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World AIDS Day commemorated.

In recognition of Worlds AIDS Day, people all over the world were wearing a red ribbon on Dec. 1.

The ribbon is an international symbol showing support in the continuing fight against AIDS. It is intended to be a symbol of hope, towards finding a vaccine and a cure that will stop the suffering created by HIV/AIDS.

The idea for the red ribbon came from a small charity called Visual AIDS based in New York city. In 1991, the organization created a symbol that would unite the many voices that were seeking a meaningful response to the AIDS epidemic. Visual AIDS was made up of people involved in the arts who wanted to do something to unite the world on the issue of AIDS. Because of the organization's connections to high-profile celebrities, the red ribbon quickly appeared on television and at celebrity events. Today, it is worn in most countries in the world.

Along with marking World AIDS Day, many communities in Canada also scheduled events for AIDS awareness Week, which ran Nov. 22 to 29.

In Regina, Public Health Services developed a poster display on the myths and realities of HIV/AIDS. The display was featured at the annual Agribition fair in the city.

"This year we are focusing on the myths and realities of AIDS. The Public Health Services has made up a display board where the myths and realities of AIDS are showcased," said public health nurse, Sherry Joa. "By taking a look at this board, people could explore the myths and realities of AIDS. This same display will also be available to community agencies throughout the city."

During this time All Nations Hope AIDS Network was supplying all Aboriginal agencies in the city with red ribbons.

On Dec. 1, a vigil was held in the community. The Vigil consisted of a memorial service to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS.

Also on that date, a youth gathering featured Red Power Squad, a group of 10 drug- and alcohol-free First Nation youth from Alberta, who perform a rap song on AIDS called Open Your Eyes And Be Aware. The group presented and facilitated a workshop. Topics for the workshop included, HIV/ AIDS, life on the streets to life on the rez, drug and alcohol abuse, gang lifestyle, dysfunctional families, becoming young parents and the importance of education.

In Saskatoon, activities held by the AIDS Saskatoon Network included a parenting in the age of HIV/AIDS seminar, a youth coffee house and film night and a sexual health day at the University of Saskatoon. Both cities attempted to further create an awareness through the World Without Art project.

"World AIDS Day was sometimes called World without art, because a great number of people from the world of art died from the disease of AIDS," said Christine Bennett, coordinator, AIDS Saskatoon Network. "So as a respect for the loss of many creative people, art galleries would cover paintings, statues and sculptures," she said.

A memorial quilt reception was also held on that day as well.

"The project called the name quilt actually started in the United States in 1985. Some people got together and decided to make quilt panels that celebrated or remembered people who died of AIDS. The idea eventually came to Canada. So Canada now has its own quilt," said Bennett. "People who know someone who died of AIDS can make a name quilt panel and can send it into the names quilt group and they can stitch it into the quilt, which is sewn into panels and displayed in various places. It is kind of a way to help people work through their grief."

According to Health Canada, in recent years AIDS/HIV has hit Aboriginal communities in epidemic proportions. On December 31, 1998 a total of 16,236 cases of AIDS were reported. Out of these numbers 321 were listed as Aboriginal people. Among those listed, 263 were men. The exposure rate on the list indicated that men who had sex with other men was 57.4 per cent, heterosexual contact 4.9 per cent, and through receiving blood clot factors, 0.8 per cent.

Among the numbers counted 58 were women. The exposure categories for women were, heterosexual contact, 29.3 per cent, and through receiving blood clotting factors, 6.9 per cent.

However, AIDS data among Aboriginal people is difficult to record because people who are diagnosed as AIDS/HIV are not usually identified by nationality.

Despite these limitations in recording data on AIDS in Aboriginal communities, evidence shows that Native people are being afflicted with the disease at a younger age as opposed to non-Aboriginal people.

Health Canada stated that injection drug use among young Aboriginal people was one of the main modes of AIDS transmission. Today AIDS/HIV shows no sign of slowing down. Due to the high movement among Aboriginal people between inner cities and rural communities, the risk of AIDS in remote communities is quickly becoming a reality.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gladus, Yvonne Irene
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Dec 1, 1999
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