By Lauren Calleja
Nancy Carlson, Global News Anchor and Hero for Zero, got involved with HIV Edmonton in 2012 when she was asked to emcee the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life.
Nancy remembers learning about HIV in school; the fear, who gets it, who doesn’t, how it’s spread, she even watched some educational VHS tapes in preparation for the exam.
“Fast forward to 2006 when my phone rang. The man on the other end said he was from a local HIV organization. We spoke for about 20 minutes. He was doing a survey about the myths and truths of the HIV – it was funny because I felt like I genuinely understood the [virus], but having never talked about it past grade 8, I had some learning to do. I hung up feeling ignorant and it got me thinking about what I think I know compared to what I actually know”.
So, in 2012, when Nancy was invited to emcee the AIDS Walk, she jumped at the opportunity!
“I met with Laura and she showed me around the office, answered all of my questions, and introduced me to the amazing people who work at HIV Edmonton. Hearing the stories about the needs of the people they help, the lives that have been saved, and the memories of those who fought a tough battle. [This] inspired me to do my part to educate others. Unlike diseases like cancer or MS, HIV stays mainly in the shadows. Did you know there isn’t even a sign on [HIV Edmonton’s] building? You have to know what you are looking for in order to find it.”
Nancy couldn’t believe the negative response she received when she emceed the Walk. “It made me mad but also spurred me into helping change that”.
We asked Nancy what her social justice kryptonite was, which was based on her new experience with the stigma of HIV, just by participating in the walk, she replied “no matter what the cause or issue, it really gets my blood boiling when I see people comment – in person or on social media – about an issue they haven’t taken the time to learn more about. It is so easy to share our opinions, but what about having a discussion? We should be able to learn from each other.”
For Nancy, education is key. “I want everyone to know that a lot of progress has been made in fighting HIV and it is no longer a death sentence. I want to help people challenge their preconceived notions about HIV and want them to ask questions of their own.”
Nancy has committed to being a part of the AIDS Walk every year since that first meeting with Laura “not just because it’s a lot of fun and the people I have met are inspiring and kind, but because I want to keep the conversation going. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m excited to have more people join me on that journey.”