Kwanlin Dün promotes HPV vaccine in new campaign using beadwork
The Kwanlin Dün First Nation in the Yukon is trying a public health campaign that combines art and health promotion.
The Natsékhi Kų̀ Health Centre commissioned original beadwork from Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in artist Stormy Bradley, who has ties to the Kwanlin Dün in Whitehorse.
She depicted a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) microbe, a healthy cervix, and a cervix with HPV.
Photos of her work were put on posters as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the vaccine that prevents HPV.
"We really wanted to make sure that it applied to an Indigenous community," said Stephanie Coombs, a nurse at the health centre.
"The goal is to increase awareness and uptake within Kwanlin Dün, but of course we'd hope that to extend to all Indigenous communities and everyone in the Yukon."
Coombs said the cancer rates associated with HPV are generally higher in Indigenous communities.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, about 70 per cent of sexually active Canadians will get an infection.
Most infections do not present symptoms and go away without treatment.
However, there are more than 100 different types of the virus.
The symptoms of an infection range from genital warts, to cervical, penile and anal cancer. Some other types can even cause cancer in the head and neck.
Different types of beads
Coombs explained that a healthy cervix looks like a pink donut.
"I'm in my 'pink era' right now," Bradley laughed. "So this really fed into that."
As for one with HPV, "I chose different types of beads to make it more textured, and lumpy and bumpy," said Bradley.
For the HPV microbe, Bradley incorporated tufts of blue-dyed caribou fur.
"I don't know if the colours are representational, but that's what Google kept pulling up," she said.
The HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone between the ages of nine and 26, and people with a cervix who are aged 27 to 45.
Coombs said the campaign is meant to inform people they have the right to get the free vaccine and protect themselves.
Bradley says she's happy that her art is associated with such a positive message.
"I love seeing my work out there and the awareness that it's raising," she said.