Faces of HIV – Twenty Four

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I’m Chair of the HIV Edmonton board. I’m gay so this is a cause that speaks to me because of my community. It’s a good organization that unfortunately has a lot of stigma with it still and so it needs people stepping up to help the organization drive forward its mission and its mandate. The organization has always been well run and people are passionate about the work they’re doing. From that perspective, it’s easy to engage with since the staff are passionate and they do really good work. It’s small but mighty.”

“What’s one of the biggest challenges?”

“Money. Funding, like any non-profit. We’re not unique in that sense. There’s a growing expectation of what we could and should be doing, and so we’re always having to make tough choices about where to focus our energy. Funding levels have stayed relatively static over the last few years. It’s tough … The younger generation is blaisé about AIDS because it’s that generation that knows about AIDS through TV shows. They think that because the treatment is a pill, what’s the big deal—I can go and have fun.”

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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