"A family that does not speak is a family that dies."
Abdul Yakubu, board chair of the Afro-Canadian Positive Network of BC, shared this African proverb at the opening of an event for African, Caribbean, and Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at Surrey City Hall on Feb. 7, 2017.
The SHAWNA peer research associates were in attendance, along with Dr. Andrea Krüsi. She and Patience Nyoni, founder and executive director of the Afro-Canadian Positive Network of BC, co-presented on the impact of stigma in the lives of women living with HIV.
Dr. Krüsi explained that the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative’s SHAWNA project is looking at what stigma means in everyday life. All kinds of stigma intersect with HIV stigma, intensifying discrimination and making access to care more difficult. Black women living with HIV have described the racism and stigma they face in the health care system.
As part of the SHAWNA project and in partnership with the Afro-Canadian Positive Network of BC, a small group of Black women living with HIV have also used art to depict experiences and thoughts about stigma and HIV non-disclosure laws.
Nyoni noted that HIV non-disclosure criminalization is tied to racism and impacts access to care for Black communities.
"There's a lot that needs to be done in my community about stigma," she added, explaining that a desire to avoid shaming can lead some people to neglect needed medical care.
To close her talk, Nyoni shared a piece she authored for the Huffington Post on the detrimental effects of stigma. “By sharing my story, I hope to end the stigma and bring hope to the hopeless,” she wrote.