I heard a piece on CBC radio last week (here’s a link to the print story) talking about the outrageous cost of food in Nunavut. It made me think about the people up there living with HIV. If decent food isn’t affordable, what are positive people doing? Some might argue that more traditional foods, such a whale, seal or caribou could help, but one hunter was quoted in the story saying that even supplies for hunting are expensive.
I did a little checking on rates of HIV up North (waaay up North in the case of Nunavut). At the moment, HIV hasn’t hit as hard up there as it has in other predominantly Aboriginal communities - yet. I say yet, because the rates of other STIs in Nunavut are crazy. An article from April of this year notes “Nunavut’s Department of Health says rates of Chlamydia in the territory are around fifteen times higher than the national average and gonorrhea rates are even higher.” Fifteen times. Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) makes a person more vulnerable to HIV infection, so these rates make me think that HIV is going to hit these communities hard when it does.
Food is integral to health. A study of urban poor living with HIV in San Francisco found that those who don’t have food security are more likely to go to Emergency Departments or end up in hospital than those who do. Good nutrition helps the immune system stay strong, helps people maintain healthy weights, helps the spirit feel connected to energy. Food IS energy- without it things fail. We used to think that HIV could lay dormant for years before causing any significant harm, but we know now that HIV causes ongoing inflammation from the start. Inflammation puts pressure on all systems in the body, and good nutrition is an obvious way of helping the body cope. Not so easy when things cost so much.
People with other ongoing health conditions are effected too. Food is a necessary building block to health. So where do these high costs leave folks?