The Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy was implemented in 1995 and has consistently evolved since then to respond to the changing epidemic within the Aboriginal population. The Strategy has embraced two fundamental principles since its inception. The first being a recognition that OAHAS is a distinct strategy based on the distinct needs of Aboriginal people.
While issues and factors related to the disease may be similar to the mainstream population, Aboriginal differences must be respected. This principle is embodied in the Two Row Wampum Treaty of the Haudenosaunee people as follows:
Guswhenta (Kaswehntha) Two Row Wampum Belt
The Two Row Wampum Belt says:
This symbolizes the agreement under which the Iroquois/Haudenosaunee welcomed the white peoples to their lands. We will NOT be like father and son, but like brothers. These two rows will symbolize vessels, travelling down the same river together. One will be for the Original People, their laws, their customs, and the other for the European people and their laws and customs. We will each travel the river together, but each in our own boat. And neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.
The second principle is the principle of the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GIPA) that was formally recognized at the 1994 Paris AIDS Summit, when 42 countries agreed to support an initiative to “strengthen the capacity and coordination of networks of people living with HIV/AIDS and community-based organizations”. They added that, “by ensuring their full involvement in our common response to the pandemic at all – national, regional and global – levels, this initiative will, in particular, stimulate the creation of supportive political, legal and social environments”.