Arts group wants to improve HIV dialogue in black communities - Canada News Media
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Arts group wants to improve HIV dialogue in black communities



The Ribbon Rouge Foundation wants to remove the stigma around HIV.

When it comes to shame and silence around HIV-positive status in Alberta, some significant strides have been made since the height of the global AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

But for African, Caribbean and black women with HIV, not much has changed, the Edmonton-based advocacy group says.

“The way African people get treated very often by our own family as well as the health care providers and social service and supportive services is just different,” said Morẹ́nikẹ́ Ọláòṣebìkan, president and founder of the Ribbon Rouge Foundation, in an interview on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active on Tuesday.

Morenike Olaosebikan is president and founder of the Ribbon Rouge Foundation. 9:40

“And then because there’s no voice or awareness it feels worse in our community,” Ọláòṣebìkan said, adding there is similar “intersectional stigma” for transgender and Indigenous people with HIV.

“The fact that people are living normal lives has led to a significant improvement in awareness and knowledge and a decline in stigma overall, but then there are certain priority populations where that’s not the case.”

It’s taken longer than in other communities, but Ribbon Rouge says its making ground in decreasing stigma around HIV in local African, Caribbean, and black communities.


Morẹ́nikẹ́ Ọláòṣebìkan, president and founder of the Ribbon Rouge Foundation. (Submitted by Ribbon Rouge Foundation)


Although African, Caribbean and black people are about 3.5 per cent of the Canadian population, they constitute about 13.9 per cent of those living with HIV, Ọláòṣebìkan said.

“Yet not a lot of people of African descent are aware of these sort of statistics in Alberta. And even in health care, it’s not a topic that gets discussed often enough.”

Photo voice project

The group is organizing a photo voice exhibit featuring African, Caribbean and black women, to help improve health outcomes.

Common themes in the lived experiences shared in the photo voice project, which will keep each participant’s identity anonymous, will be used to identify strategies and barriers to accessing health care, and to lobby for policy and legislation changes, Ọláòṣebìkan said.

A number of black religious leaders have supported the organization’s work by allowing Ribbon Rouge to do sexual education with youth in churches, and post flyers recruiting participants for the photo voice project, Ọláòṣebìkan said.

“It’s been very nice. I guess it’s been invigorating watching that happen.”

The group hopes to have the photo voice exhibitions held at concerts and in places like churches and mosques, starting next spring.

AHS partnership

Christopher Wood, executive director of communicable disease control for AHS, said Ribbon Rouge is one of hundreds of individuals and organizations involved in its provincial strategy to address sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.

“This important work brings multiple stakeholders and perspectives together to foster learning and deep listening opportunities to co-create interventions that tackle health inequities, and to meet the unique social determinants of health of Africans by Africans,” Wood said in an emailed statement about Ribbon Rouge’s listening campaign.

Anyone interested in participating in the photo voice project can call 1-800-761-0565, extension 101.

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1 in 5 deaths caused by a disease you've never heard of – ABC News



Sepsis tends to occur in people with poor health or weakened immune systems.

It might not be a household name, but it’s deadly — and common.

One in five deaths around the world is caused by sepsis, according to research published the week in the Lancet.

The life-threatening condition is caused by the body’s response to infection, according to the Mayo Clinic, and it’s sometimes referred to as blood poisoning.

People with chronic disease, older adults, young children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.

Among 56 million reported deaths in 2017, about 11 million were from sepsis, the study showed.

Because sepsis tends to occur in people in poor health, it’s typically “been considered an intermediate rather than an underlying cause of death,” which means it’s likely to have been undercounted, according to commentary published in conjunction with the study.

To arrive at the new numbers, researchers analyzed more than 100 million death certificates from 1990 to 2007, concluding that sepsis is twice as common as previously thought.

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Sepsis linked to 1 in 5 deaths worldwide, study says – The Japan Times



Sepsis played a direct role in the deaths of 11 million people in 2017, almost twice as many as previously estimated, according to a study published Thursday.

That represents 1 death for every 5 cases of the condition, and 1-in-5 deaths from all causes worldwide, researchers reported in The Lancet medical journal.

Sepsis occurs when a person’s organs cease to function properly as the result of an out-of-control immune response to infection.

Even if the condition doesn’t kill, it can create lifelong disabilities.

Some 85 percent of cases in 2017 were in low- or middle-income countries, with the highest burden in sub-Saharan Africa, the South Pacific, and Asia.

Hardest hit were children under 5 years old, who accounted for more than 40 percent of all cases.

“We are alarmed to find sepsis deaths are much higher than previously estimated, especially as the condition is both preventable and treatable,” said senior author Mohsen Naghavi, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Washington state.

Previous global estimates for sepsis mortality relied on hospital databases, mostly from middle-income and rich nations.

In the United States, sepsis is the most common cause of in-hospital deaths, and costs more than $24 billion each year.

As a result, cases outside a hospital setting — notably in lower-income countries — were overlooked, the authors said.

To generate a more accurate figure, Naghavi and colleagues drew from the comprehensive Global Burden of Disease Study, which tracks 282 different primary causes of death.

Sepsis — not among them — is described as an “intermediate” cause of death provoked by diseases such as cancer, pneumonia or diabetes.

