Marking Black History Month, a BrAIDS for AIDS event in which visitors could have their hair worked on, took place Wednesday at the University of Guelph-Humber.
Hair instructor and coordinator of Braiding with a Social Twist program Tanya Tortin helped to host the event with the Black Student’s Association.
Her program is for women ages 18 to 29 and teaches hair care information as well as sexual education. Doing hair is an easy way to get crucial talks about sex and social issues going, Tortin said.
“Black hair is not always understood. So to create a hair salon type of atmosphere where meaningful conversations often happen, it can make things like sex and race not so taboo and awkward,” she said.
BrAIDS for AIDS was founded in 2008 by social entrepreneur, Stachen Frederick, who launched the enterprise to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in black communities in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimated 13 per cent of people of Caribbean and African descent tested positive for HIV in 2006. Eleven per cent contracted AIDS, making black Canadians the demographic with the highest rate of infection.
Anna-Kay Hyatt, 19, a second-year family and community social services student at Guelph-Humber, said she could relate to this particular event in every way.
“I’m always doing everyone’s hair as well as my own. Black hair is beautiful to me but it’s clear not everyone understands that,” she said. “Plus, the sexual health education aspect is so important, I was interested immediately.”
Lakeisha Ferreira, president of the Black Students’ Association at Guelph-Humber, said the issue of HIV/AIDS isn’t how much someone knows, but how well they follow up on evolving research.
“Even I don’t know that much about it,” she said. “I have to continuously and responsibly keep up with the facts because they are always being updated.”
Ferreira said she picks and arranges specific organizations she thinks will complement the BSA, as well as educate others about issues affecting minorities.
Her cousin’s death from the disease encouraged her to speak more publicly on the matter, she said.
For more information on BrAIDS for AIDS, Braiding with a Social Twist and the Black Students’ Association, contact Lakeisha Ferreira at firstname.lastname@example.org.