XVIII International AIDS Conference


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A family-model peer support group to empower African/Caribbean living with HIV in Ottawa, Canada

I. Haoua1, B. Sarr2, Women

1AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada, 2Community Member, Ottawa, Canada

Issues: For women from African and Caribbean communities, HIV stigma and discrimination remain a significant reality. Despite considerable challenges related to immigration and living with HIV, African and Caribbean women living in Ottawa, Canada, are using an innovative culture approach to build a network to cope with stigmatization, break social isolation, improve mental and physical wellbeing, increase adherence to treatment, and reduce language and cultural barriers.
Description: The African-Caribbean women's peer support group was the first group of its kind in Ottawa. Through a family-model, the group works to create a special place for African and Caribbean women living with HIV/AIDS to share their experiences about living with HIV/AIDS, support each other and share information and resources. The women hold monthly meetings around the central theme of sharing a meal. Each meeting start with checking in sessions designed to inquire about their health and social issues. They also share supportive telephone calls between group members, participate in activities that build sisterhood, solve problems and invite guest speakers/experts.
Lessons learned: Working to build a strong network based on family values is an effective and essential mean to empower women living with HIV/AIDS. The group is strengthening trust, confidentiality, support among its member and encouraging them to take leadership roles. They share resources and provide mentoring and counseling to each other. They also attempt to break language barriers, build capacity on various issues by inviting experts and supporting newcomers.
Next steps: The African-Caribbean women's peer support group is currently developing a work plan of action to provide a voice to their community.

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