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Aboriginal women, sexual violence and HIV/AIDS

by Lynn Hall | November 28, 2005

HIV/AIDS is a global issue. Canada also is no stranger to the disease. Aboriginal people, and certainly Aboriginal women, are seeing disproportionate levels of HIV/AIDS. Aboriginal women make up almost half of the Aboriginal HIV/AIDS cases. Many are former and current survivors of sexual violence. Sexual violence appears to play a key role for HIV infection rates among Aboriginal women.

Understanding the emotional, mental, physical, and cultural impacts of sexual violence is necessary to eliminating further HIV incidence rates among Aboriginal women. The experience of sexual violence can lead to high-risk behaviours. Some examples of high-risk behaviours are:

  • alcohol and drug abuse, including injecting drug use;
  • involvement in the sex trade as a means of survival;
  • unprotected sex.

Feelings of frustration, loneliness, and depression are a few of the emotional responses to sexual violence that Aboriginal women have. These emotions can push them to cope with unbearable situations in negative or self-destructive ways, opening the door to HIV/AIDS.

Improved services for Aboriginal women living with HIV/AIDS is a priority. Seeking the stories and the detailed experiences of Aboriginal women living with HIV/AIDS will help develop successful approaches for prevention, and also lead to improved care, treatment, and support.

As we try to better understand the impact of sexual violence among Aboriginal women living with HIV/AIDS, we encourage the community at large to expand its knowledge of this important topic. The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) is pursuing a research project aimed at looking into this area of concern.

The organization’s analysis, while preliminary, serves to highlight the need to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal women living with HIV/AIDS. CAAN wants to both address this day-to-day reality, and build on existing research as a way to promote a greater understanding of all aspects of sexual violence, HIV/AIDS and Aboriginal women.

This feature was first published on’s predecessor site CoolWomen.


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