30 Faces of HIV – Six

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I’ve worked at HIV Edmonton for six years now. Before that, I worked at Streetworks, which was the needle exchange. So that was kind of HIV work too since it was harm reduction and trying to prevent HIV in drug users. So I’ve worked in the inner city for a really long time. I worked at Kindred House with the working girls, and in Boyle Street, so I’ve been all over—the youth emergency shelter … I’m old!”

“I’m glad that now people aren’t dying the same way they were before because that would make this job way harder. We still have people dying though. A lot of our clients, even though they have the opportunity to take meds, they don’t take them, which is crazy because they’re free and there’s other countries where they would love to have those meds, but it’s just their lifestyle, you know, being homeless, it’s kind of hard because you lose your meds all the time. You put your backpack down … it’s gone, so it’s kind of hard to keep a regimen of taking medications all the time.”

“Why do you do the work that you do?”

“Supporting people is really cool. You know, like if you can help get someone a house after they’ve been sleeping outside forever, it feels really good. Especially with this disease because people are ostracized a lot and the stigma is really hard. And because of the fact that it has so much to do with sex, I think people are really lonely. So I think it’s really good that our clients have people who care about them. They can feel that, especially street people. They know if you’re real or not. I think that really draws me to try to help because it’s harder for our clients than a lot of street people because they have that extra stigma on top of everything else. The loneliness you see here is huge because they don’t want to get anyone else infected so they don’t get into relationships … People with HIV are just people. I wish the stigma would go away because it’s tough enough.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith
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