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HIV awareness through art and film
Movie night hopes to spark sexual health discussion among aboriginal youth

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
A night of film and discussion to raise awareness about sexual health in Northern communities is taking place tomorrow night at Northern United Place.

The two-hour event begins at 6 p.m.

Yellowknife is just one of the 17 communities across Canada that is taking part in Taking Action: HIV Awareness Through Art and Action - an initiative being organized by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.

Kiera Kolson, an NWT Taking Action representative, said she hopes the movies will inspire open dialogue about sexual health among indigenous youth in the North.

"A lot of youth I've spoken to say, 'I didn't want to do that, but it happened,' and then it happens again because they haven't acknowledged the fact that it wasn't their fault," said Kolson.

Kolson explained that there are still many generational taboos in aboriginal communities that prevent open dialogue about sexual health and sexual relationships in general.

She said funding cuts to the NWT's HIV awareness program stand in contrast to the need for better sexual health education in the North.

"It's important that enough people have enough access to knowledge in order to protect themselves," she said.

There were 24 known cases of people living with HIV in the NWT in 2011. Although that seems like a relatively low number, the rates of STI infection per capita have been approximately 10 times higher than the rest of Canada over the last 10 years.

"We have to face the realities that youth are going to explore themselves," said Kolson. "It's about being more selective and, at the very least, using protection."

There will be five films screened on Thursday, including one made by Kolson. The short documentary focuses on the success of the Community Action Resource Team, which ran a door-to-door education campaign while handing out condoms in Tlicho.

One of the more powerful films explores the life of a man in a rural part of Saskatchewan who contracted HIV. The confessional story shows the man talking about the trials he has gone through, including his decision to use drugs, which ultimately led to him contracting the disease.

"He wanted to share his story so people know they are not alone in the world," said Kolson.

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