Faces of HIV – Eighteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton


“I work for Gilead, which is a pharmaceutical company based in California. Gilead as a whole actually makes the top three AIDS drugs on the market. A lot of them are combination pills so we’re the first company in the world to come out with a single tablet once a day, which is a huge help for people, especially people who don’t have homes and who have dependency issues and things like that. We just came out with a new component to the single tablet that we actually worked on in Edmonton. We don’t do the clinical trials here, but we do the chemistry behind it so we manufacture the material for studies and the materials for the clinical trials and validate it and seek FDA approval. The Edmonton stuff was the first on the market. Also about two year ago we came out with a cure for Hepatitis C. Again we worked on it here in Edmonton, so it’s pretty cool.”

“The challenges we’re dealing with have changed a lot. We’re replacing one of the components for one that has a more mild affect on the liver and bone density. The crazy thing is before these things didn’t matter as much, but now that people are living with HIV for thirty years, they’re senior citizens so bone density and liver function are very important.”

“We recently had a fundraiser where we sold mismatched socks and we’re going to give the money to HIV Edmonton for them to buy laundry cards.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith


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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