February 7 was African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day,  appropriately  held during Black History Month.

Ottawa is home to a pilot project—The ACB Health Zone—which is specifically designed to meet the needs of the ACB communities.  Modeled after similar programs (such as Gay Zone), the ACB Health Zone is hosted by the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre on Monday evenings.  Services include anonymous rapid HIV testing, walk-in primary care, immigration and settlement support, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program support, as well as a range of programming from art therapy to games and socials.

For me, ACB HIV/AIDS awareness day is important because black people experience multiple barriers to culturally competent and affirming care. As such, it is meaningful to participate in an event that centres the unique and specific needs of ACB populations. I also believe holding space for black PHAs to come together and discuss their lived experiences is an invaluable tool for community development. I’m honored to have been in attendance with such a beautiful and vibrant group of individuals.”

Keegan Prempeh,  ACB HIV Prevention Strategy Worker. Somerset West CHC

This innovative project was the brainchild of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) and the African and Caribbean Health Network of Ottawa (ACHNO) to implement the Ontario HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategy. The ACB Health Zone aims to reduce rates of HIV, Hep C and other sexually transmitted blood born infections (STBBI) among ACB communities in Ottawa, by addressing the key social determinants of health, which create vulnerability and health/social inequities for ACB populations. The goal is to attract community members with culturally inclusive programs, while simultaneously providing access to much needed clinical services.

“Knowledge kills HIV, know your status.”

Haoua Inoua, Manager of Education & Prevention, ACO

“The ACB Health Zone is putting healthcare back into the people’s hands.”

Taib Boyce, MSM Ethno-Cultural Resource Coordinator, ACO
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