“We are using strength-based messaging to raise awareness of the importance of reducing harm and stigma.” – Grand Chief Daniels
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 5, 2023
ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — Today, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is announcing the launch of a comprehensive public campaign focused on preventing and increasing awareness of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections (STBBIs), and harm reduction.
“Harm reduction has become a major focus for SCO when it comes to delivering programs and services for our Nations and citizens,” stated SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “I am pleased to see us couple that mandate with the resources and expertise to develop and implement a comprehensive, culturally relevant, and engaging communications campaign to help save lives.”
SCO launched a Harm Reduction and Land-Based Healing Program in January 2023. Our organization recognizes the urgent need to provide responsive services and increased awareness of harm reduction for southern First Nations. The program coordinator provides presentations on reducing harm to First Nations in community and in urban areas, and also distributes a range of free harm reduction supplies to those who request them, including nasal Narcan and fentanyl test strips. Southern First Nations interested in providing land-based healing activities to their members can receive up to $25,000 in funding from SCO for these initiatives.
“Recent data shows disproportionate outcomes of drug poisonings, overdose, concurrent infections, and complications associated with problematic substance use for First Nations people, linked to the ongoing impact of trauma,” said Grand Chief Daniels. “We also have learned from the Manitoba HIV Program, there are alarming trends in HIV diagnoses and STBBIs for First Nations citizens in Manitoba.”
In 2021, 407 people who were loved and who mattered died across Manitoba due to drug poisoning and toxic supply. This is an increase from 372 in 2020.
HIV is increasing in Manitoba: In 2021, the rate of HIV diagnoses was three times higher than the rate of HIV across Canada. People who self-identify as Indigenous accounted for 51.4 per cent of all people referred to the MB HIV Program in 2018. By 2021, this has increased to 73.4 per cent.
“There is no questioning the need for education, nor the urgent need to tackle these alarming trends from a First Nations perspective,” said Chief E.J. Fontaine of the Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation. “Members of my community have experienced losses that might have been prevented by reducing stigma and with increasing awareness and access to services.”
SCO’s harm reduction public education and awareness campaign will prioritize southern First Nation citizens in community and in urban centres. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of First Nations people with lived experience and organizations such as the Manitoba Association for Community Health, Nine Circles, Substance Consulting, and the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre for their help in developing this campaign.
The campaign will include printed materials, billboards, bus boards, ad space, social media, and traditional media engagement. It will also focus on reducing stigma and share messaging grounded in love and acceptance. The campaign launches this week and runs until the end of August 2023. Watch for the billboards in Brandon, Dauphin, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, and Winnipeg and for bus boards on Brandon and Winnipeg public transit.
“This campaign goes hand in hand with our overall mandate to address the social determinants of health for our Nations, including poverty, homelessness, systemic discrimination, the ongoing effects of colonization, intergenerational trauma, food insecurity, and economic apartheid,” concluded Grand Chief Daniels. “Along with our Land-Based Healing Program, I am confident that this awareness initiative will be an important tool in our fight to end the stigma, provide good information, and promote healing and harm reduction that will begin to close the disparities in health outcomes for First Nations citizens in this country we all now share.”
For more information on SCO’s Harm Reduction work, visit: https://scoinc.mb.ca/harmreduction/
The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 83,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.
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