“It's not enough to ask a prospective sexual partner if they are HIV-infected. The reality is that someone can be telling the truth based on a negative test report received that same morning, which only means they tested negative for HIV antibodies two weeks ago, when the blood for the test was drawn. It may even be that they carried HIV in their bloodstream but had not yet produced HIV antibodies.” –Old tactics, old tests can't stop modern plague, by Dr. Mark Wainberg (director of the McGill University AIDS Centre)

I have no idea how many people are even posing the question or getting tested (rising HIV transmission rates would lead me to believe that not enough are doing either) but a recent Quebec study showed that up to 50% of new HIV cases in the province were spread by people who had been HIV-positive for less than six months. So by all means we should ask about a sexual partner's HIV and STD status but relying on his/her answer is enormously risky.

Check out Scarleteen's guide on when to use what (and other safety essentials):

Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To

Hanging out in Jordan, Ontario yesterday, touring Cave Spring and strolling the village:
Welcome to Jordan

Avant Garde Emporium, Jordan

Guitar House, Jordan

Relatives by Appointment. Friends Welcome

Tea For Two? Jordan

Sweet Ride, Jordan

Help Yourself

Jordan Museum

Swallowed by nature, Jordan

A spring Amnesty International USA report showed that more than one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes (a statistic that makes them more than 2.5 times as likely to be raped as other U.S. women). Suspects often go free due to a lack of nurses and "a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions." The report also indicates at least 86% of the reported sexual assaults of Native women are by non-Native men.

Here in Canada the intersection of race and gender prejudice is every bit as brutal. According to a 1996 Canadian government statistic, Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as a result of violence. In 2004 Amnesty International released a report called Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada. Stolen Sisters studies the cases of nine murdered or missing Native Canadian women and girls and links the high levels of violence experienced by Indigenous Canadian females to deeply rooted patterns of social, economic and political marginalization. In "every instance, it is Amnesty International’s view that Canadian authorities should have done more to ensure the safety of these women and girls."

While covering the 1996 trial of John Martin Crawford (who was convicted of murdering three indigenous women in Saskatoon) journalist Warren Goulding commented: “I don't get the sense the general public cares much about missing or murdered aboriginal women. It's all part of this indifference to the lives of aboriginal people. They don't seem to matter as much as white people.”

Reactions to recent aboriginal protests aimed at raising awareness of native poverty, high suicide rates and unresolved land claims illustrate the astounding level of apathy many feel towards Native Canadians in 2007. The below comments were found on the Canoe news website:

“You lost the war, face it.”

“We need to stop funding them when stuff like this happens. Slowly bleed them into "equality" instead of spoiling them with free money.”

“You sold out, you are now the minority, deal with it, if not pay the consequences.”

“Actions by Native groups like closing roads or seizing housing projects....hurts individual Canadians.”

“They're unable to do anything for themselves anymore. All they do is complain about everything. I agree with Mike Harris when he (supposedly) said 'get those indians out of there!' ” 

“If any other tax paying citizen pulled a stunt like this they would be in jail so fast their heads would spin.”

Clearly some Canadians feel Native health, safety and security are beneath their concern, only on their radar when aboriginal people are actively protesting and even then, only as a nuisance issue. Obviously our country needs a comprehensive history lesson, positive political action, remedial sensitivity training and a huge dose of basic human empathy. Our Native girls deserve to grow up taking their safety and well-being for granted. Canadians who composed the above messages evidently have no idea just how far aboriginal women and girls (and their brothers, partners and sons) reside from this ideal.

Helen Betty Osborne
murdered November 12, 1971

Shirley Lonethunder
missing since December 1991

Pamela Jean George
murdered April 17, 1995

Janet Henry
missing since June 28, 1997

Sarah de Vries
missing April 14, 1998; confirmed dead August 6

Cynthia Louise Sanderson
killed August 30, 2002

Maxine Wapass
missing May 17, 2002 confirmed dead in February, 2003

Felicia Velvet Solomon
missing, March 25, 2003 confirmed dead October, 2003

Moira Louise Erb
missing August 2, 2003; found dead September 17, 2003

The Chinese Lantern Festival at Ontario Place features even more displays this year and is a real treat for the eyes. It runs nightly until October 7th. We arrived at Exhibition station about an hour after the Caribana parade ended. It was cool to see so many people strolling in the middle of Lakeshore Boulevard, some of them still in festive costumes.

Lakeshore Boulevard, Aug  4th 7 pm

The risk that a legal handgun becomes an illegal handgun is not a hypothetical risk. It's established.” —Attorney General Michael Bryant

In fact, there are 582,000 legally owned handguns in Canada. During 2004 3,582 legally registered firearms were reported lost or stolen here. In the first 11 months of 2006 the number had already risen to 4,187.

Toronto police estimate that seventy percent of the handguns they seize have been smuggled in from the U.S. - a figure that citizens who want to avoid a total handgun ban in this country will swiftly point to. But guns smuggled across the U.S. border obviously aren't the only ones to stop a heart beating.

In the instance of gun control, it's our misfortune to live next to a country that sometimes still feels like the wild west. In 2001 there were 11,348 homicides cause by firearms in America, compared to 168 in Canada. That same year saw only 96 homicides caused by firearms in the United Kingdom (which has roughly double our population but is free from our particular border woes).

Pulling a trigger is an easy way to kill, a fact that's well illustrated by a sky high U.S. homicide rate. Clearly we need to stem the flow of weapons from the south but getting 30% of handguns off Canadian streets could make a significant impact on homicide figures and other crimes. Just how many more innocent eleven year olds have to die for us to see the light?

Ban Handguns? Think of the Innocent Ones...
Some good news for Ontario girls today. Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that starting this fall the province will offer Grade 8 girls a free HPV vaccine. If administered before girls are sexually active the three-shot Gardasil vaccine protects against infection from four separate strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which combined, cause 70% all cases of cervical cancer and 90% of genital warts.

Cervical cancer kills 400 Canadian women each year and 274,000 women globally. As condoms don't offer total protection from HPV (because they don't completely cover the genital area) the Gardasil vaccine will be instrumental in preventing cervical cancer. Of course, even with the vaccine, safer sex practices and annual pap smears are a must, but as current U.S. government figures show HPV infection as rampant with half of American "women in their early 20s and one-quarter of teenage girls" infected any new tools to include in a young woman's safe sex arsenal are a reason to cheer.

A recent study also showed that HPV increases the risk of certain types of throat cancer among people infected through oral sex. "This adds more data that HPV is an important cause of cancer and that this is an important vaccine," said Joseph A. Bocchini Jr., who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious diseases.

In Ontario the optional vaccine will be administered by public health officials at schools. Initial federal funding is for a three year vaccination program. Nova Scotia and PEI will also provide free vaccines to girls and hopefully other Canadian provinces will soon jump on board. Britain also plans to implement a vaccination program for young women beginning in September 2008.

For More info on HPV check out Scarleteen's rundown. They also have a handy FAQ on the HPV Vaccine.

*** Update (August 3)***

University of Washington epidemiologist Dr. Laura Koutsky and her research team have discovered traces of HPV under young men's fingernails, which suggests another possible transmission route. Koutsky predicts that at some point it will become clear that boys and young men should be vaccinated too.
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