Aboriginal Men and hiv/aids key Issues



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Aboriginal Men and HIV/AIDS

Key Issues:

  • Standards of care, support and treatment for Aboriginal communities must be equal to those of non-Aboriginals.

  • The ability to make healthy choices is limited by discrimination as well as other socio-economic factors.

  • Additional resources must be made available to Aboriginal communities so that they can better confront HIV/AIDS.

The Aboriginal peoples of Canada (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) have endured a long history of discrimination based on race and culture. Colonialism, exploitation, cultural disintegration and physical and sexual abuse that took place in residential schools have left deep and long lasting scars on these communities. The effects of this discrimination have done great harm: traditional male roles and responsibilities have been destroyed by European society's insistence that Aboriginal people be assimilated into European culture. This has resulted in numerous psycho-social and physical factors that, directly and indirectly, leave Aboriginal men at increased risk of HIV infection1.


Moreover, within many Aboriginal communities, HIV/AIDS is viewed as a "gay white man's disease" therefore consistent condom use is not practiced by some heterosexual Aboriginal men. There is a stigma about HIV/AIDS that makes it extremely difficult for those infected and affected by the virus to feel part of their community. Two-Spirited people (gay, lesbian and bisexual Aboriginals) often feel doubly disadvantaged because they face racism and discrimination within European culture as well as misunderstanding within their own communities in regard to their sexuality2.
There are many factors that place First Nations, Métis and Inuit people at greater risk of HIV infection: high rates of sexually transmitted disease; and high rates of teen pregnancy, suggesting that safer sex practices are not being used; low self-esteem; high rates of sexual and physical violence; drug and alcohol use; lack of access to health information; and poor health generally3.
Aboriginal AIDS educators have reported that it is difficult to discuss issues related to this disease within their communities because to do so means raising subjects that are not only painful but also relate to broader issues. For example, discussions about HIV/AIDS must also include issues of drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic and sexual violence. Many Aboriginal communities are under great pressure to deal with these and other economic issues: too often the resources needed to cope with these issues are simply not available4.
There are practices that Aboriginal men can use to decrease their risk of contracting and transmitting HIV: they include using a new condom with each act of intercourse; using clean needles if injecting drugs; or bleaching used or shared needles and other drug injection equipment if sterile syringes are not available.
It is important to acknowledge that a person's ability to make healthy choices are severely limited by discrimination and other socio-economic factors.
Canadian society must recognize and acknowledge the damage done to the Aboriginal way of life and the lasting impact this has. That Aboriginal people are over-represented in our prisons; levels of drug and alcohol use are higher, and that Aboriginal people test positive for HIV at a younger age than non-Aboriginals, clearly indicate some of the profound consequences that the long history of racism, discrimination and oppression has had.
Society must deal fairly and equitably with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Standards of care, support and treatment for Aboriginal communities must be equal to those of non-Aboriginals.
Additional resources must be made available to Aboriginal communities so that they can better confront HIV/AIDS.
For more information on how to prevent HIV infection please contact the Canadian AIDS Society at 1-800-499-1986 or visit our web-site at .



  1. Discrimination, Aboriginal People and HIV/AIDS: Legal Issues, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 1999

  2. HIV/AIDS and Discrimination: A Discussion Paper, Joint Project on Legal and Ethical Issues, Health Canada, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society, 1998, p.58

  3. Ibid., p.59

  4. Ibid., p.60



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