OTTAWA, Dec. 1 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo issued the following statement in recognition of World AIDS Day.
"We are all tested by the crisis of HIV/AIDS. We have fundamental reasons to step up our efforts in prevention, care and treatment of this disease. Aboriginal people represent 1 in 10 new cases of HIV, even though we make up less 4 percent of the population. Aboriginal women in Canada make up nearly half of all new cases. These are our mothers, our daughters, and our sisters. For some of our most vulnerable citizens the situation is getting worse. HIV and AIDS are having a devastating effect on our youth. Our children, our nieces and nephews make up 1 in 3 of all new cases. These youth represent some of our most talented and industrious citizens, who could build a better world. Instead they may face sickness and a tragically early death as a result of HIV infection.
On World AIDS Day we need to share stories, not only of sickness, but of hope. If we hope to win the fight against HIV/AIDS, we must stop new infections - and that means educating our people about the risks and how to protect themselves. We also need to show people that there is no shame in going to the doctor for an HIV test. There should be no more stigma in testing for HIV/AIDS than there is in receiving a flu shot. There was a time when a positive result gave little hope, but today, earlier detection means getting help more quickly.
This year the theme chosen for World AIDS Day, is Universal Access and Human Rights. This is an important story to tell. It's a story of challenges and a story of the courage to overcome those challenges. It's time to call on all partners - leaders, doctors, nurses, policy advisors - for action.
Too often poverty deprives our people of the care they need, whether it is through a lack of housing, poor access to safe drinking water or poor nutrition. We know there are people who are getting treatment, but who don't have any food to eat.
These inequities should weigh on the conscience of Canada and the world. First Nations leadership is committed to building the health infrastructure that is needed to treat our sick. This means better access to hospitals and medical equipment, and more training for nurses and doctors.
While we know that many of these issues are long-term, leadership must also focus on what we have the power to do, right now, to promote a safe, supportive, and healthy environment for our people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. We can seek provisions for HIV/AIDS prevention and healthcare services in our Health Transfer agreements. We can increase our personal knowledge of HIV/AIDS and learn more about the impact it is having on our communities by taking time each year to discuss HIV/AIDS related issues with our health team. We can ensure the confidentially of personal health information is maintained and respected within the community. To support these efforts and more the AFN has prepared an HIV/AIDS awareness kit, Leadership in Action: A Community Response to HIV/AIDS.
Most of all, leaders have a clear duty to break the stigma that continues to plague HIV/AIDS. We must take steps to heal divisions within our communities and embrace all members especially those needing our concern and our care. On this World AIDS day the AFN is encouraging all First Nation governments to pass a resolution acknowledging and protecting the rights of members living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
Indeed, there must be more funding dedicated to HIV/AIDS prevention treatment and care, not only for our own people, but for people around the world who are stricken by the disease. But there must also be a change in hearts, minds and attitudes. Human rights and the treaty rights to health belong to all of us. The Spirit of our people has always and will always be driven by the certainty that we will achieve a better life for all our people."
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations
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