Red Ribbon Road highlights ‘epidemic’ Saskatchewan HIV rates
Watch above: Red Ribbon Road in Saskatoon
SASKATOON – 20th Street West was covered with red ribbons Sunday, symbolizing support for those living with HIV in Saskatchewan.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatchewan’s HIV rate is double the national average and Saskatoon has the highest HIV rate in the country.
Lynn Thompson has lived with HIV for 14 years and helps to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS.
She says she contracted the virus through intravenous drug use.
“Not that I was a user but I experimented and I had no idea of the risks that were involved,” said Thompson.
Thompson now helps to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS.
“If I would’ve known what I know now, way back then, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or I would’ve made precautions,” she said.
Thompson was one of the community members who helped with Red Ribbon Road in Saskatoon.
“We’re decorating the 300-block of 20th Street West to raise awareness for AIDS Walk, which is happening Sept. 21,” said Joe Wickenhauser with the Avenue Community Centre.
“Almost two thirds of the most recent transactions were through injection drug use, and about 75 per cent of the people who have received a positive diagnosis have self-identified as aboriginal,” said James Dixon, a coordinator for the Scotiabank AIDS Walk.
Marjorie Beaucage is a First Nations elder working with local communities to help erase the stigma associated with HIV.
“It’s an epidemic in Saskatchewan.”
“People don’t get tested. They’re afraid to be judged,” said Beaucage.
Dixon says recent advancements in medicine and technology have allowed people living with HIV to enjoy long and healthy lives.
“If they have nutrition, access to medication, transportation, housing and things like that,” Dixon explained.
Beaucage said many don’t have access to those basic necessities and every day is a struggle.
According to the agency, there are over 70,000 people living with HIV in Canada.
© Shaw Media, 2014