The federal government is dedicating $1 million to sexual health group NWT Foxy to help prevent sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
The region’s Liberal MP, Michael McLeod, made the announcement Friday. Foxy, based in Yellowknife, provides sexual health resources in all three areas.
Foxy stands for Fostering Open Expression among Teenagers. The group has worked to provide mental and sexual health programs in northern communities and schools for more than 10 years.
“This amazing organization has offered some very innovative programs for young people,” said McLeod. “Their work promoting mental and sexual health empowers young people by providing them with the tools and information they need to stay healthy and stay healthy.”
This funding is focused on northern cis and trans males, Indigenous as well as non-binary youth aged between 13 and 17 years.
In September 2022, health officials at the NWT said the syphilis rate was the highest they had ever seen. An alarming rise in the number of sexually transmitted infections had led the region to issue a public health alert three years earlier.
Advocates are calling for full health care coverage of PrEP, a pill deemed 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 NWT government said it supported wider provision of PrEP but was unable to make “immediate changes” while a broader review of the health benefits in the region was underway.
Foxy’s federal funding Friday came through the Ottawa Community Action Fund.
“Organizations like Foxy are key to reaching people where they live,” says McLeod. “Like many other community organizations across the country, Foxy is a trusted voice in the community. It has the necessary networks and relationships to impact people’s lives.
Foxy co-founder and executive director, Candice Lys, said the funding “will enable us to provide innovative, evidence-based, and trauma-based sexual and mental health education programs to young men and masculine men in the Northwest Territory.
“With the help of this fund, we will continue to reach more than 600 young people every year in the NWT.”
While advocates wait for improvements to regional STI testing processes or increased coverage of health services, 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 that young people experienced a marked increase in STI knowledge and awareness following sessions with organizations.