Aboriginal Task Force engages the North in HIV discussions
The need for more youth leadership, palliative care and treatment for persons suffering from AIDS, and increased government funding for HIV/AIDS education in BC’s North are three of the top concerns cited in the Community Engagement Survey conducted by the Northern BC Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Task Force.
The survey was conducted from September 2009 to October 2010, with Emma Palmantier, Task Force Chair, and Colette Plasway, Task Force Program Coordinator, visiting 53 of 55 First Nations communities throughout Northern BC. Survey respondents included all age groups, but were heavily weighted to youth, as 50 per cent of the region’s Aboriginal population is comprised of young people.
The survey looked at risk factors affecting youth; community attitudes towards individuals with HIV/AIDS; and evaluated the general awareness about HIV/AIDS in First Nations communities.
The top concern was found to be the lack of funding for HIV/AIDS education programming, due to government funding formulas being based on population and not on needs.
The task force has a mandate to improve services to Aboriginal persons and their families in Northern BC who are infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS. It is composed of Aboriginal community leaders; elders; youth; people living with HIV/AIDS; local, regional, provincial and federal government representatives; health service professionals; and the RCMP.
The task force hosted three Community Engagement Regional Sessions and the Northwest Leadership Forum in spring 2011, the latter attended by Northern BC chiefs and community leaders in order to verify the findings of the survey report. All of the findings were supported, with participants at the sessions proposing more recommendations. Chiefs at the leadership forum strongly recommended that a palliative center be established in the Northwest to enable people to receive treatment closer to home.
A preliminary report on the Community Engagement Survey highlights those recommendations made not only to government policy makers, but also to Aboriginal leaders. One recommendation calls on chiefs and councils to be “powerful advocates to ensure their communities have the resources and supports they need to be allies in fighting HIV and supporting their own band members back to health.”
Another recommendation suggests that the HIV/AIDS funding that communities receive from government sources “could be assessed through a weighted scale vs. per capita funding which takes into consideration remoteness.” Palmantier said all of the recommendations “will be put into an action plan in collaboration with the chiefs in Northern BC.”
In addition to the survey, the task force also held HIV/AIDS education forums for youths in Haida Gwaii and Dease Lake in September. The youths have requested that more workshops be held.
Finally, Palmantier and Plasway presented a draft resolution to BC chiefs at the Northern Caucus meeting in October, calling for a renewed mandate for the task force. The chiefs supported the resolution in principle with a restructured resolution to be presented to the Northern Caucus in February 2012.
For more information, contact Emma Palmantier, Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org