AIDS: the faces of the other pandemic

HIV changed Doris Peltier’s life completely. Originally from an Aboriginal community in Lake Huron, Ontario, she spent the 1990s on stage in theaters across Canada and elsewhere. Under the pseudonym Doris Linklater, the Anishnabe actress portrayed flamboyant characters, particularly under the pen of renowned Aboriginal playwright Tomson Highway. Then, in the early 2000s, she became very ill and learned she had AIDS. That’s how I learned I had HIVrelate-t-elle.

In Canada, new virus infections have declined slightly in recent years. This is especially true among gay men, who were first hit by the pandemic. But in other parts of the population, women and Aboriginal people among others, the infections are still on the rise.

Doris Peltier is well aware of this reality. I soon discovered that there were very few services for Aboriginal women living with HIV and that many of these services were created for men.regrets. From the beginning of my HIV journey, once I felt better, I started attending conferences […] I was going to hear what was being done as research and there was very little work for us, women living with HIV, especially Aboriginal women.

Hoping to reverse the trend, she embarked on research. She currently coordinates the Visualizing Health study, in collaboration with McMaster University. The project, led by and for Indigenous women living with HIV, investigates the reality of these women and how First Nations culture can help improve their condition.

It’s not a traditional way of doing research where you only enlist people to answer a questionnaire once, she explains. It’s a process, it’s about building trust, relationships.

This different way of looking at research was evident last October in Saskatoon, where Doris Peltier invited about sixty women living with HIV and public health researchers to review their work. For three days percussion workshops, ceremonies of healing and the creation of a collective quilt punctuated the discussions.

Doris Peltier on stage.

Doris Peltier during one of her performances as an actress.Photo: Doris Peltier

Ms Peltier believes that by refocusing on their Aboriginal roots, women living with HIV can regain a sense of self-worth, a sense of belonging, conducive to their health. Culture healsshe says.

In another study of the sexual health of women living with HIV in Canada, the results of which are presented in this seminar, drug use and incarceration rates decreased among participants between the beginning and the end of the investigation, while the use of antiretrovirals had increased.

HIV, but also violence, drug and alcohol addiction, the isolation experienced by these women were at the center of the discussions which sometimes took the form of group therapy. Frankly, HIV is the least of my problemsalso launched a participant.

How many times do these women have to tell what is happening to them? Doris Peltier wonders. The inequities, the gaps in the care they receive, the poverty. How many times do we have to hear it? she protests.

That’s somewhat of the message she conveyed to attendees at last summer’s International AIDS Conference in Montreal, where she was invited to speak on the main conference platform. I am also a member of an advisory group of the World Health Organization and one of my recommendations is to recognize indigenous peoples as a priority [dans la lutte au VIH, NDLR] in every country in the world where indigenous people live. We are falling behind and will not hit targetshe said on the sidelines of his presentation.

Doris Peltier refers to the 95-95-95 goals set by UNAIDS. That by 2030, 95% of people with HIV know their status, that 95% of infected people receive antiretroviral treatment (triple therapy), and that 95% of those treated patients have an undetectable viral load. However, in 2021 in Canada, the figures were 85%, 88% and 92%, respectively.

Last year, Doris Peltier received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa for her involvement in the fight against HIV. In Saskatoon, she has also been honored, in their own way, by the women she has championed for two decades. When she announced to them that at 65 she wanted to cut back on her activities, they wrapped her in a traditional blanket and wrapped their arms around her as she sang.: \”You gave me your voice\”, he is moved. I always tell them that they have found their voice through our work.”,”text”:”Some of them have said to me: \”You gave me a voice\”, if it moves. I always tell them that they have found their voice through our work.”}}”>Some of them told me: “You gave me a voice”, she is moved. I always tell them that they have found their voice through our work.

Portrait of Andre Morneau.

When he died, André Morneau wanted to donate his body to science.Photo: Radio-Canada / Gaëlle Lussiaà-Berdou

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