HIV/AIDS Backgrounder: African and Caribbean communities

African and Caribbean Communities & HIV/AIDS – Key Messages

African and Caribbean communities have reported one of the fastest-rising HIV infection rates of any group in Ontario. Between 1999 and 2004, the number of African and Caribbean people in Ontario infected with HIV increased by 80%. Provincially, they accounted for 18.5% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2005 and it is estimated that they now account for 12% of all people living with HIV in Toronto.

Racism and discrimination from outside their communities, and HIV stigma from within them, increase African and Caribbean people’s vulnerability to HIV transmission. Within African and Caribbean communities, where HIV is sometimes associated with promiscuity or immorality, people living with HIV/AIDS can face isolation and stigma. Some cultural practices and religious beliefs can make it difficult for people from these communities to discuss or negotiate safer sex with their partners. Unemployment, lower income levels, and negative cultural stereotypes from outside their communities can also impact on African and Caribbean people’s ability to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS.

Stigma and discrimination discourage people from talking about their HIV-status, or about the conditions that put them at risk for HIV. Stigma and discrimination discourage African and Caribbean people from protecting themselves from HIV, getting tested, or seeking treatment. For newcomers to Canada, linguistic and cultural barriers can further limit their access to information, treatment, and care. These factors, in turn, decrease quality of life and lead to increasing HIV infection rates.

Public education and community-building have been shown to help reduce the spread of HIV among African and Caribbean people and improve their access to information, care, and treatment. A coalition of service providers, researchers, policy makers, and community members, the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO) is a concerted effort on the part of these communities to tackle the issue of HIV. Since 2005, ACCHO has launched HIV prevention and informational campaigns and developed initiatives to improve the ability of service providers and researchers to work with these communities. ACT is a founding member of ACCHO.