. Especially through the opening of their health centre on 20th Street. A facility Michel Sidibe had high praise for.
“I am deeply impressed and humbled by the work of Saskatoon Tribal Council health clinic,” he said. “We must do more to support community services like these everywhere.”
Saskatchewan HIV/AIDS rates are eleven times the national rate with almost 80 per cent of new HIV cases in the province each year coming from the Indigenous population. Organizers hope the forum will be able to counteract that trend.
“The success of Know Your Status makes evident that community-driven programs designed and implemented by our people, for our people greatly improves the effectiveness of programs,” said STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand. “By working together with governments on strategic investment in HIV starting at the planning stages and carrying through to delivery will create better outcomes for First Nations and have a greater economic impact province wide.”
The two-day HIV knowledge exchange forum will hear from First Nations leaders and other pioneers in the medical field.
(PHOTO: Michel Sidibe meets with a staff member of the STC medical centre. Photo courtesy Twitter @michelsidibe)