Faces of HIV – Twenty Six

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“Street works has always been about HIV prevention. It is a program that’s run by a council of agencies. HIV Edmonton has been the chair of that committee  for at least fifteen years, so we’ve always been closely tied. Here at Street Works, we target folks who are using injection drugs or who are involved in the street-based sex trade, particularly around HIV and Hepatitis C.”

“We’ve been very lucky to have great collaboration between places like HIV Edmonton, and the Northern Alberta clinic and Street Works and Boyle-Mccauley Health Centre. All of these organizations, we work together really well and I think we can wrap people who are feeling a little lost and marginalized, because of their HIV, in a big hug of trying to give people support and the right kinds of services, right. We don’t overlap on our services. We each are different, but we see the value in working together, I think that’s really key.”

“I’ve worked at the Boyle Street Community Centre for twenty-one years, so I’ve actually watched a lot of people grow up here … There’s been some really great parts of that, but it’s kind of sad too because you don’t want people to be here forever. A lot of people have moved on, but some I’ve known since they were tiny kids.”

“I’m a registered nurse. I love cross-cultural nursing in general and street culture is one that I absolutely love. I think one of my biggest compliments was when one of our guys came up and asked me when I quit using, and I thought, ‘Cool, I look like I use drugs, that’s really great! It’s the hair probably. But I think it was more because I can integrate fairly easily now, which I really like. I always get upset by the idea that service providers have to have strict boundaries and you can’t let anyone know anything about you—this is a community, so we all need to get to know each other. The other thing is we have great staff. I love mentoring. I love their great ideas and excitement”

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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