Tag Archives: Alberta

Expanding access to HIV point of care testing through community pharmacies: the APPROACH study

By Christine Hughes

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Estimates in Canada suggest that about 21% of people living with HIV do not know it. There are often many barriers to HIV testing including concerns about privacy and confidentiality, low perceived risk of infection, access to testing, and waiting about a week for test results. Current guidelines recommend that HIV testing should be part of routine care and that novel approaches are needed to make testing more available to people who may benefit from it. We know that earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV leads to better patient outcomes, but also reduces the risk of transmission to others. Most people are tested for HIV by their family doctor or at STI clinics. Point of care (rapid) testing for HIV provides an opportunity to increase access to testing in non-traditional settings, such as community pharmacies.  The test is performed using a finger prick blood sample and test results are available within minutes. Community pharmacists are accessible health care providers, especially in rural settings where health care services may be more limited.

The purpose of the APPROACH study is to determine whether HIV point of care testing in a community pharmacy setting is acceptable, feasible and effective in reaching individuals that may be a risk of HIV infection. This 6 month pilot study is funded by a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research and is being conducted in four community pharmacies  (urban and rural) in Alberta and Newfoundland. The Alberta pharmacies are located in Edmonton (Community Members Pharmacy, 10611-101 Street) and Fort McMurray (Shoppers Drug Mart #327, Franklin Avenue). Testing will be available by appointment on weekdays. In order to be eligible for the pilot study, individuals need to be at least 18 years of age and have an active Alberta Health Care number.  

As part of the study, pharmacists will provide pre and post-test counseling and administer the HIV test in a private counseling room at the pharmacy. The HIV test itself is highly accurate and looks for antibodies against the virus.  If the test is reactive (positive), confirmatory testing is needed in order to diagnose HIV infection.  In this case individuals will be provided with a form to have confirmatory testing done at a lab, and will be immediately linked to appropriate care and follow-up.  In order to assess the study objectives, individuals enrolled in the study will be asked to complete a short pre-and post-test survey.

We hope to learn from this pilot study whether the model of HIV testing in a community pharmacy setting is acceptable to individuals requesting testing and whether it addresses some of the barriers to testing.  We also want to learn whether HIV testing is feasible for pharmacists to incorporate into their work routine.  If the pilot is successful we hope to expand to other pharmacies in Alberta and Newfoundland, as well as other parts of Canada.

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Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada

By: The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network 

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In Canada, people living with HIV can be charged and prosecuted for not disclosing their HIV-positive status to a sexual partner in some circumstances. What does disclosure to a sexual partner look like? The act of disclosing one’s HIV status means telling someone you are having sex with that you are HIV-positive. This can include anyone with whom you have a sexual relationship, including your spouse, a regular sexual partner, or someone you might have sex with only once.

In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a person living with HIV has a legal duty to disclose their HIV-positive status before having sex that poses a “realistic possibility of transmission.” The Court determined that using a condom and having a low or undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV in a person’s blood) negated “a realistic possibility of transmission of HIV.” More than 180 people have been charged to date with HIV non-disclosure.

In Canada, people who face criminal charges related to HIV non-disclosure are typically charged with aggravated sexual assault, one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code. People living with HIV have been charged even if they had no intention to transmit HIV, engaged in behaviours that posed little or even no risk of transmission, and did not in fact transmit HIV to their sexual partners.

The current, overly-broad use of the criminal law increases stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, spreads misinformation about HIV, undermines public health initiatives and ultimately leads to human rights violations. When people living with HIV still experience overt discrimination and physical violence, disclosure is not easy, especially for those on whom criminalization has a disproportionate impact: women, Indigenous people, migrants and members of the African, Caribbean and Black communities. Furthermore, by equating HIV non-disclosure with aggravated sexual assault, Canadian law harms both people living with HIV and survivors of sexual violence.

But we’ve seen some positive developments in recent years.

In 2014, more than 75 prominent Canadian medical experts signed an important consensus statement, which has been an important tool for advocates and has since been used by defense lawyers representing people living with HIV, judges and scientific experts testifying in court with some positive impacts already emerging.

On World AIDS Day (December 1, 2016), federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould made a historic statement acknowledging the problem of the over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure and the need for the criminal justice system to adapt to better reflect the current scientific evidence on HIV transmission. Federal Minister of Health Dr. Jane Philpott, echoing this sentiment, has noted that HIV criminalization in Canada is both a problem and a priority for the government to address.

More recently, the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure has called for an immediate moratorium on all prosecutions in cases of HIV non-disclosure while exploring law reform options and working with the province to establish much-needed prosecutorial guidelines to limit the current misuse and overextension of the criminal law. Since Canada’s Minister of Justice, and Attorney General of Canada, has denounced the overly broad use of the criminal law in Canada, why does Ontario continue to unjustly prosecute people living with HIV? Tell Ontario’s Attorney General, the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, to stop unjust HIV-related prosecutions: click here to send your message.

