The “Walk My Red Road II” HIV/AIDS conference wrapped up here Friday without a hitch, leaving organizers pleased with the overall attendance of 200-plus, including 75 youths.
Despite poor weather, delegates came to learn more about how to prevent getting the HIV virus, and how to live with it once it becomes part of your life.
“I think it spoke to the youth—their participation in the seminars was great,” noted co-organizer Angela Petsnick, who also works as health educator for the Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre here.
“They were very mature and didn’t take the subject matter lightly,” she noted.
In fact, Petsnick said the response from the teen crowd was so good that organizers would be sure to include a youth council to help with the conference next year.
“We want to make it open to anyone but we’ll try to focus a little more on the youth,” she remarked. “They know what they like and how to bring their peers through that door.”
The conference featured three guest speakers who are living with AIDS. To present a balance of how people can contract the virus, each of the speakers was picked for the means by which they contracted AIDS—intravenous drug use, heterosexual sex, and same-sex relations.
“I think the youth really enjoyed Lisa Tiger,” noted Petsnick. She looked young and pretty—she really put a face to AIDS.”
The other two—Rene Boucher (Sioux Lookout) and Annie Loonskin (Timmins)—also were well-received.
Another hit were the Ogitchidag Gikinoomaagad Players, a theatre troupe from Minneapolis, Mn. who presented “My Grandmother’s Love,” a play about a young man who has to explain to his family he has AIDS.
“It was very well done. We’ll definitely be asking them back again,” said Petsnick.
As far as the more formal presentations went, David Belrose, education co-ordinator for the Thunder Bay AIDS Society, and Sue Johanson, host of the popular “Sunday Night Sex Show” on TV, fit the bill.
Johanson also gave an animated presentation, “Sex, Know What You Are Doing,” on Thursday evening for those not attending the conference.
Her straight-forward approach, and willingness to answer all questions made her a hit with the crowd.
“Sue Johanson was very popular,” said Ann Sinclair, Life-long co-ordinator with the United Native Friendship Centre here. “We had 130 attend.”
The conference wrapped up after a circle discussion between all the presenters Friday afternoon.
The conference was co-sponsored by the Rainy River First Nation, UNFC, Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre, Health Canada (Medical Services Branch), and the Canadian Aborginal AIDS Network.