World AIDS Day (December 1) and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) are key dates in our calendar each year at Realize. Improving the health and well-being of people living with HIV and other episodic disabilities, is at the core of our mission. These two days help us, our members, partners, and allies cut through the chaotic chatter of issues and information that swamp people every day. They are important moments to shine a light on the lives of people living and aging with HIV and people living with disabilities, the challenges they face, and on important action that needs to happen to overcome inequality and exclusion.
This year, Realize is honouring these two important days together:
- to highlight critical gaps in Canada’s HIV response and in the sexual health information and supports available to people living at the intersections of HIV, aging and disability, and
- to outline work we will undertake in the coming years to address those gaps.
HIV disproportionately affects those already at risk of poor health outcomes because of sexual orientation, gender, culture, race, and other factors. Canada’s HIV response is further complicated by inequities in people’s access to quality information and services accessible and appropriate to their life situations. Through ongoing consultations with the HIV, aging, and disability communities across Canada, Realize and our partners have flagged persistent ageism and ableism as significant barriers preventing people from accessing appropriate sexual health information, supports and services. Increasingly, policymakers, program decision makers, health-care providers and community-based organizations are recognizing these problems, but they lack the resources and “know-how” to address them.
As we’ve learned from the disruptions and social isolation related to COVID-19, it is critical to support people where they are most likely to engage. A ‘no wrong door’ approach that increases the capacity of front-line community service providers across the HIV, aging and disability sectors to work together, would enable them to understand and respond, without stigma, to the unique sexual health concerns of people whose lives intersect these worlds. The opportunity to coordinate the provision of information, support and referrals has the potential to reach people who have been inadequately served in the HIV, prevention, treatment, care, and support cascade to date. Increased access to information and support at the community level also has the potential to minimize the use of overburdened health and social services.
In recent years, the scope of these challenges has become a significant focus of ongoing consultations across Realize’s wide network of partners and allied organizations in the HIV, aging and disability sectors, with many community-based organizations calling for support and capacity building resources to bridge these gaps in their services.
Realize is bringing new focus to bridging these gaps. In the next year we will conduct a national situational analyses on ageism and ableism in Canada’s HIV, Hep C and STBBI (Sexually Transmitted and Blood Borne Infections) response and begin the process of creating resources and training opportunities and fostering linkages that will enable policymakers, program decision makers, public health professionals, students in health and social service disciplines, and community-based organizations to begin to support better sexual health outcomes for older adults living or vulnerable to HIV and people living with disabilities.
As UNAIDS has stated in relation to this year’s World AIDS Day theme: “Without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the targets to end AIDS by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic…” It’s a message that aligns with the theme of the International Day of Person’s with Disabilities for 2021 that seeks: “leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.” Realize is committed to being part of this bold action for equity, inclusion, and accessibility that leads to a sense of belonging for all. We hope you will join us!
World AIDS Day, December 1, 2021
End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.
“This World AIDS Day, UNAIDS is highlighting the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world.
Without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the targets to end AIDS by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and a spiralling social and economic crisis.”
International Day of Persons with Disabilities: December 3, 2021
Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.
“The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life.”
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Disability