Faces of HIV – Sixteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I’m a teacher by profession, but right now, I’m not teaching. I came to Canada as a refugee almost ten years ago. I landed in Toronto from Kenya. I was lucky enough to meet some lawyers who said I could stay in the country because I had gone through domestic violence so that was grounds to be granted refugee status. I don’t know whether that is possible now. I moved to Edmonton from Toronto because I wanted to see the rest of Canada. I thought coming to the west would be better because I had no job.”

“I also work in the field of HIV as an outreach worker. Even back home I worked in the HIV field after I was diagnosed. When I was newly infected, I really needed a support group and I was happy that there was one … There is no cure, and I worry about future generations. I don’t know whether they know how HIV has impacted people’s lives.”

“I’ve been reading about HIV and responsibility. People with HIV are seen as criminals, like somebody who is out to kill. I don’t understand why society wants to victimize people with HIV. This is a human illness and it should be everybody’s responsibility—that’s what I want everybody to know … I just pray everyday that the researchers can come up with a cure so that future generations don’t have to go through this.”

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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