By Bryan Sparrow, Intern Student

In our 15th year, it has become clear that HIV can no longer be looked at as a singular entity. After last year’s AGM, the push for a new mandate was heard and an expansion to CAAN’s work was made. Addressing the physical, social and psychological needs of APHAs is now a staple in the CAAN way of life.

Jessica Danforth, Coordinator of the National Aboriginal Youth Council on HIV and AIDS (NAYCHA), is pleased to hear of this change but argues that this “new” model isn’t so new after all. I recently caught up with the Youth Coordinator to discuss her take on holistic care and her hopes for the future of NAYCHA.

Bryan: Hey Jessica, hope you’re doing well. Can you tell me a bit about what you and the Youth Council have been up to the last few months?
Jessica: We’ve been up to a number of things, actually. We recently had our second meeting in Victoria for our big Community-Based Research project, Young Eagles Soar, and presented at another CAAN conference which went really great. We’ve also welcomed a new member to the council, Scosha Diamond, who also sits on CAAN’s Board of Directors. Having Scosha sit on our council and the board is exciting because it gives us a greater opportunity to have the youth voice heard within CAAN. Now we’re prepping for the upcoming CAAN AGM in Vancouver at the end of this month.

B: There are a lot of factors that influence HIV today, what do you think some of the greatest risks are for positive youth at the moment?
J: We need to stop calling youth “at risk” and start naming these social determinants of health. Colonization and racism puts people at risk. Aboriginal youth being themselves is not a danger, it’s a strength.

B: What does holistic care mean to NAYCHA? Are you excited for this change?
J: I always think it’s really interesting when we use that word because it’s an Indigenous methodology. It’s remembering who we are and where we come from. It’s about looking at our past and restoring that knowledge and tradition. I know some youth creating songs about our time because they want to be remembered in 100 years. I think holistic care is about self-determination and understanding and knowing what feels right for you, your health and your body. It’s about having all the options available for you. Whether you want something more traditional, or something more western, you should have that option.

B: Do you see any challenges for this new model?
J: I don’t see any challenges; I think it’s something we’ve always been doing. If a youth says HIV is the only challenge in their life, I know that’s not true. It’s about acknowledging that people are struggling with things like co-infection, mental health and addiction and realizing that these are a part of their lives.

B: What do you hope to see for the Youth Council in the future?
J: I would like to see it continue. I think it’s super important to have NAYCHA. It rooted the creation of the National Native Youth Council in the United States and it was great to see one council mentor another. I’d definitely like to see more of that. Having two Indigenous councils in North America is great, but if we can spread this globally that would be even better. I’d also like to see even younger people getting involved and connecting with more partners. In 2013, HIV is preventable.

CAAN Skills Building and AGM 2013
The CAAN Annual General Meeting
CAAN AGM will be held in at the Empire Landmark Hotel in Vancouver. Check our website at
The dates for the Annual Skills Building and the AGM are:
• June 24, 2013 – Travel Day
• June 25, 2013 – APHA Caucus
• June 26, 2013 – Skills Building and Workshops
• June 27, 2013 – CAAN AGM am
• June 27, 2013 – Travel Day
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