CAHR 2019 Co-chairs
Co-chairing the 2019 Conference will be Dr Alexandra King, Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health (University of Saskatchewan); and Dr Linda Chelico, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (University of Saskatchewan) and a co-lead of the Saskatchewan HIV/AIDS Research Endeavor (SHARE).
CAHR 2019 Theme
Wuniska: a Cree and Saulteaux word that means wake up, awaken, arise, wake up and rise. Wuniska is a concept filled with optimism for the new day, which we greet with renewed energy and passion. Wuniska is a verb, reflecting that as Indigenous people, our knowledge is action-oriented. Wuniska is also spelled Waniska and is known as ᐊᐧᓂᐢᑲ in Cree syllabics.
We, the Saskatchewan Health Authority Patient/Family Advisory Committee, are Wuniska. We are predominantly of First Nations and Métis people with lived HIV experience. We have awakened and are rising with great strength and resilience to face the many challenges that HIV creates for Indigenous people and others here in Saskatchewan. We are very excited that the 28th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR) will be hosted on the lands and waters which have become known as Saskatoon. We look forward to welcoming you to Treaty 6 territory and the Homeland of the Métis and to sharing and learning with you. We have gifted our group name to CAHR as the theme of this year’s conference in the hopes that you will join us in collectively awakening and arising to this HIV crisis, here in Saskatchewan and elsewhere.
Wuniska Saskatchewan! Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan bear a shocking disproportionate health inequity for HIV. Even though 16% of the Saskatchewan population self-identify as Indigenous, they represent 79% of the persons newly diagnosed with HIV in the province. In addition, Saskatchewan has HIV diagnosis rates that are on average 2 to 3 times higher than the national average. Change is desperately needed. We see three areas as needing particular attention:
- Wuniska our healthcare and public health systems! Few, if any, comprehensive and integrated programs exist in Saskatchewan to help people living with HIV to self-manage. It’s a lot to deal with – dealing with HIV as a chronic illness, recovering from drug use, staying on medication, learning how to take care of oneself, and staying healthy. We need better access to testing, to culturally safe and responsive care, to healthy foods, to education, harm reduction and other resources for prevention, and to culture-based programming. We need peer-led and peer-centred solutions. This is especially true for our northern populations that have even less access to healthcare and educational programs than people living in urban areas. We need to wake up and prevent HIV, and better support people living with HIV throughout Saskatchewan.
- Wuniska the end of stigma and racism! We have all experienced HIV stigma and racism that Indigenous people face in the healthcare system and throughout our everyday lives. Stigma and racism are stopping people from getting tested, from accessing care, from adopting healthy behaviours to prevent HIV, from living well with HIV. We need to wake up and end stigma about HIV, hepatitis C and drug use. We need to wake up and end racism against Indigenous people, against African, Caribbean and Black people and other newcomers to Canada.
- Wuniska our youth! We know that there is limited knowledge about HIV in Saskatchewan. Our First Nations and Métis youth see so many in their communities living with HIV, they have started not to care about getting it. They think that they can just take lifelong medication so it doesn’t matter. There are also increases in drug use by Indigenous youth and they do so with a sense of futility, which stops them from protecting themselves. This needs to change. We need culturally appropriate education and prevention programs throughout the province – in community, in schools and elsewhere. We need to wake up and support our youth to become tomorrow’s leaders.
The CAHR Board of Directors and the 28th CAHR Scientific Committee respectfully recognize that we will meet on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationship with one another.
We wish to express our gratitude to Wuniska for their contributions to the upcoming meeting. We will work together to develop a gathering that uplifts and actions their message. We add our voices to their call, and would like to add:
Wuniska Canada and the World! Although HIV-related deaths have declined significantly with the scale up of ART globally, an alarming number of new infections occur every year. These disproportionately affect people and communities that are marginalized by social, political, and structural forces and barriers to access care. Despite progress, complacency is evident, with reduced global funding and some shifting focus to other problems. If the UN AIDS 90-90-90 targets are to be reached, a renewed effort to combat the HIV pandemic is needed.
Wuniska is a call for all of us to wake up and rise to the possibility, that together, we can change the HIV pandemic locally and globally; it is call for us to awaken to the possibility that we can live, love, and work in solidarity.