Atlantic

HOW DOES HIV and AIDS AFFECT ABORIGINAL PEOPLES IN THE ATLANTIC PROVINCES?

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland/Labrador

  • In general, Aboriginal people experienced HIV at rates about 3.6 times higher than other Canadians in 2008.  (1)
  • 5% of the Métis population and 5% of the First Nations population in Canada are situated within the four eastern provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island & Newfoundland/Labrador.   (2)
  • The Atlantic Provinces do not account for HIV rates by ethnicity, so HIV levels among Aboriginal peoples is limited.  (3)

Aboriginal people in the Atlantic Provinces experience trends according to an environmental scan conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada

  • There is an increase in HIV among Aboriginal women.
  • There is an increase in injection drug use on reserves. Nationally, Aboriginal people are 3 times more likely than non-Aboriginals to test positive for HIV due to injection drug use.
  • Stigma attached to HIV (and its connection to ‘two-spirited’-  ie homosexual  – contact) may be linked to the high and often unexplainable rates of suicide among Aboriginal people on reserves.
  • There is difficulty in getting those at risk to test for HIV.
  • High rates of teenage pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among Aboriginal youth on reserves indicates an increased risk of exposure to HIV among Aboriginal youth in the Atlantic due to high levels of unprotected sex.
  • The growing Aboriginal youth population coupled with high rates of unprotected sex predicts growing rates of HIV among the Aboriginal population in the Atlantic Provinces.  (4)

The Aboriginal population is more vulnerable to contracting HIV and AIDS because of unique factors and social determinants of health

A person’s vulnerability [to HIV infection] increases or decreases based on:

  • income,
  • education,
  • unemployment,
  • access to stable housing,
  • early childhood development (e.g. history of child abuse),
  • physical environments (e.g. geographically
  • isolated communities, prison environments),
  • access to health services,
  • support networks and social environments (e.g. homophobia, HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination),
  • gender,
  • a history of sexual violence, and,
  • for this [Aboriginal] population in particular, face racism and the multi-generational effects of colonialism and the residential school system. (5)

(1)  Public Health Agency of Canada, Population-Specific HIV/AIDS Status Report: Aboriginal Peoples, 2008 at 19, [PHAC].

(2)  PHAC at 4 to 5.

(3)  Campbell, Joan, Environmental Scan of Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Atlantic Provinces, 1999 retrieved at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/std-mts/pdf/enviro_scan_e.pdf on October 20, 2011 at 11 [Environmental Scan].

(4)

(5) PHAC at vii.

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