Ottawa announces $1M toward northern sexual health education
The federal government is dedicating $1 million to Northwest Territories-based sexual health group Foxy to help prevent sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
The territory's Liberal MP, Michael McLeod, made the announcement on Friday. Foxy, based in Yellowknife, provides sexual health resources across all three territories.
Foxy stands for Fostering Open Expression among Youth. The group has been working to provide mental and sexual health programming in northern communities and schools for more than 10 years.
"This wonderful organization has offered some very innovative programs for youth," said McLeod. "Their work promoting mental and sexual health empowers youth by providing the tools and information they need to stay healthy and to stay well."
The funding is focused on northern, Indigenous cis and trans men as well as non-binary youth between the ages of 13 and 17.
In September 2022, healthcare workers in the N.W.T. said rates of syphilis were the highest they had ever seen. An alarming increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections had led the territory to issue a public health advisory three years earlier.
Advocates have called for full healthcare coverage of PrEP, a pill considered to be 99-percent effective in preventing HIV infection and fully funded by governments in Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Without insurance, it can cost up to $300 per month.
The N.W.T. government has said it supports making PrEP more widely available but cannot make “immediate changes” while a broader review of health benefits in the territory is under way.
Friday's federal funding of Foxy comes through Ottawa's Community Action Fund.
"Organizations like Foxy are key to reaching people where they live," said McLeod. "Like so many other community organizations across the country, Foxy is a trusted voice in the communities. It had the networks and relationships needed to influence people's lives."
Foxy co-founder and executive director Candice Lys said the funding "will enable us to provide innovative, evidence-based and trauma-informed sexual and mental health education programming with young men and masculine folks in the Northwest Territories.
"With the help of this funding, we will continue to reach more than 600 youth every year in the N.W.T."
While advocates wait for improvements to the territory's STI testing process or increases in healthcare coverage, Lys says culturally safe, stigma-free and comprehensive sexual health education and training can make a difference.
In 2018, Lys published a study in the International Journal of STD & AIDS showing youth had demonstrable improvements in STI knowledge and awareness after sessions with the organization.
Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio