African Communities Program

 

This innovative community mobilization project is the result of a multi-year research partnership between HIV Community Link and the University of Calgary. An Advisory Committee of diverse African community members and allies lead a program to raise awareness, reduce risk, and promote healthy decision making. By tackling stigma and breaking down barriers to testing and support services, we are building an informed and compassionate response to HIV in Calgary’s African communities.

Want to get involved? Connect with our African Communities Program Coordinator, Sipiwe, at smapfumo@hivcl.org or (403) 508-2500 ext. 109.

Key program activities include:

  • Outreach and education for clients at programs and organizations serving Newcomers
  • Education and cultural competency training for staff at immigrant serving agencies
  • Outreach at African businesses and community gathering places
  • Consultation on best practices for engaging African communities in health and social services
  • Free safer sex supplies and information material for venues and organizations
  • All about HIV/AIDS in Calgary brochures available in 8 African Languages (Amharic, Arabic, English, French, Nuer, Oromo, Tigrinya and Swahili)
  • Community mobilization initiatives with various local churches, cultural associations and private businesses
  • Special working group AWOHA ( African Women on HIV/AIDS)
  • Working with a community-based Advisory Committee
  • Collaborating with African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) communities at events including Afrikadey, CARIFEST, FrancoFest
  • Addressing key and emerging issues in African Communities such as stigma, homophobia, homelessness and street involvement

Why is this project important:

African, Caribbean and Black communities represent 4% of Canada’s population, yet represent 15% of Canada’s HIV epidemic, according to HIV statistics in 2014.

The African Communities Project (ACP) opens up conversation on HIV in the groups it works with. The project works to address stigma which we identify as the major obstacle in the response to HIV in the African communities. Stigma and fear mean people may hesitate to learn about and be tested for HIV and may avoid accessing treatment and support services when living with HIV.

FAQ

Will I be deported if I test positive for HIV?

  • You will not be deported if you test positive. HIV testing is free and treatment is covered by Alberta Health Insurance.

If HIV is very difficult to transmit when people are on their treatment, are new infections still happening in our communities?

  • Yes there are many new infections every year and the numbers are growing in our African Communities.  Many people living with HIV do not know they have the virus because they are not getting regular testing. Testing is free and testing is the only way to know if someone has HIV.

Why do agencies like HIV Community Link and STI Clinic ask many personal questions about one’s lifestyle when you want to be tested or access services? It seems very intrusive.

  • These types of questions are asked to help us understand who we work with, what are the risks in the community and how we can provide the best programs to prevent HIV transmission and support those living with HIV.  You can let someone know you are not comfortable answering certain questions and still be able to use the services.