Faces of HIV – Twenty

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I work as a researcher in the HIV field. HIV Edmonton is a really important partner in the research that I do. A lot of the people that I work with and my research participants are connected with HIV Edmonton is some way. HIV Edmonton has always been an agency that does incredibly important advocacy work.

“What are some of the core challenges you face in your research related to HIV?”

“The discrimination and stigma continue to be the greatest challenges. They have been from the beginning and they continue to be an incredible burden and challenge. The other piece is the ignorance to the complexities of the lives that people live. Often things get oversimplified—it’s just about meds, or safe sex—but they’re really not recognizing the structural issues. Poverty is connected and HIV does not affect people equally, so I think it’s ignorance to that kind of complexity. We are pushing to do prevention efforts but also we find that it’s challenging to keep engaging people in treatment because of the longevity of the disease. It isn’t just about taking meds. That’s a fraction of the complexity.”

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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