By Tiara Samosir
Canada will have its first African, Caribbean and Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7.
Marked by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Black, African and Caribbean Network (CHABAC), a national network of organizations and individuals who are working to address HIV/AIDS in black communities, the awareness day was created to start a dialogue around the issue of HIV/AIDS in Canada.
People often don’t want to talk about it and recognize that it’s a real issue, said Shannon Thomas Ryan, co-chair of the CHABAC.
“We recognize it’s a gap in Canada. HIV is often not recognized as a significant issue in Canada anymore,” he said. “A lot of people kind of walk around on the assumption that there’s a cure for HIV, no one dies from AIDS anymore, but the reality is that it’s not true, especially in black communities.”
The awareness is primarily focused on CHABAC’s message ‘use a condom, get tested and start a conversation.’ Ryan said they encourage people to use condoms during sexual intercourse, to get tested for HIV and to start an open conversation about the topic in order to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
Adrian Betts, executive director of AIDS Committee of Durham Region said the awareness day really helps address the stigma and start a conversation.
“I think it’s really fantastic that the African, Caribbean and Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day is falling on Black History Month,” said Betts.
Bett said it’s a smart decision to move it away from December, the World’s AIDS Day and put the focus on black communities during Black History Month.