Opening the Curtain on Stigma: Tackling the “isms” Collectively Event

Building relationships and opening minds to change

On May 14, 2021, the Manitoba HIV-STBBI Collective Impact Network (CINetwork) held our 10th large network event and second-largest ever virtual event: Opening the Curtain on Stigma: Tackling the “isms” Collectively. CINetwork is led by Nine Circles Community Health Centre, the Manitoba lead for REACH Nexus.

Our CINetwork events are designed to bring diverse people together to discuss complex STBBI issues. Through these events, we break down silos, build relationships, change mindsets, understand gaps, hear about promising practices, and start to work together on innovative solutions.

Dr. Elder Albert McLeod opened the event and we hosted guests from The HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Southern Chiefs, REALIZE and the Canadian Public Health Agency, among others, in addition to community speakers with lived experience.

Why we wanted to “open the curtain”

Opening the Curtain’s purpose was to shed light on stigma. We know that stigma has a fundamental impact on prevention, treatment, care and living with STBBIs.

With our event, we wanted to illustrate the intersectionality of various types of stigma and to change mindsets about the many “isms” (forms of stigma) associated with HIV and STBBIs. In this way, we can motivate a diverse audience and inspire ideas to emerge through people thinking collectively to make systemic change.

Ultimately, our event sought to “unfreeze” ways of thinking, open minds to innovation, and then to solidify new ways of thinking that can drive change.

Key takeaways from the event

The event discussion revealed multiple themes, including that:

1. Stigma and many “isms” are still alive and well in Manitoba;
2. These are complex, systemic issues that require collaboration with multiple stakeholders taking action         across sectors;
3. Addressing stigma and the “isms” is critical since these have a huge impact on health, including whether         people will get tested, get care and continue in care; and
4. Tackling these issues can impact population health, client and provider experience and healthcare costs and         sustainability (the Quadruple AIM).

Through collaborative group work, the participants also developed suggestions for action on stigma and “isms” in Manitoba. These were grouped into nine broad recommendations (ordered by how prominently each recommendation came up in the discussion):

1. Make use of innovative peer involvement, including leadership in Initiatives;
2. Mount anti-stigma campaigns;
3. Design innovative ways to change health care delivery;
4. Support Indigenous-led initiatives;
5. Educate frontline workers/healthcare professionals;
6. Address colonialism/racism;
7. Start education in schools;
8. Connect with community leaders; and
9. Pursue innovative testing.

Who joined us to talk about stigma and what our participants said

63 people in total attended the event. Participants included people with lived experience, community-based organizations, Indigenous organizations, policymakers, researchers, healthcare providers and others.

We had a variety of presenters, including Dr. Rusty Souleymanov (University of Manitoba), Kathy Gawlik (Health Sciences Centre Nurse), Ken Bristow (person with lived experience),  Christine Bibeau (person with lived experience), Lisa Patrick (person with lived experience), Olakunle (Friday) Olowooker (person with lived experience), Jennifer Moore Rattray (Southern Chiefs Organization), Richard Elliot (HIV Legal Network), Kate Murzin (REALIZE), Elder Albert Mcleod (MB HIV Collective Impact Network), and Rachel Maclean (Canadian Public Health Agency).

The majority or participants lived in the Winnipeg Regional Health Region with additional representation from the Northern and Prairie Mountain Health Regions. 22% identified as people with lived experience and 15 people (24%) were from outside of Manitoba. 

Our participants were highly engaged and told us, among other feedback, that “they felt engaged all day,” “liked the variety of presenters,” enjoyed “the networking and hearing the powerful work being done by the presenters,” and that they found it valuable to hear directly from people with lived experience. One participant noted that, “There was so much knowledge that got shared through enriching discussions and many new ideas got generated, all with a sense of a collective approach. “

What’s after Opening the Curtain for the CINetwork

CINetwork will share the recommendations gathered during our event and bring partners together to discuss future actions needed regarding stigma and the “isms" affecting HIV and STBBIs in Manitoba. We are also conducting a follow-up survey with participants at the end of June 2021 to determine the level of impact the event had on their mindsets, policies and practices.

For more information about the event, please see the event report on the CINetwork website that will be posted when the website is up and running. For more about the CINetwork, stay tuned for the CINetwork’s upcoming website relaunch in September 2021.