Wrap your guns

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HIV stats from Saskatchewan carry a grim warning for First Nations around the country. Canada’s Aboriginal populations have a high rate of infection, but that province has a rate comparable undeveloped countries. For every 10 new cases of HIV, seven are Aboriginal.

“Saskatchewan seems to be the epicentre of Canada’s HIV pandemic,” said Trevor Stratton, a member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation in Ontario, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1990.

“The biggest thing is access to care and access to testing,” said Skinner. “If you don’t have easy access to lab services or HIV testing, you can’t get diagnosed.”

The highest rates of infection are in the province’s rural areas where Aboriginal people live. And that is what makes it alarming as most of the Cree communities of James Bay fall into this demographic.

When you consider the high rates of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia in Eeyou Istchee, you can see how HIV could spread like wildfire here. Early diagnosis can make life a lot easier for those affected. Finding out if you are infected is a lot easier these days. If you have a health card you can get a free STI screening at CLSCs and hospitals.

However there are home tests that can give a rapid response if you’re too shy or ashamed to say anything to a doctor. I think that these should be made available just as condoms are available in the communities.

I can and do pick up condoms at the local CLSC any time I’m in a Cree community. Anyone at the hunting blind will tell you I pass them out freely. I want everyone and their guns to be safe and less “rusty.” It would be nice to know that if they haven’t been safe then they could still enjoy a positive future. Treatments these days can allow you to live a full and productive life.

Let’s ensure Eeyou Istchee learns from Saskatchewan.

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