Here’s hoping that both federal and provincial attorneys general listen and take action.

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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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Canada Has an HIV Problem

By Brook Biggin

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Saskatchewan docs call for a state of emergency. Trudeau hangs with Bono.

Both of these things happened over the past several days in our country. Both for the same reason: HIV.

Now, I recognize that’s not an entirely fair side-by-side. After all, Trudeau was hosting the Global Fund Fifth Replenishment Conference and Bono, a long-time HIV advocate, was in attendance. It makes sense that the two would share a table – and even an embrace at some point over the weekend. But fair or not, both of those things did happen. The contrast is there. And it is stark.

I can already sense the barbs forming in the eyes of my progressive peers.  In a system with only two parties who have a feasible chance of forming the federal government, one of which just decided that gay people should be allowed to get married – ten years after they were allowed to get married – I get why some progressives don’t respond well when one of their own lobs criticism at the only sane, human option for government we have.

But central to the very word “progressive” – in fact, you can’t even form the word without it – is “progress”. And we do not achieve progress by simply burying our heads in the sand, only to re-emerge to throw darts at our political opponents or fluff those we see as our allies. Progress requires clear, sober reflection on the challenges that face us as a people. It requires that we place people before party. And it requires a commitment to speak truth to power, regardless of whose narrative it strengthens or undermines.

Now, before I get to said truth, it’s important to clarify that I take no offense to Canada’s hosting of the Global Fund’s Replenishment Conference. To bring Bono back into the mix, I wholeheartedly agree with his lyric which states, “Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.” In a world where we have all of the tools available to ensure that people living with HIV and AIDS can live long and healthy lives, it is deplorable that that opportunity be relegated only to those of us who live in high-income countries. So I laud Canada’s commitment to supporting the Global Fund and the work it does to create equity for those living with, affected by, and at risk of contracting HIV throughout the world. However, the good that one does with the one hand does not negate the negligence conducted by the other.

The truth is, Canada has an HIV problem:

1) The Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada was written in 2004. The top song on the Billboard charts was Yeah!” by Usher ft. Lil Jon & Ludacris. “Desperate Housewives” was in its first season. I was attending a Pentecostal Bible College. That’s how old Canada’s HIV/AIDS strategy is. That’s a problem.

2) With no national pharmacare plan, access to HIV Treatment – AKA what an estimated 70,000 people living in Canada need just to stay alive – is inconsistent. Think of that for a second. There are people in our country in need of medication, without which they will die, who face significant barriers in accessing treatment. And that doesn’t even begin to shine a light on the barriers faced by those whose immigration status might deem them ineligible for access.

3) We now know these things: 1) The majority of new HIV infections can be attributed not to people knowingly living with HIV but instead to those who are unaware of their status. 2) People living with HIV who are diagnosed, have access to HIV treatment and take it as prescribed, thus achieving an undetectable viral load, are non-infectious and cannot transmit the virus to others. AND YET people living with HIV in Canada continue to be criminally charged, convicted, and many sent to prison for failing to disclose their HIV status even when, based on ample evidence, there is no risk that transmission would actually occur. Yet there has been no attempt by policymakers – some of the same ones who were in attendance at the Global Fund Replenishment Conference – to provide updated guidance to police and prosecutors to ensure that our legal system and how it is implemented is based upon facts and scientific evidence as opposed to stigma and phobias which disproportionately impact indigenous people, queer people, and people of colour.

And that is just a start. I am only one man with one lens and one set of experiences. If I had more space or if this was co-written with others living with or affected by HIV, I’m sure the list would be much longer. But length is irrelevant to the fact that the gaps addressed in that list are unacceptable. And regardless of which conferences are hosted by whom, which celebrities celebrate our leaders, and which HIV activists are seduced into inaction by a tall, handsome man in a salmon shirt, until all of the challenges on that list are addressed, it will remain unacceptable.

So, to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Philpott, and the range of other policymakers, leaders, and bureaucrats who have the power to shape our country’s response to HIV and AIDS, do strive to create equity amongst the people of this earth. Do reaffirm our commitment as a global player that refuses to face inward and ignore the needs of those in need. But do not allow what is shiny in one hand to distract you from what is slipping from the other. This is not a call for either/or. It is a call for both/and. And you will be held accountable.

 

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Faces of HIV – Twenty Five

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I was thirty-six when I was diagnosed. I guess for me, what it’s meant is it delayed my life a lot. I thought I was going to be dead. I had little kids … Now, my daughter has a law degree, she opened her own business, then she got elected in Calgary and now she’s the Minister of the Alberta Status of Women and Services. On World AIDS Day, my daughter had the opportunity to do a speech at the Alberta Legislature and she introduced me, her mother. It was a very touching speech. She almost started to cry because she said she remembers wondering if her mom was going to die. I know what she lived through. If her mom would have been diagnosed with breast cancer, she could have had the support of her teachers, friends and neighbours, but she had to worry about them finding out. I’m sure you’ve had friends come stay overnight. But if the parents found out that the mother was positive, do you think they’d ever come back again? I think people still don’t get that there are people out there who’ve lived this totally alone their whole life. They still don’t talk about it or tell people, they’re still afraid of it.”

