Date: Fri, 4 Dec 1998 15:20:11 -0600 (CST)
AIDS and diabetes contracted because of lifestyle choices - Manitoba Health Minister
Canadian Press, 2 December 1998
WINNIPEG (CP) - AIDS and aboriginal groups were outraged Tuesday after Manitoba Health Minister Darren Praznik called AIDS and diabetes diseases related to lifestyle choices.
Praznik made the comments at a World AIDS Day rally in Winnipeg organized by the Manitoba AIDS Coalition and the aboriginal community. "Not to place blame, but this is not a disease spread by air contact," said Praznik on HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV infections in Manitoba are fuelled by illegal drug use through sharing intravenous needles while diabetes is linked to factors such as poor diet and exercise, Praznik said. Both diseases are increasing in the aboriginal population, he said. "Why the growth? It has to do with choices. Lifestyle choices people make in their lives," said Praznik, who showed up suddenly at the rally to announce a new committee to oversee action on Manitobas AIDS strategy.
The remarks angered AIDS advocate Catherine Spence. "He's attacking the aboriginal community," said Spence, executive director of the Thompson AIDS project in northern Manitoba. It is not the first time that Praznik has blamed aboriginal people - and lifestyle choices - for rates of HIV infection and diabetes, she said. "I've heard a lot of that rhetoric in the past three years," Spence said.
Manitoba spends $1.7 million a year on services at clinics and a needle exchange program. The province reported 72 new cases of HIV in 1997. There are more than 700 people with the virus in Manitoba.
"The government does not take the required action on the steep rise in rates of infection in new populations, women, younger men, heterosexual men, aboriginal people and injection drug users," said Randy Jackson, co-chairman of the AIDS coalition.
Aboriginal people represent as many as 27 per cent of new HIV cases in Western Canada, according to statistics released by the Manitoba AIDS Coalition. Diabetes affects nearly one in five aboriginal people, about twice the national average, according to a survey released this week by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. About 2.5 million Canadians have diabetes.
Speakers at the rally demanded more money for community prevention and health programs.
To "educate" Manitoba's Health Minister Darren Praznik: EMAIL: MINHLT@Leg.Gov.MB.CA
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