Pubdate: Wed, 03 Jun 2009
Source: Terrace Standard (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Terrace Standard
Bookmark: (HIV/AIDS)


DISTRESSINGLY HIGHER levels of HIV/AIDS within the northern native 
community continue to reinforce the need for a variety of prevention 
and care programs, says the chair of a task force devoted to the task.

Emma Palmantier said the challenge is magnified because there are 
higher levels of HIV/AIDS in younger people and younger people now 
make up a majority of the native population.

"The key factor is injection drug use - that's a real concern. There 
is generally riskier behaviour among young people," she said.

Palmantier is chair of the Northern B.C. Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Task 
Force which is made up of representatives of the more than 63 
aboriginal communities in the north.

She and other members of the task force were guests of the Kitselas 
First Nation just outside of Terrace this week at a session designed 
to update the task force's progress.

Formed in 2005, the task force works on a political as well as 
community level, said Palmantier.

"What we're building is awareness and education," she said.

Available statistics indicate that about 22 per cent of new HIV 
positive tests and 16.2 per cent of new AIDS cases were aboriginal 
despite aboriginals making up only 4 - 5 per cent of the overall 
Canadian population.

And, says Palmantier, the spread of HIV/AIDS among native people is 
as alarming in urban centres nowadays as it is within northern native 

Community-level work includes providing information about clean 
needles and condoms.

Education, prevention and awareness efforts are focussed on younger 
people with "training the trainer" workshops, Palmantier said.

"We can never forget about our youth. Young people really are our 
future," she said of the need to concentrate on programs for that age group.

Palmantier also points to poverty and lack of work which can then 
lead younger people to undertake risk-filled measures.

"We have our younger women undertaking survival sex trade work and 
our younger men selling drugs, all just to put food on the table," she said.

"This is really a multi-level issue," Palmantier said of HIV/AIDS.

The big challenge for the task force is securing enough money so that 
it has a stable operating budget to advance its programs, Palmantier continued.

She spends a lot of her time applying for grants from private and 
public sources.

Promoting the task force's work is also why it has regular sessions 
with community representatives to keep everyone up to date on what 
has happened, what is being planned and what is needed, Palmantier added.

Upcoming programs include a session in Prince George in early July 
for young people. In Prince George, the task force's host agency is 
Carrier-Sekani Family Services.
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