30 Faces of HIV – Five

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton


“I’ve been HIV positive for 14 or 15 years now. I’m not sure. The years go by and I don’t even add them up anymore. Unfortunately, HIV is less of an issue with people especially with young people. I try to warn them. I find it easier to tell people I’m HIV positive when they’re complete strangers, since chances are I’ll have very little involvement with them. But when it comes to family and friends, that’s where my disclosure gets a little guarded or hesitant. It’s the judgement and the questioning of how come. Worrying about how I’ll be looked upon. It shouldn’t matter, but it does to me. But otherwise we really appreciate the support and acceptance. HIV can happen to anybody. Coming here to HIV Edmonton is one of the few places I can come to feel accepted. I really appreciate the support. I really appreciate the acceptance. There’s no prejudice; you’re not looked down on. We’re looked at as human beings. We appreciate the help and everything that gets done for us. We are safe here and we’re anonymous. We’re faces but we’re anonymous.”

“What are some of the main challenges you face?”

“Energy. Keeping energy. You get to be a certain age and I’ve realized I’m slowing down. I just don’t have all the energy I used to have when I was young. I used to run after buses now I just watch them go by, you know, that sort of thing, accepting limitations. Health wise, I’m alright. I surprise a lot of people with how healthy I am.”

“What is the best part of your life right now?”

“Not a lot. I’m homeless. I sleep down at the river valley. I guess that’s a good thing. I get sleep when I want to sleep. I get up when I want to get up. I’m comfortable, it hasn’t been cold. But you know, it’s a challenge trying to keep hydrated and nutrition. There’s issues like that. We have a propane heater and a stove that we put inside the tent in the winter and believe me, it warms it up real quick. The spring is nice but it’s muddy. I put by name on a list with Homeward Trust, but I haven’t heard nothing. I’m not sure when that will happen or if it will ever happen. Hopefully before next winter.”

“Living in the river valley, you get that paranoia about getting searched out and kicked out by cops and park people. They come around eventually, but when it’s snowing and cold nobody wants to go down there. In the summer, the traffic will increase and before you know it, they’ll be visiting. It’s challenging. Not a lot of people do it. Not a lot of people could do it. It takes a different type of strength or stubbornness. But it’s not like we’re not trying, but there’s not a lot that gets done for homeless people. You put your name out there and you get put on a waiting list, but months go by then before you know it, a year goes by and you haven’t heard nothing. I can’t afford rent and I can’t afford the cost of everything. What’s $5? It buys a coffee and a bus ride. $5 doesn’t buy a hell of a lot these days so you have to maximize whatever you’ve got.”

“May I ask how you got the scar on your nose?”

“I got head butted. It was a fight. I don’t back down from a lot of shit or I never used to. All my scars are stories. I’ve got lots of them. I’ve been bitten. I’ve been hit. I’ve been poked. I’ve got scars.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith
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2 thoughts on “30 Faces of HIV – Five

  1. thesmilingpilgrim says:

    Hopefully we can get to the 90/90/90 in the next few years!

    Liked by 1 person

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