Prince Edward Island's chief epidemiologist is taking on a new study to find out how COVID-19 restrictions affected access to health services for Black communities in the province.
Dr. Shamara Baidoobonso is one of several lead researchers conducting a national survey by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which aims to find how COVID-19 restrictions limited access to prevention and harm reduction services for sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBI) in Black communities.
Researchers hope the survey also finds out how COVID-19 affected social determinants of health, Baidoobonso said.
"The survey goes beyond sexually transmitted and blood borne infection services because it looks at mental health, it looks at income, employment, opportunity to housing and food security," she said.
Black communities are underprivileged
The survey focuses on Black communities because they are underprivileged and have been more impacted by COVID-19, Baidoobonso said.
"From existing data in Canada, and also from around the world in countries that are diverse as Canada, we find that Black communities are less likely to be food secure and are more likely to be employed in low wage jobs, and with the COVID pandemic, the types of employment people held really did increase their risk of exposure."
Black communities are also disproportionately and negatively impacted by infections such as hepatitis C and HIV, she said.
Limited services for help
Baidoobonso said COVID-19 restrictions have limited access to harm reduction and prevention services.
"We know that in many jurisdictions, those services either have been discontinued or hours have been reduced, or moved online."
Limited access to these services leads to an increase in HIV and hepatitis C rates, Baidoobonso said.
"We know from other provinces, they've been seeing an increase in the positivity rates for their HIV tests. That's an indicator of an increase in the underlying rate of infection in the population."
Results helpful to anti-Black racism
Baidoobonso said the survey would be very helpful to P.E.I. because there are little to no stats on Black Prince Edward Islanders.
Carrying out the survey is part of the federal government's commitment to anti-Black racism, she said.
"The first step in that commitment is collecting good data, data that is disaggregated by race or specific to a racial group."
The survey is available to African, Caribbean and other Black community members in Prince Edward Island. Participants must be 18 years old.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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