Yesterday marked the beginning of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness week, starting with World AIDS Day, and will continue until Friday with different events and presentations directed at raising awareness and eliminating the stigma that often comes with the deadly disease.
In a press release last week, Merle Ramshaw, an HIV strategy co-ordinator with Prairie North Health Region said, “You can do that by finding out what HIV is and how it’s transmitted. Share that knowledge with your family and friends, including youths.
“Set an example of understanding and respect toward all people, including those with HIV/AIDS. You will help reduce the stigma, discrimination, and maltreatment of people in our communities and around the world with HIV/AIDS.”
Events began Monday with a smudging ceremony at the Lloydminster Native Centre, where most of the events will be held, then an Honour Walk before a noon hour lunch. A candlelight vigil for friends and loved ones also started Monday and will stay on until the end of the week.
At 1 p.m., Carrie Girodat, an outreach worker with PNHR, was scheduled to give a presentation about the disease.
“Basically, on how AIDS is transmitted and what to do, I guess obviously encourag ing treatment if you get the AIDS, and also what to do to prevent getting the disease,” she said. “And also what takes place in your body once it gets transmitted.”
On Tuesday, a First Nations elder, Linda Boaudreau-Semaganis, will be giving a speech on traditional relationships, and on Wednesday there will be a free community lunch of bannock and soup served by Mayor Saunders and Councillors Lachlan Cummine, Larry Sauer, and Linnea Goodhand.
More presentations follow on Thursday with Marji Stephenson who will tell her story.
“She will be sharing her personal story about HIV,” said Girodat. “She is an HIV positive person, aboriginal lady and she will be sharing her story. And I will be filling in the timeframe with more information about AIDS.”
The week ends on Friday with a pancake breakfast at 9:30 a.m.
“There will be displays set up around the communities with red ribbons and that’s a symbol of hope. So it’s to support those living with HIV, for continuing education for those not yet infected and for maximum efforts to find treatment, cures, or vaccines,” Girodat said.
“So we really want to bring the awareness about the stigma and the discrimination against people. They’re still somebody’s family member right?”