A person’s vulnerability to a disease like HIV is more rooted in how they fit into a community and less on their individual behaviour – which might explain why youth from African, Caribbean and Black populations have higher rates of infection, according to a UWindsor sociology professor who is studying the problem.
“What we find in these communities is that people often feel like they don’t belong, and don’t feel like they have a future,” says Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, a Canada Research Chair in Social Justice and Sexual Health.
“When you don’t have hope for the future, you say ‘Why worry about the present? Why am I going to worry about this HIV thing? I’m just going to live and let live.’ So it’s not just the behaviour patterns, but it’s that whole social framework that surrounds them.”
According to statistics, African, Caribbean and Black people only account for about four per cent of Ontario's population, but heterosexual transmission in this population accounts for 29 per cent of new HIV cases. This burden extends beyond immigration from HIV-endemic countries. Anywhere from 20 to 60 per cent of infections occur after arrival in Canada, according to the 2011 Ontario Surveillance Report.
Maticka-Tyndale is part of a team of researchers that recently received about $375,000 in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to launch a program called Informing and Empowering African, Caribbean and Black Youth in Windsor.
The objective of the group is to mobilize the ACB community in Windsor-Essex, identify the factors that contribute to their increased vulnerability, and ultimately develop a risk reduction and prevention strategy that would lower the rates of infection.
Maticka-Tyndale will discuss the project when she appears today on Research Matters, a weekly talk show that airs every Thursday at 4:30 pm on CJAM 99.1 FM and showcases the work of University of Windsor researchers.