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  • La Ronge hosts HIV/AIDS conference

    La Ronge hosts HIV/AIDS conference

    Sue Johanson, sex edudator and host of the Sunday Night Sex Show, was the keynote speaker at the HIV/AIDS conference held at the Kikinahk Friendship Centre March 14 and 15.

    La Ronge hosts HIV/AIDS conference

    Raucus gales of laughter filled the Kikinahk hall in response to the humour and antics of comedian Don Burnstick March 14.

    La Ronge hosts HIV/AIDS conference

    Participants from across the north filled the Kikinahk hall for the HIV/AIDS Conference.

    Not to be beaten out by Toronto, La Ronge hosted a day-and-a half HIV/AIDS conference featuring Sue Johanson, a sex educator and host of the Sunday Night Sex Show, a panel of people living with HIV infection, workshops and an overview of the work of AIDS Saskatoon.

    On the lighter side, comedian Don Burnstick provided the entertainment at the community banquet.

    “I think we’ve had an overwhelming turnout to our conference; I think it was successful,” said Wendy McPhail, co-ordinator for the event.

    In the early winter a committee was formed to plan an event and the pieces fell into place, McPhail said, adding the comments from participants included making the conference an annual event.

    The purpose for the event was two-fold, creating awareness about the risks of HIV/AIDS and finding ways to respond with respect and compassion to people in the community who live with HIV or AIDS.

    People often move away from the community when they learn they are HIV positive or living with AIDS, McPhail said, so finding ways to let people know there are supportive, friendly people living in La Ronge; they don’t have to move away.

    Johanson encouraged people of all ages to talk openly about sex and with the provision of information, particularly to young people as a protection against rising instances of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

    She noted the gender differences in response how young males are much more familiar at an early age, with their genital anatomy; girls usually are not, she said.

    Participants had the opportunity to learn more about HIV/AIDS later in the day by participating in one of three workshops geared to the general awareness of HIV/AIDS, or with a focus on either health care or education.

    Sherri Doell and Gina McKay of AIDS Saskatoon offered a presentation on community responses to HIV/AIDS; with the use of a PowerPoint presentation the two women offered a detailed outline on the work of AIDS Saskatoon and their programs.

    The first day of the conference wrapped up with a banquet and entertainment by comedian Don Burnstick.

    Raucous laughter could be heard throughout the hall as people responded to Burnstick’s humour and antics.

    Tanner Cook, Kikinahk’s HIV/AIDS educator, presented Burnstick with a ceremonial drum.

    A presentation, with a panel made up of people living with HIV; focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination.

    Members of the panel, which was made up of three adults and one child, told their personal stories about the diagnosis of HIV and what it’s meant in their lives since.

    The conference ended with a ceremonial circle with people either living with HIV/AIDS or whose lives are affected standing in the circle while others formed an outer circle. The people from the outer circle moved to greet the people in the inner circle as a powerful sign of support, friendship and solidarity.

    Sue Johanson’s presentation and the Panel discussion will be covered in depth in next week’s Northerner.

    Members of the planning committee include: Ron Woytowich, Kikinahk’s executive director, Tanner Cook, Kikinahk’s HIV/AIDS educator, Wendy McPhail, sexual wellness co-ordinator and Deanna Bartok, public health nurse, both with the Mamawetan Churchill River Health Authority.

    Valerie G. Connell


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