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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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

————————————————————————–

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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Faces of HIV – Twenty Three

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“We need something set up to protect and to treat people. If we tested everyone, our HIV rates would go through the roof in Canada, at least initially. But then we could get them on treatment—we could actually do something. Treatment as prevention works, you know, people become undetectable and it’s not going to be everybody, that’s just really difficult to imagine, but we could get so much closer. But right now as grassroots activists and as a community, there’s only so much we can do, and I guess that’s why now I feel it’s time again to go more politically.”

“HIV is the one disease that people get blamed for—if they hadn’t done this or if they would have done that—you know there’s already so much shame that to shame people for a virus or disease, it’s just inhumane. I think it’s because people don’t see themselves in the HIV picture … Someone asked me once why more people don’t get tested, and I think it’s fear. People are afraid of what they don’t know and they react out of fear. So if we could normalize some of that, people might feel they’re in a safer place so if they found out they were (HIV positive), they might not feel that their world were coming to an end. It can be something that they can manage and live with. Yes, their life will look different, but they wouldn’t feel that their life is over.”

“The reason I’m so passionate about it and that vision of zero is because we are a cause where we can get there. We’re so close, I can see it. It’s partly what keeps me going, but it’s also so utterly frustrating … It’s so close but we don’t have any political will. There’s the politics of everything that goes along with HIV, so that’s the politics of harm reduction that makes people uncomfortable and sex that makes people uncomfortable and the spectrum of gender and the spectrum of orientation. All of these things make people so uncomfortable, and it’s that discomfort I feel that often drives so much of that stigma. And I feel like there’s a fear politically for people to get involved, that if they get involved it might not be popular.”

“When I started working in HIV, it was condoms—here, use these. Now … we have treatment as prevention, we’ve got sexual health information. I feel like we’re at this place where we were getting closer and then it’s like everybody said it’s not really a big deal anymore, like, okay, there’s treatment now and somehow that’s enough. It’s frustrating because it’s the one disease that I can see the end to; it’s preventable, we understand how it works, we understand how to treat it, and we know that just by treating it, you are stopping onward transmission. Those are huge things. Other causes would do anything to have that. What’s missing is that political will and that ability to have someone say this matters and these lives matter and we’re going to invest in this because we can get there and then we can focus on something else.”

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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Faces of HIV – Twenty Two

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I’ve worked here for almost five years, but I’ve worked in the system for thirty-five years. I used to be the Executive Director at the Bissell Centre for ten years and the YWCA in the women’s shelters, so I come from a community perspective. I believe in being a community advocate and I fundamentally believe in human rights and the issues around HIV are around social determinants of health and the rights of individuals and the access to proper education, information, treatment, all of that stuff.”

“I think the biggest piece for HIV Edmonton is around still thinking it’s only health. HIV Edmonton is much more than a health organization. It’s a community-based organization providing direct services and so we connect people to health services, we help them gain access and navigate and all sorts of things, but the organization isn’t just health. And that puts a barrier to funding which puts a barrier towards the continuation and expansion of education, prevention, and support, so it’s one of the barriers at getting to zero. It’s one of the barriers to addressing stigma. We have a huge number of partnerships with other organizations. All of the staff do community development work and we need to do more and more because it’s all about building the capacity within the community to learn something in a different way and deal with it in a different way. I always say HIV Edmonton is a small but mighty group. We’re a small group of only ten people, but we’re a mighty group and you have to be able to work smart and help people not only at the individual level, but also the community level to see where those barriers are.”

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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Faces of HIV – Twenty One

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I came to HIV Edmonton for the first time when I found out I had HIV. It was in 2010. I came here and everything started from there. You know, I got my doctors, all the health team helped, and housing later on and all the programs—so you stay involved so you’re not out there doing bad things too much. They’re doing lots of things to help. From the start, I was involved with the cooking class program here. We’ve got that twice a month and it helps a lot. It’s mostly the same people, but we get new ones in too. We also do visiting stuff and talks.”

“For sure the biggest challenge is the stigma. It gets easier for yourself everyday but with other people, it sometimes feels that you never get ahead. When you first get diagnosed, you feel really weird and bad. You feel different and alone. But then eventually it gets better, after three or five years, and you don’t feel that as much anymore. But in the community, you know, we don’t talk too loud about it. Even though we move ahead, the community doesn’t. But that’s life, right?”

“The best part is the education about it. The more people know about HIV and AIDS, the easier it will get. I do talks to youth in trouble and to Grant McEwan health people. It helps for them to understand more and they are the future so that’s positive.”

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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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

————————————————————————–

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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