Indigenous Peer Mentorship Model of Care

Author: Cara Spence Danita Wahpoosewyan Trisha Campbell Susanne Nicolay Michelle Dornan Stuart Skinner

Theme: Models of Care Year: 2022

Past and current social inequalities contribute to the over representation of HIV/ HCV among Indigenous
people. Despite being only 12.9% of the population in Saskatchewan (SK), Indigenous people represent
79% of HIV diagnoses, and three times higher HCV infection rates than non-Indigenous population. The
HIV and HCV epidemic is further fuelled by a co-epidemic of drug toxicity events. The trends of
intravenous drug use (IVDU), infections and fatal drug overdose are indicative of the limited access to
services such as harm reduction supplies, reliable health care and community supported, culturally
responsive care in SK.
Description of model of care/ intervention:
Peer mentorship is widely regarded as a critical strength-based support service and harm reduction
strategy. The Wellness Warriors is an Indigenous-led peer mentorship group that hosts regular Sharing
Circles, with an Elder present, to share food, stories and smudge together. As an interventional
approach, Sharing Circles are held weekly, and are well attended – often beyond capacity. Reducing the
rates of new infections and treating HIV/ HCV requires a continuum of care with coordinate services and
strength based supports.
This work directly responds to the Canadian Commission on the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Call’s to
Action by promoting culturally responsive and trauma informed care. The Sharing Circles serve an
important connection between those in need of supportive care for IVDU, HIV /HCV and Peer Mentors,
who provide culturally responsive care and link to the health system.

Conclusions and Next Steps:
Sharing Circles held by the Wellness Warriors Peer Mentors is demonstrated as a supportive
intervention and critical approach to interceding the epidemic of IVDU and HIV/HCV in SK. Recognizing
the pivotal role of the Wellness Warriors will require the certification and full integration of peer
mentorship into clinical care teams.
Disclosure of Interest Statement:

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