AIDS Saskatoon and Out Saskatoon have decorated the town red to bring awareness to their cause and promote the campaign leading up to their annual fundraiser walk.
Dozens of red ribbons cover trees, light posts, parking metres, and bike racks for a five-block stretch of 20th Street between Idylwyld Drive and Avenue D.
“One of the major issues with HIV in our health region and province is silence,” AIDS Saskatoon executive director Danielle Genest said. “We don’t become educated, we don’t know who is at risk, people don’t know how HIV is transmitted, they don’t know how they can prevent it, and so the silence it really killing people.”
The ribbons act as a visual conversation generator, Genest said, that remind people that HIV/AIDS is an ongoing issue within the community. Saskatchewan has the highest per capita rate of the virus in Canada, with more than double the national average.
“I’m hoping the red ribbons will start people asking questions, having conversations… start to break the silence and taboo around it,” Genest said.
A report and action plan released by Saskatchewan HIV/AIDS Research Endeavor this week, which AIDS Saskatoon helped write, paves a 10-point strategy pathway to improving awareness, testing and treatment.
The goal is to reach 90-90-90, a plan set out by the World Health Organization. It aims to have 90 per cent of people who have HIV diagnosed, 90 per cent of diagnosed people on treatment, and 90 per cent of them with such a low amount of virus that it cannot be transmitted.
“Increasing testing is a big thing. Talking to people and making sure everybody knows that test is for everybody, not just people considered high risk groups,” Genest said.
She said remaining in the dark about your status doesn’t change it, and knowing will increase your knowledge and chances of living a long, healthy life.
The ribbons kicked off the a two-week campaign leading up to the AIDS Walk for Life on Sept. 13. Donations can be made on the AIDS Saskatoon website