Tag Archives: HIV Edmonton

The End of Criminalization is Just Good Science

By Marlo Cottrell

As someone who has been living with HIV for over 20 years, I still remember my early years of having to live with this virus. When treatment was often limited and a large number of people were still dying. Trying to navigate through the overwhelming realization that I had to live with this disease, I will tell you that disclosure took practice and I didn’t always get it right as much as I tried. That is a reality for many. Through the decades, we’ve come so far and conquered the enormous summit to accessible treatment here in Canada, easier to manage medication and a life where living with this disease is not a death sentence, but a life with tangible hopes and dreams that flourish.

HIV criminalization has yet to reflect the highly treatable infection we see today; where an undetectable viral15138470_842377852570876_2454002420699421243_o load means the virus stops with us. The legal implications of living with this virus and not disclosing to a partner still garner someone the possibility of convictions of aggravated sexual assault, however. The harshest of sentences relegated to the worst of sexual assaults. Aggravated Sexual Assault: The Criminal Code also allows for increased penalties for sexual assault where the accused “wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.” Transmission does not necessarily have to take place. This carries the hefty sentence of the maximum of 10 years in prison and mandatory registration on the sex offender registry list. As a survivor of sexual assault, I find it the implications of this deeply disturbing, when we as human beings when engaged in consensual sex, have the option to protect ourselves. 1 in 5 people living with HIV do not know their status. As a former sex trade worker who advocated for safe sex on a daily basis, I used to tell my clients, “I don’t know where you’ve been and you don’t know where I’ve been. Out of respect for that fact, we need to protect ourselves and each other.” Today, as it stands, if we are undetectable and use a condom, we do not have to disclose. If we don’t use a condom, we must disclose but the risk is zero with an undetectable viral load. I think the crux of criminalization comes down to, who benefits from these laws? We know these laws are not a deterrent for the spread of HIV, which is what the intent was supposed to be. They only perpetuate and reinforce a false sense of security. The goal is to prevent new infections from occurring. I have sat with a former partner in the waiting room with his requisition form for an HIV test, both of us knowing that he should be tested. That crumpled requisition form landed in the bottom of a garbage can faster than you could imagine.

It is the promotion of zero stigma, zero discrimination and zero new infections that is at the heart of what gets people out and embracing an HIV test. The science has been in for a while now. It protects people from new infections when those of us living with this virus are able to know our status by wiping away the fear of shame and the heavy burden of stigma. HIV criminalization was set forth on a misguided course to protect us, but it does little more than further stigmatize a disease that we are conquering. The end of criminalization is just good science.

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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 – Thirty

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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In 1982, Ross Armstrong, a man described by his friend Charles Bidwell, as “full of playful spirit, comfortable in his own skin and so open in expressing himself,” earned his spot to swim for Canada in the first ever Gay Olympic Games. Ross won a silver medal in the 200 metre butterfly and was quoted saying, “There were no losers. The first and the last were cheered equally.” He also learned that organization combined with a political commitment is what produces mass awareness and supported action. This was the spirit of Ross, a man committed to honesty, integrity, and change.

In 1984, Ross Armstrong was diagnosed with AIDS, the first AIDS diagnosis in Edmonton. Shortly after his diagnosis, he became a part of the AIDS Network of Edmonton team (now known as HIV Edmonton), 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 their agency, the drop-in centre, the Ross Armstrong Centre. A safe, caring place for HIV positive individuals to meet, have a cup of coffee, or share a nutritious community meal. Breakfast is served every Monday and Friday morning and lunch is served on Wednesdays. Ross Armstrong Week, held Monday and Friday in the middle of each month, provides access to grocery cards, health supplies (multi-vitamins and liquid meal replacement) and hygiene products (razors, shampoo, etc.).

