30 Faces of HIV – One

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

Michael

“I was there at the birth of HIV Edmonton. Talking about it brings back a number of memories and thoughts. I’m involved a little bit now but not as much as I was at the beginning. I mean everyone died in those days, within two years. So we were involved with funerals and arranging for that and there were families of those who died first who didn’t know they were gay, didn’t know they had AIDS and didn’t know they were dying. It was a very different time. In looking back, I am pleased that a lot of things have moved forward in a positive way. There are still too many cases, but people have much better lives.”

“Is there anything you’re particularly proud of?”

“The work we were doing needed the support of governments because it was overwhelming—it’s medial and health and the rest of it. So we actually were able to galvanize support and get the provincial government to come out with a three year plan dealing with AIDS and providing money. We were the first province in the country to actually have a provincial plan. I think that was a real accomplishment at the time. It also gave stability to groups like ours and others in Alberta to know there’d be funding available for the three-year period so we could actually work and do stuff. Some of the money was for research and medical stuff too but some of it was for community organizations to try and prevent it. That made a huge difference to have that kind of money available.”

“Is there anything you’re really hoping gets done?”

“Two things: One, there is a lot happening in the research and medical area that looks really promising and I’m quite encouraged with the work that’s being done on that side of it. The other is that the number of persons being infected is starting to rise, particularly among younger people, and that is worrisome. I think we need to reengage and do more education around prevention work. Not that we’ve ever stopped, but in some other ways we need to get other groups more heavily involved in that kind of work again.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith
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