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  • Three stories worth appreciating this World AIDS Day

    November 28th, 2014

    by Erin Seatter | @erinlynds
    With each impending World AIDS Day, I tend to take stock of how far we are from where we need to be. The litany of injustices requiring redress, empirically proven measures awaiting implementation, solutions hampered only by the narrow interests of those holding political power—these can occupy a lot of mental space.

    But Canada has seen some good stories of late, and think it’s worth highlighting them as ways we can continue to push forward and build healthier communities. Here are three developments worth appreciating.

    Sexual health supergroup emerges on the scene

    Intriguing changes in the national health landscape have arisen from Ottawa, where three organizations joined forces to create a central agency in support of the sexual and reproductive health movement in Canada.

    Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights picks up where the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, Action Canada for Population and Development, and Canadians for Choice leave off. This merger of complementary agendas and resources could set the stage for powerful and progressive advocacy in the area of sexual and reproductive health, from which the country could certainly benefit.

    In conjunction with the release of the United Nations Population Fund’s youth-focused State of World Population Report 2014, Action Canada issued a press release, which included the following passage:

    Governments have an obligation to realize young people’s sexual and reproductive rights. These obligations are embodied in national laws and international human rights treaties; yet violations of young people’s and adolescents’ rights persist. In this regard, Canada has an obligation both through its development assistance, but also here at home.

    New Brunswick schedules abortion access for 2015

    On January 1, New Brunswick will finally provide more readily available abortion services, now that the requirement to have two doctors sign off on an abortion has been scrapped, and a doctor no longer has to be a specialist in order to perform an abortion.

    Although abortions are approved only for hospitals, they will be classified as an insured medical procedure.

    Last summer the only private abortion clinic in New Brunswick, the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton, shut down, forcing individuals to travel out of province to cities such as Montreal and even to the United States. Abortion services in Maine reported a swell in the number of patients arriving from New Brunswick. One staff member was quoted in the Globe and Mail as worried about the people “who can’t do that – who can’t get time off from work, who can’t find childcare, who can’t afford the fees or don’t have a passport.”

    “To have to leave your country? I don’t know, that doesn’t seem right to me.”

    Vancouver patients get the prescription heroin they need

    Providence Health Care and five patients are engaged in a court battle to access essential medical treatment, which the Canadian government wants to deny. In the meantime, the BC Supreme Court has granted an injunction allowing the patients to receive the treatment while the case is heard.

    A year ago I wrote about this group of patients fighting to continue the medical treatment that had changed their lives. Conventional treatments had failed to alleviate their opiate dependence, whereas heroin-assisted treatment showed clear beneficial outcomes, as documented through research. Yet after the study ended, patients were offered only those treatments, such as methadone therapy, that hadn’t worked in the first place.

    Receiving heroin under medical supervision provided a foundation of stability; knowing they had reliable access to the drug freed patients to concentrate on other concerns. They improved their finances, participated less in illegal activities, and better developed their relationships with friends and family.

    Forwards, Backwards- Trans Care and Support

    November 20th, 2014


    by Janet Madsen  |  @janet_madsen

    Today is the final day of Transgender Awareness Week, and today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR if you want to check Twitter for what’s happening around the world).It’s a time to “help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues these communities face, “ as GLAAD so finely puts it.    Gender identity is our inner sense of being male, female or a unique mix. Most people never have to question gender identity, as they fit into one or other role. For trans and gender non-conforming folk, how they feel in their hearts is not how their bodies are shaped, and that can cause a lot of pain.  Candle01-morguefile

    To state the obvious, trans people face stigma and discrimination, words we hear a lot in connection with HIV too. As with HIV, these words frequently translate into pain and suffering. Self-harm and violence against trans people are too common. A UK survey found that nearly half of trans youth had attempted suicide because of discrimination, intolerance, bullying, rejection and violence. The Trans* Violence Tracking Portal (trigger warning- some tough stuff here) monitors international stats of reports on murders, physical violence, missing persons and suicides. There are way too many.

    Making society more trans educated and supportive is taking time, and that’s why weeks like this are so important. There are steps forwards and backwards. Looking locally, in the Vancouver school system there is good and troubling news. In late spring this year, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) passed a policy supporting trans kids more fully, formalizing what many say has been in practice for years. However, getting the policy passed wasn’t easy. There were numerous meetings with transphobic statements and claims made. Because of the hard work of supporters who used science based evidence and human rights arguments, the policy passed. But those challenging the policy haven’t given up. In the last few weeks their transphobia has arisen again, as a group of parents is suing the VSB over the policy. What does this say to trans kids and communities? Hopefully they are aware and energized by those of us who support them, and can carry that with them as they move through their days. I’ll be watching (and reporting on) how this develops.

    Healthcare is a huge issue for trans people, who frequently encounter a lack of knowledge and support from doctors and other healthcare providers. Kudos to the American Association of Medical Colleges which has released new guidelines on how to improve med school curriculato better prepare young doctors to treat their LGBT, gender non-conforming, and DSD patients.” One of the big parts of health care can be gender affirming surgery (also known as sex reassignment surgery). It is not funded in all Canadian provinces, but it is in BC.

    That doesn’t make it easy, mind you. In late October, the funding ran out for the office that works with trans people to assess their eligibility for gender-affirming surgery. The Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre released a statement that expressed deep concern about how this would affect trans people at the start of “an already long and arduous process.” Then on October 30, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority issued a release saying “Programs and services for transgender community to be strengthened.” It promises

    “Beginning April 2015, the Provincial Health Services Authority will assume responsibility for provincial co-ordination of transgender services in B.C. and will look to expand capacity for these services in consultation with clinical experts and stakeholders from the transgender community.”

    More steps backwards and forwards in the process of fully integrating trans rights and health in our communities.

    In honour of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, tonight there will be a memorial for trans people who have experienced violence. It’s at the Carnegie Community Centre (401 Main Street) from 7- 930.

    Here at Positive Women’s Network, trans women are always welcome. C’mon in.


    Photo: jschumacher, MorgueFile