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith
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Faces of HIV – Twenty Nine

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I was involved in organizing the first prayer vigil for people with AIDS. We held that in the chapel of the Edmonton General Hospital and we did prayers all night long. We scheduled people to be there and invited people to come pray for those who had AIDS and those who were affected by AIDS. This was in the initial years in the mid-eighties. I went away from this city in the year of 80/81 on a sabbatical from the university, and I had heard something about this rare condition that was being detected in Los Angeles and San Francisco. So when I came back to Edmonton from Texas, people were talking about people coming down with this condition called AIDS, where you don’t die of AIDS, you die from some condition that is acquired because of an immune system deficiency.”

“I used to play volleyball with the first person in Edmonton diagnosed with AIDS—Ross Armstrong. When he came down with it, he was put in the U of A hospital, where I worked. So I would go up to visit him everyday. And everyone was gloved and gowned and masked, and they really didn’t want to go into his room because they were afraid. They had no idea how this was transmitted so they would sort of put his tray of food into the room and then I would go in and visit him and bring his food tray to him. I would say, ‘Ross, I’m sorry I have to look like an alien, but it’s really to protect you from me giving you anything.’ So I would sit on the bed and hug him. Nobody was doing that. And, of course, he died. He was the first person in Edmonton to be publicly known to have AIDS.”

“Even my husband at the time, he came down with AIDS, and when he died in 1989, at his funeral, nobody would say that he had AIDS. We were just enraged. We fought to make it public so it would start being addressed. We had been together for seven years, and he was playing around, and for some reason I didn’t get it.”

“I was the minister of the Metropolitan Community Church and when the folks like Michael Phair got together and applied for a grant to do something about AIDS, they couldn’t receive the grant because they weren’t established as a not-for-profit organization, and they didn’t have charitable status and all the rest of this. I was a friend of Michael’s, so he asked if the church could take our cheque, and I said, ‘Yes.’ And then we paid whatever bills he submitted to us. So we enabled them to work for a year until they got their own not-for-profit. So yes, I was sort of in on the ground floor.”

“The one good thing that came from AIDS is that the community solidified and worked together to face this threat … There are some of us old farts still kicking around from back them, but we probably lost about a generation. As a minister, I did funerals, memorial services, and certainly talked to the people who had HIV. I didn’t get to talk to many parents because so many parents, when they found out their kid had AIDS, they were also finding out that their kid was gay, so they were so in shock that most of them didn’t want to talk to a minister.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith
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Faces of HIV – Twenty Eight

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“Visual AIDS is an archive project that started, I think, twenty-six years ago. It was started pre-HIV medication so when a lot of artists were dying off. Artists and friends of artists in the New York area were concerned that their art practices would be forgotten, and all their work would just be thrown out. It started as a grassroots foundation and it grew. So now it’s the largest archive of work and acts as a hub. The work doesn’t always deal directly with HIV, but they deal with issues revolving around HIV such as vulnerability.” “Lately I’ve been interested about the issue of criminalization surrounding HIV, specifically of non-disclosure of HIV where people have been charged, particularly in Edmonton actually—which has some of the most heinous criminal charges laid against people who were convicted of sexual assault, administering biological substances, or attempted murder for not telling their partners they have HIV and then having some kind of intimacy or sexual contact, regardless of transmissions. I don’t know why Edmonton has a gross history of that. It’s just ignorance.” “The courts strengthened the idea that consent should be the ultimate protection so that people with HIV were seen as having negated consent for not disclosing, so that’s the genesis of where these problems became exponential. How do you undo this idea of consent if we’re medicating people in order that they can have autonomy to make their own decisions about consenting and telling people if they’re positive? Does that have to happen? It used to be the case that the courts in Canada would accept the idea that someone’s virological load or ability to transmit is negated because they’re on medication. So the courts went a step further and asked that people use condoms so the only two conditions they would accept without disclosure were if they met those two conditions—they had to have a negligible viral load and they have to had used a condom. Otherwise potentially the law has the ability to come down with these awful charges. It’s fascinating to me, and it also makes me very angry.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith
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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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