Black History Month is an opportunity to honour Black Canadians and the contributions they make to this country, which span hundreds of years, back to the early 1600s. As a hospital with HIV expertise, it is also an opportunity to call attention to the reality that Black communities are over-represented in rates of HIV, and to consider this population’s distinct health care needs. Statistics show that African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) communities are disproportionately affected by the virus: although these communties made up less than 5% of Ontario’s population in 2015, they accounted for 25% of all new HIV diagnoses.
Barriers to accessing education and employment opportunities, and systemic racism, contribute to the ACB population in Ontario being at higher risk of acquiring HIV, and all too frequently stigma prevents people from accessing prevention, testing and treatment.
A recent study of HIV prevalence and risk factors among ACB people in Ontario¹ suggests that addressing social determinants of health, in particular income and employment related factors, might help lower their risk of acquiring HIV. As a hospital that embraces a holistic approach to health care, we are committed to considering these social factors that determine health and well-being when planning an individual’s care and to providing opportunities to address those factors through our services and programming. We also help reduce barriers to accessing health care by meeting clients where they are on their individual journeys of health and wellness, and taking time to partner with them to reach their health goals.
Another part of our hospital’s approach is to provide culturally-sensitive care without judgement. Creating an inclusive environment takes time, and trust, and in addition to refining our own service offerings, we build partnerships in the community to learn, share knowledge and make connections.
While Casey House’s philosophy and model of care helps support this population, having a team of staff, peers and volunteers that is reflective of the people we serve is also important; providers with lived experience is integral to delivering equitable health care. Casey House is committed to building such a team; one that reflects the diversity of the community in which we live and serve, and encourages learners, job seekers, and those wishing to volunteer, to explore opportunities to join our team.
In addition to highlighting the health needs of the ACB population during Black History Month, we are committed to celebrating Black achievement by continuing to build internal knowledge and by hosting month-specific programming. At the same time, we are also taking the opportunity to look at how Casey House as an organization, and how each team member, is contributing to anti-Black racism and re-committing ourselves to dismantling the structures and behaviours that perpetuate racism. This is critical to the health of our team, our organization, and the clients we serve.
- A cross-sectional investigation of HIV prevalence and risk factors among African, Caribbean and Black people in Ontario: The A/C Study, October 2022. Lawrence Mbuagbaw, Winston Husbands, Shamara Baidoobonso, Daeria Lawson, Muna Aden, Josephine Etowa, LaRon Nelson, Wangari Tharao