“Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped away” – author unknown
It is important to remember that behind every number is a person who has a family and is part of a community. Every HIV positive diagnosis deeply affects the person and the people in their lives.
Statistics only tell a piece of the story. First, statistics are, in part, dependent on the practitioner asking about ethnicity. Often, practitioners do not ask about ethnicity for the sake of saving time, personal comfort in asking, or perceived relevance. Secondly, statistics are dependent on the respondent self-disclosing their ethnic status. Finally, statistics only measure the people who actually get tested. It is estimated that approximately 25% of people living with HIV do not know their positive status.
Aboriginal people and HIV
In BC, Aboriginal people make up 5% of the general population. In 2012, Aboriginal people made up 13% of new HIV diagnoses. This means that Aboriginal people are over-represented in new diagnoses of HIV in British Columbia. Specifically, Aboriginal women made up 39% of new HIV diagnoses in women, more than any other ethnicity. This is an area of concern for health care providers.
The good news is that because the overall number of new HIV diagnoses is decreasing every year, the number of Aboriginal people being diagnosed with HIV in BC is also decreasing. Over the past five years, the number of Aboriginal people diagnosed with HIV in BC fell from 63 new cases in 2007, to 30 new cases in 2012. However, the percentage of newly diagnosed cases of Aboriginal people within the general population has remained relatively the same.
The primary mode of transmission among both Aboriginal men and women is heterosexual sex, followed by injection drug use (IDU). Further education about HIV prevention and awareness is required in BC’s Aboriginal communities. Furthermore, ready access to condoms and clean needles will help reduce the number of Aboriginal men and women being diagnosed with HIV.
What is Chee Mamuk?
Chee Mamuk Aboriginal Program, housed at the BC Centre for Disease Control, provides innovative and culturally appropriate HIV, sexually transmitted infection (STI), and hepatitis education, resources and wise practice models to Aboriginal communities throughout BC. Chee Mamuk recognizes and works to address inequities in the health of Aboriginal communities. Chee Mamuk’s services are grounded in community, tradition and science in order to build capacity in Aboriginal communities to prevent the spread of HIV, STIs, and Hepatitis. Chee Mamuk strongly believes in the importance of harm reduction and access to harm reduction supplies is a key instrument in reducing HIV, STI, and hepatitis rates in Aboriginal communities.
For further information
For more information about Chee Mamuk programming and education materials, please visit the Chee Mamuk page on the BCCDC website.