The most common underlying cause has consistently been lower respiratory infection.

The new study found that sepsis incidence and death rates have declined, falling from 60 million cases and 15.7 million deaths in 1990.

The authors called for a renewed focus on sepsis prevention among newborns, and on tracking antimicrobial resistance — both key drivers of the condition.

“I’ve worked in Uganda, and sepsis is what we saw every single day,” said lead author Kristina Rudd, an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Critical Care Medicine.

“Watching a baby die of a disease that could have been prevented with basic public health measures really sticks with you,” she said in a statement.

“But how can we know if we’re making progress if we don’t even know the size of the problem?,” she added.

“If you look at any top 10 list of deaths globally, sepsis is not listed because it hasn’t been counted.”

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What to Know about a 'Double-Barreled Flu Season' – Healthline



  • Two flu strains are overlapping each other this flu season.
  • This means you can get sick twice from different flu strains.
  • While the flu vaccine isn’t a perfect match, it’s the best defense against the flu.

To say this flu season has been abnormal is an understatement.

For one, the flu season got its earliest start in 16 years.

Up to 18 million people have gotten the flu this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest estimates. Up to 210,000 people have been hospitalized and thousands have died, including 39 children.

We’re also seeing B strains of the flu dominate, something that hasn’t happened in the United States in nearly 30 years.

And, unfortunately, the vaccine missed the mark with B/Victoria, the most common strain we’re seeing this year. The CDC believes the shot only covers about 58 percent of B-linked cases.

Now, halfway through flu season, A strains are picking up, increasing the odds we’ll have a “double-barreled flu season,” in which two strains strike back to back — a pattern health experts say is extremely rare.

Between the early start, rise in B strains, and recent spike in A-strain illnesses, this flu season officially has infectious disease experts stumped.

“This season has turned a lot of [what we know about flu] on its head,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the medical director at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “There’s a lot we know, and even more we don’t know about flu.”

A double-barreled flu season occurs when two flu outbreaks overlap one another, a pattern which is very unusual, according to flu experts.

Last year, for example, we saw A/H1N1 infections peak early, followed by another wave of A/H3N2 infections.

Though the predominant strains are different this year, we’re seeing the same pattern play out: Activity took off with B/Victoria and now that second wave of A/H1N1 is coming for us, according to Schaffner.

“Around the country, my colleagues and I are seeing H1N1 come up strong, and it’s now about 50-50 [with B/Victoria],” Schaffner told Healthline.

The most worrisome part of a double-barreled flu season is that you can get sick twice.

Just because you caught a B-strain flu doesn’t mean that you’re immune from the A strains.

“There will be the rare person who gets two flu infections in the same season — one with B and one with H1N1,” Schaffner said.

Though there will be some protection within each strain — in that contracting an A strain will protect you against other A strains, and B strains will protect against other B’s — there’s not much cross protection.

A double-barreled season also means we’re more likely to see a prolonged influenza season.

The fact that B strains are predominating this year isn’t just confusing, it’s concerning as well.

B strains haven’t hit this hard for nearly 30 years, since during the 1992–1993 season, the CDC told Healthline.

Additionally, we didn’t see much of the B strain in the past couple of years, according to Dr. Norman Moore, the director of infectious diseases for Abbott.

This means that many people — especially kids — have never been exposed to the strain, and consequently, don’t have residual immunity against it.

“When there’s a rarity, it actually sets you up for another bigger push to get it, because at that point, we really don’t have anybody with any strong immunity going around, so we’re all potential vessels for getting exposed and transmitting it,” Moore said.

This is one of the reasons kids are being hit harder this year. They’ve never been exposed to this type of the flu — it’s their first go around.

“These kids are just brand new to getting flu B,” Moore said.

And because we haven’t seen much of the B/Victoria strain in the past few years, this year’s vaccine missed the mark.

“We thought initially the match was perfect, but it’s not. It’s off a little bit, and that means in many populations the vaccine is not going to function optimally,” Schaffner explained.

Fortunately, the vaccine covers H1N1 well. According to Schaffner, the match to H1N1 is right on.

And because A strains circulate every year, most people have built up at least some “immune memory” to it — despite the fact these strains change and mutate each year.

“Our past experience with influenza viruses does give us some residual protection that lasts,” Schaffner said.

“It’s not too late,” Moore said about the vaccine, noting that we still don’t know for sure what’s going to happen next.

If flu A continues to get worse, as predicted, the flu shot will protect you through the rest of the season.

And even though the vaccine isn’t a perfect match to B strains, it can still help lessen the severity of the flu.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, and even if there is a mismatch, you are likely to have a less severe infection when you get it,” Schaffner said.

Remember: By getting immunized, you’re not only protecting yourself, but others as well who may be more at risk for developing severe complications — like the elderly, pregnant women, children under 2, and immunosuppressed people.

“When we protect ourselves, we are really protecting those around us,” Moore said.

Health experts say this has been an extremely unusual flu season. It started very early with a strain that we typically don’t see much of. Now, another strain is building momentum and creating a path for what’s known as a double-barreled flu season, in which two types of flu strike back to back. With a second wave coming, flu experts say it’s not too late to get vaccinated before things pick up again.

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