The Intersecting Risks of Violence and HIV for Rural Aboriginal Women in a Neo-Colonial Canadian Context

// // Posted in Vol 4 Issue 1

Colleen Varcoe, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of British


Sheila Dick, BEd, Counsellor/Family Support Worker, Canim Lake Band, Tsq’escenemc Nation


An ethnographic study looking at the intersecting risks of violence and human

immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for rural women shows that the neo-colonial and racist context of

Canadian society creates particular challenges for Aboriginal women. This article focuses on the

experiences of the Aboriginal women who took part in the study. These women’s experiences of

violence occurred within a rural context of poverty and declining economic resources, and within

a historical context of colonial abuses and cultural disruptions. Consequently, the women’s lives

were often characterized by disconnection from family and community, making them vulnerable

to further violence and exploitation. Social support programs in this rural setting were limited

and access was sometimes problematic. Understanding how the intersecting dynamics of

gender, rural living, poverty, racism, and colonialism create risk for Aboriginal women provides

a basis for developing policies that aim to strengthen the well-being of women, particularly

their economic well being. It also highlights the need for an anti-racist agenda within the social

service and health care sectors and at all levels of government.

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