Faces of HIV – Fifteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“My home country is Zimbabwe. That’s where I came from. I came to Canada in 2014. I love it here. I like the people, they are very friendly. I was telling someone that the Canadians are more friendly when comparing to the British people. It’s so different. I really really love it here … I’ve volunteered at HIV Edmonton as a receptionist since March 2015. When I came to Canada, I first got to Toronto and the only thing they told me is, ‘If you want to get a job in Canada, you have to volunteer.’ I really like to work with people living with HIV. In my country, I didn’t have that opportunity, but when I came to Toronto, I volunteered at the HIV office, which is in Oshawa, and then when I came to Edmonton, they referred me to HIV Edmonton. That’s how I came to volunteer here. It’s of great interest to me … What I’ve noticed is that my people, the black community, they don’t want to like, come out, you know. Maybe because of peer pressure, or whatever. I don’t know, but I always feel that if you come out and be open and tell your story, you live a longer life and it’s better for you. So I’m always praying that these people come. There are some people who come, you know, and they see me at the reception and they say, ‘Oh wow, you’re working here.’ I hope it helps people in coming. I have a lady who is now coming because I said, ‘Oh you should come.’ She started by coming to breakfast, then lunch, and now she attends the discussion groups.”

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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