Aging with Wisdom
Report on findings from research conducted November 2017
For years, Indigenous women have been voicing the need for separate safe spaces where they can be themselves together, free from stigma and violence. Yet, meager funding sources have evaporated. Where do the voices of Indigenous women go? Colonization and patriarchy has left a strong resistance to change, especially change from the people who are enjoying the status quo. The medications have improved and positive people are living 20 and 30 years longer than they imagined. They do not just want to live; they want to live well, supporting each other.
Using a Two-eyed Seeing approach, a small but proud group of Indigenous women all aging with HIV gathered for four days of sequential sharing circles over a two-week period. The women shared – without fear of judgment or consequence – both the challenges as well as the things that brought them joy and made them well. They explored the services, supports, health and wellness interventions that they know will assist them and other women aging and living with HIV. The implications if one listens are profound.
Instead of the challenges of aging as Indigenous women living with HIV, they focused on their roles within their families and communities, overcoming adversity by using their strengths, and the importance of friendships with other positive Indigenous women. They acknowledged that even with all the barriers and discrimination within the healthcare system, specific relationships with specific respectful and compassionate healthcare professionals added to their overall wellness. However, they also identified the need for positive Indigenous women’s only spaces, cultural-based programing, the promotion of self-determination and having a purpose to get out of bed every day. They are the ones that need to be empowered to envision, create, implement and facilitate their own services and supports. They see being offered one support group a month is tokenistic. They no longer want permission to enter. They want to see their faces across the front desk when they walk through the front door. Together, they questioned why the HIV services and supports are not meeting all of their needs.
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