In football mad Saskatchewan, red tends to not be a very popular colour, associated as it is with the Saskatchewan Roughriders bitter CFL West rival the Calgary Stampeders. But Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region is hoping people will not let their disdain for the Stamps dissuade them from wearing something red on Dec. 1 to help mark World AIDS Day.

As I observed in a news brief in our Nov. 18 issue (scroll down to fourth brief), Saskatchewan faces a dire situation when it comes to HIV/AIDS. At 20.8 cases per 100,000 people, our infection rate is over twice the national average of 9.3 cases. If you read the brief, you’ll see that the prevalence of injection drug use in the province (cocaine in particular) is a major factor in that sad statistic.

To promote public awareness of the disease, RQHR has joined with seven organizations — AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan, All Nations Hope AIDS Network, Carmichael Outreach, Sex Workers Advocacy Project, Gay & Lesbian Community of Regina, UR Pride Centre for Sexuality & Gender Diversity and Planned Parenthood — to mark AIDS Awareness Week (Nov. 24-Dec. 1) and World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) .

 A news conference was held on Nov. 24 at SWAP (1355 Albert St.), and on Dec. 1 the community partners are encouraging people to wear either the traditional red ribbon (above) or an article of red clothing. “The message we want to [deliver] is that anybody is at risk,” says Susanne Nasewich of the RQHR’s Public & Population Services Branch. “We know who’s acquiring the disease now, but we can’t lose sight of other populations that might have risk behaviours.”

That’s the thing about HIV/AIDS. While it does tend to be concentrated in certain communities, the virus itself doesn’t respect socio-economic or ethnic boundaries. You might not patronize sex trade workers or do injection drugs yourself, but if you unknowingly come in intimate contact with someone who does, you run the risk of contracting HIV.

For more info on this initiative, call RQHR at 766-7918 or 766-6122.