Faces of HIV – Thirteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“In 1995 I was a masters student in nursing and I did a clinical placement with the Feather of Hope, a specialized support group for aboriginal people living with HIV, which was affiliated with the AIDS Network of Edmonton (now called HIV Edmonton). That was when I first became aware of this entity called the AIDS Network of Edmonton. When I finished my PhD in 2000, I was affiliated with HIV Edmonton as a researcher so they helped recruit participants for several of my projects.”

“What were some of the key findings of your research?”

“I would say that the nurses were quite amazed at how much they learned from people living with HIV and often they would say they never had the opportunity to talk to someone in as much detail when they’re busy and in other settings … And I think the other thing that was interesting was the people living with HIV got a better understanding of what it was like to be a nurse and the different demands they had in terms of time and the pressures on them to do their work. So I think they got a view into the medical world that they didn’t have before.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith

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Ross Armstrong was an activist and he wanted life to be better for those living with HIV. After his diagnosis in 1984, he became a part of HIV Edmonton’s (previously the AIDS Network of Edmonton) team and emerged as the public face of AIDS in Edmonton. Ross died on July 1, 1986, two short years after his diagnosis.

The challenges and suffering Ross endured and the courage he displayed during those first years of the local epidemic led HIV Edmonton to name the hub of our agency – the drop-in centre – the Ross Armstrong Centre, which is a safe, caring place for HIV positive individuals to meet, have a cup of coffee, or share a nutritious community meal.

The Ross Armstrong Centre is a constant reminder that HIV is not always the biggest issue that our clients face. The biggest hurdle for most of our clients is accessing what they need to survive – their basic human needs. Our client programs allow us to support and assist our clients during the most chaotic times in their lives and to alleviate some of the struggles that they face on a daily basis – such as securing the 500 calories that are required to take their HIV medications. In order to continue to support our clients in this way, we rely heavily on the generosity of donors.

All money raised during this campaign will go towards supporting our clients who, in addition to living with HIV, struggle to meet their basic needs such as food, shelter and access to health and social services. It would be amazing if we could reach $5,000 by the end of the series. Even if it’s a small amount, please consider donating: http://tilt.tc/U2VI

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