With HIV and AIDS rates in Prince Albert higher than the provincial average, the Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association is educating the public.
© Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
Dolores Templeton and Dianne Guger are preparing for the upcoming Elder and Youth Gathering as part of HIV health promotion by the Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association.
A Elders and Youth Gathering will be held on Sept. 18 at Cosmo Lodge in Little Red River Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with elders helping teach the youth about HIV and AIDS.
“I am going to be trying to get all of the youth from the group homes and that into one,” said Dolores Templeton of the P.A. Métis Women’s Association. “We will have some elders there as well, talking and we hope they can come together and help us out also.”
Templeton started to work with the organization in May, so she is fairly new to the topic of HIV and AIDS, but she is working hard to spread the message with her co-worker Dianne Guger.
“Actually, there are quite a few people out there who are quite happy to see this program out and about, but we haven’t got the promotion out there yet to the general public,” Templeton said. “We try, but our funds are limited.”
HIV and AIDS is a topic that is hidden and not frequently brought up in the community.
“It is an epidemic in Prince Albert among our aboriginal people,” Templeton said. “It is not only sexual, it is drug injection and those kind of things also. That is why there are so many needles around. We are here to promote the HIV/AIDS program.”
She wants people to know they are there to help, not only to answer questions but support people who may be going through a difficult time.
“We just want them to know we are here for them if they want someone to talk to, someone to help them out, take them places,” Templeton said. “Being aboriginal, it is harder for us to try to get help because the way we are brought up is that HIV/AIDS is an embarrassment to the family. Some get kicked out of their house; some get kicked right out of their community because they have it.”
There have been gatherings in the past to help people learn about the disease, but this is the first one Templeton has been involved in.
“It was something that I would have liked to do myself -- they had one before and I really don’t know how that turned out, but I want to work on this one to bring them all together and to educate them on the HIV/AIDS promotion program and where they can go to get help, how and with who,” she said.
Not only does she want to help people, she also wants to start a conversation between generations about HIV and AIDS.
“I want the elders up there to talk about this to the youth and maybe the youth can come back to the elders and start talking about themselves to them,” she said. “Right now it is stigmatic because no one wants to talk about HIV/AIDS.”
“Most of these young kids too are living with their grandparents nowadays, so we are trying to get the grandparents to talk about it with their grandchildren,” Guger said. “The suicide rate is up too, because of it.”
“It is mostly an educational forum for them,” Templeton added. “It is not something to be afraid of or ashamed of because there are people out there who are willing to help.
“That is what I am looking for is some elders to come to us and help us prepare for this.”
Templeton had negative views about HIV and AIDS before she worked at P.A. Métis Women Association on the HIV health promotion.
“I am very fortunate to have this position too because it also made me open up my eyes to this and not to be the way I was before,” she said.
Many people are hesitant to interact with those who have the disease and “are afraid to shake hands, share cups or even hugging or kissing -- you can’t get AIDS from that,” she said.
They will be doing some fundraising leading up to the gathering. They hope to host a barbecue on Sept. 12 and are selling raffles tickets for three for $5 or 12 for $20 for two paintings, a medallion and a blanket.
Anyone willing to help with the gathering is welcome to call Templeton at the P.A. Métis Women’s Association.