December 1st is World AIDS Day. Here in Canada, we have a choice about how actively to be involved in the issues of AIDS.
The rate of death from AIDS in Canada has declined dramatically. Our public education and health systems -- despite threats from cuts and privatization -- have still been able to carry out broad programs of AIDS education and treatment. Anti-retroviral drugs are freely available.
Thanks to the impressive work of AIDS activists, the stigma and mystery surrounding AIDS have largely disappeared. Although communities with high levels of poverty, homelessness and unemployment are still very vulnerable, the majority of our members do not live in daily fear of this life-threatening virus.
The AIDS crisis in Africa
Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS) is the recipient of the 2010 International Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch announced this week. The award, which recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations that protect the rights and dignity of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, was presented in Vienna, Austria, at the XVIII International AIDS Conference. Here is a description of their program and challenges.
The Republic of Macedonia remains a country with a low rate of HIV. In fact, with 129 cases, it has the lowest reported number among southeastern European countries.
In April, the Corrections Service of Canada released a report which revealed considerably higher rates of HIV infections among inmates in federal prisons than had been previously officially acknowledged. Indeed, the reported rate of 4.6 per cent, based on a 2007 survey of prisoners, was more than twice the previous official estimates, and the reported rate of hepatitis C -- a staggering 31 per cent of prisoners -- was also higher.
'If a town of that size had rates like these, it would be treated like a public health emergency,' says Seth Clarke, federal community development co-ordinator with the Prisoners' HIV/AIDS Support Action Network.
This month's Justice Committee hearings concerning Bill C-36, the Conservative government's proposed sex work legislation, missed a critical mark. While important issues ranging from the bill's constitutionality and impact on sex workers' experiences of violence, to its impact on sex trafficking and police powers were discussed, dissected and debated, there was a very notable oversight: almost no one was talking about the health of sex workers -- and their right to it.
In December 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the criminal code on sex work violates the constitution because it prohibits sex workers from taking measures to protect their personal security. The government has one year to draft new legislation, and recently held a public consultation on 'Prostitution-Related Offences.' Among the many personal security issues at stake for sex workers, which the government must consider in drafting new legislation, is the risk of HIV infection.
PASAN is a community organization, based in Toronto, that seeks to reduce harm for prisoners and ex-prisoners. Their work is based around AIDS/HIV and hepatits C education, awareness and activism. After 23 years of service, PASAN is one of the only grassroots organizations providing health education to prisoners and ex-prisoners.
They have an incredible list of health resources on their website, including info sheets on safer drug practices and disease self-management practices. The organization has also developed resources directed specifically to Aboriginals, trans prisoners, women and other minorities.
PASAN also offers the following services:
-emergency financial assistance