The more education on sexual health in the territory the better.
A recent influx of financial support from Health Canada to the tune of $1 million over five years for FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) and SMASH (Strength, Masculinities and Sexual Health) will undoubtedly help.
“Knowing that we have five more years of being able to talk to young men about community responsibility and sexuality, it just warms my heart and makes me so hopeful for the future,” said Nancy MacNeill. co-founder and co-ordinator of FOXY and SMASH.
And the statistics show this is much needed programming in communities in the territory.
In 2015, the Department of Health and Social Services tabled a summary of public performance measure which reported the NWT’s rate of STIs was seven times the national average. That report illustrated there were 70 cases per 1,000 in the communities in 2014.
Some will remember an outbreak of syphilis in the territory between 2008 and 2009, which saw numbers rise to 100 cases per 1,000. Prior to that outbreak there had not been a single reported case in the five years leading up to the 2008 outbreak.
Taking out fears and stigma through education for youth in school-based programming, on-the-land programs and peer leader retreats means these young people are being given the tools to have a voice and the knowledge to create change in how sex, consent, sexual health and abuse are talked about.
Liberal MP Michael McLeod said during a press conference on May 15 that the sexual health organization’s programming complements a federal goal to eliminate AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses and blood borne infections by 2030, in line with targets set by UN and World Health Organization targets.
“FOXY has done a lot of good work with the youth and female population and now the younger male population. I think we’re going to see people with more knowledge about the more serious challenges we have with infectious diseases,” said McLeod.
And with FOXY and SMASH speaking to close to 300 boys, men, educators, social workers, RCMP, teachers, parents and elders since winning the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2014, we are sure they are well on their way to reaching that goal.
MacNeill said improving health outcomes requires changing an “overall perception” that STIs don’t need to be discussed.
“These are things that are part of our health and we want to pursue them,” she said.
Continued support, by government and the public at large, is something we hope persists for this organization for many years to come.
Here’s to a healthier future for the territory.
Keep up the good work you FOXY women and SMASH(ing) men!