HIV and AIDS in the African, Caribbean, and Black Community

By Ngozi Chinwe MbonuACBHIVawarenessribbon4

Today’s workshop, round table discussions of HIV experiences with different stakeholders, all about African Caribbean Black community held in HIV Edmonton was a great start to highlight African Caribbean Black (ACB) community affected with and by HIV and AIDS. The idea is to engage everybody involved with HIV in Edmonton and Alberta to better understand the problems peculiar to this population and to determine the most effective way to support African Caribbean Black community and thereby prevent the transmission of HIV while providing quality of care and support to people living with HIV.

Living with HIV and AIDS cuts across cultures, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. People living with HIV (PLWH) or people affected by HIV and AIDS continue to face stigma everywhere including in Canada. Certain people are more vulnerable. In Canada, African, Caribbean and Black communities are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS.

While 1 in 35 Canadians are African, Caribbean, or Black, approximately 1 in 7 seven people living with HIV in Canada are African, Caribbean and Black Canadian. Within the ACB population, the new infection rate is about 9 times higher than the rest of Canadians.

The theme of the 2015 African, Caribbean and Black Canadian HIV and AIDS Awareness is use a condom, get tested, start a conversation. The common heterosexual means of transmission among this subgroup makes the theme an important one. We need to understand the special issues peculiar to this group to enable us make progress beyond what is already being done. We need to understand the broader perspectives and context in which ACB live to enable us create change in the ACB communities around Edmonton and in Alberta. Access to healthcare, and subsequent retention in care, for those who test HIV positive is very important, and appears to be an area of particular challenge for this population.

The workshop held at HIV Edmonton exactly lays this foundation. The different stakeholders that represent the ACB community, the community organization representatives, the nonprofit organizations and the health care professionals in Edmonton and Alberta shared their experiences in the everyday care and support of PLWH. We need to strengthen community actions to enable us to promote health and provide the health education which is fundamental in achieving the ACB theme use a condom, get tested, start a conversation.

When the workshop concluded, I envisaged an important takeaway. By involving the ACB community, we ensure that we are channeling our efforts in the most effective and economical way. This will help us facilitate useful culturally conscious conversations that will better resonate with the community – this way, we are more likely to realize our 2015 theme of use a condom, get tested, and start a conversation.  This will eventually lead to reduction of HIV transmission and quality of care for people already living with HIV.

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