HIV conference coming to Prince Albert

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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A new AIDS conference will help people better understand the disease.

AIDS awareness

On March 25 and 26, All Nations Hope Network, based out of Regina, will be hosting a Save the Date Saskatchewan HIV Conference at the Prince Albert Exhibition in the city.

“It’s issues that affect Indigenous people today such as substance use, poverty, homelessness, gangs, sex trade work, youth in crisis and violence against women and children that are the realities in our communities and many are part of the Indian residential School legacy,” Mandy Gamble of All Nations Hope said. “HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections and other blood-borne infections are also part of this legacy and need to addressed.”

The conference will shine a light on many issues and help people understand the disease.

“The new direction for healing is intergenerational healing and we are already seeing this starting to unfold as Indigenous people,” Gamble said. “The conference is basically to move forward and start healing and it is for front-line workers, professional students, youth, people living with HIV and AIDS or hepatitis C, addictions counsellors, chiefs and council members, physicians and any community member that wants to make a difference.”

HIV and AIDS are two issues that affect many people in the Prince Albert region, explained Lindsay Seesequasis of Prince Albert Métis Women Association.

“They are putting it on just to raise awareness because just to raise awareness about HIV,” she said. “In Prince Albert we are a step back compared to Saskatoon and Regina with stigma and discrimination.

“There is a lot more of that in Prince Albert so maybe the hope of All Nations Hope bringing it here is to maybe open some eyes with the front-line workers, with the people who have to deal with people who live with Hep C or HIV,” she added. “That way, they know what is going on and they know where they are coming from with their illnesses.”

This is the first conference to be held of its kind in Prince Albert, she said.

“That is why it is a big deal and we are trying to get more people into it -- we are trying to get out to pharmacies and schools and we are telling people just get in there if you can,” Seesequasis said. “There are scholarships to cover the cost so just get in there and learn something from what these people have to say and hopefully open some eyes.”

She stressed there is a lot of stigma attached to the disease and many people really don’t understand it.

“It is not something that is affects junkies or prostitutes or gay men -- it is something that is out there affecting a lot of people,” Seesequasis said. “It could be your cousin or brother -- you don’t know because a lot of people don’t want to get checked because they believe that it is never going to affect them. That is what this is about -- raising that knowledge and raising that awareness.”

For more information about the conference call All Nations Hop at (306) 924-8424 or visit their website at www.allnationshope.ca.

Organizations: All Nations Hope Network, Prince Albert Métis Women Association

Geographic location: Regina, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

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