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Communities take notice of AIDS


Cheryl Petten, Windspeaker Staff Writer, OTTAWA







Page 23

To mark the fourth annual Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Day on Dec. 1, community leaders across Canada joined forces with Aboriginal AIDS service organizations to co-ordinate events aimed at raising awareness of HIV and AIDS among community members.

Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Day is co-ordinated by the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), a national coalition of Aboriginal people and organizations. CAAN provides leadership, support and advocacy for Aboriginal people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

The theme of this year?s awareness day was ?Uniting our Communities,? a theme chosen ?to embody the direction that CAAN is moving in, strengthening its community ties and working together with its membership and partners in Aboriginal communities across Canada.?

Kim Thomas is national program/project consultant with CAAN. Co-ordinating the first awareness day was one of the first things CAAN was involved in after its official formation in 1997, Thomas said, doing up posters, fact sheets and information packages, and sending them to different Aboriginal communities across the country.

Thomas said the exciting thing about this year?s Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Day was the number of communities getting involved by planning their own activities. Prior to the awareness day, the CAAN office was receiving phone calls and e-mails almost daily from different communities telling them what they were planning.

Among the events planned for the awareness day were workshops, information sessions, feasts, an AIDS walk, and candlelight vigils. In addition to being this year?s theme for Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Day, the idea of uniting communities is an ongoing theme at CAAN all the time, Thomas said, and will be one of the major focuses for CAAN over the next year. Thomas explained CAAN is currently working with the three Aboriginal peoples? Inuit, Metis and First Nations? trying to develop programs to meet the specific needs of each group.

According to Thomas, through membership in CAAN, individuals and organizations can become part of the network, receiving information about such things as funding processes, and programs and conferences going on across the country.

Four levels of membership are available. Aboriginal individuals living with HIV or AIDS can apply for full membership, which also gives them voting rights, while other individuals can apply for associate membership. Aboriginal AIDS groups and organizations can apply for full membership, while other organizations can apply for associate membership. All members will receive CAAN newsletters.

For more information about CAAN, or to become a member, call 1-888-285-CAAN (2225), or visit the CAAN website at www.caan.ca