Tag Archives: Prevention

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

————————————————————————–

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

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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Faces of HIV – Eighteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I work for Gilead, which is a pharmaceutical company based in California. Gilead as a whole actually makes the top three AIDS drugs on the market. A lot of them are combination pills so we’re the first company in the world to come out with a single tablet once a day, which is a huge help for people, especially people who don’t have homes and who have dependency issues and things like that. We just came out with a new component to the single tablet that we actually worked on in Edmonton. We don’t do the clinical trials here, but we do the chemistry behind it so we manufacture the material for studies and the materials for the clinical trials and validate it and seek FDA approval. The Edmonton stuff was the first on the market. Also about two year ago we came out with a cure for Hepatitis C. Again we worked on it here in Edmonton, so it’s pretty cool.”

“The challenges we’re dealing with have changed a lot. We’re replacing one of the components for one that has a more mild affect on the liver and bone density. The crazy thing is before these things didn’t matter as much, but now that people are living with HIV for thirty years, they’re senior citizens so bone density and liver function are very important.”

“We recently had a fundraiser where we sold mismatched socks and we’re going to give the money to HIV Edmonton for them to buy laundry cards.”

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 – Seventeen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

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“I helped establish The James Toleman Memorial Fund (JTMF). We produce a fundraiser called Artists for Life every year. It started in Jersey, which is where I’m from. James was a good friend of mine in university. When he died a group of his friends got together and we did an event to raise money for his parents because it almost bankrupted his parents when he was sick. And then I moved to Edmonton in 2007 and formed JTMF West here. We still do fundraisers, it’s just not in James’s name. All of the money stays in Edmonton. This year we’re supporting YESS and Kindred House. In the past, we’ve supported HIV Edmonton and Camp Firefly.”

“Because we use Artists for Life as our mandate, we try to make it arts based so the show itself takes on a different art form each year. One year we did the films of Trevor Anderson, one year we did dance, one year we did an all women lineup, this year is all music so we have all Edmonton-based music acts as our performance, and then we have a silent auction where we really focus on local artists. So there’s the performers, the donors and those of us on the committee, plus there’s fifty artists donating their time for this event.”

James was an actor. We did musical theatre together. He was every cliche—he was a gay man in theatre who loved the Wizard of Oz … how does that even happen? He died in 2002. That was at the tail end of when people were dying fast and furious of AIDS … The arts and the AIDS movement have been intertwined since the beginning, so to be able to translate that into something that resonates here has been pretty astonishing. I’m not from Edmonton and James was never in Canada, but somehow Edmontonians have supported this event started by bunch of Jersey people.”

“I really love Edmonton. It’s a small city compared to New Jersey—I grew up in the shadow of Manhattan—so Edmonton feels like a small city to me. Edmonton’s got this can-do attitude about it where you can do things like start up JTMF and people will actually support it. They actually encourage you to go out on your own and try something. A lot of communities aren’t like that.”

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 – Fifteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

rosemary

“My home country is Zimbabwe. That’s where I came from. I came to Canada in 2014. I love it here. I like the people, they are very friendly. I was telling someone that the Canadians are more friendly when comparing to the British people. It’s so different. I really really love it here … I’ve volunteered at HIV Edmonton as a receptionist since March 2015. When I came to Canada, I first got to Toronto and the only thing they told me is, ‘If you want to get a job in Canada, you have to volunteer.’ I really like to work with people living with HIV. In my country, I didn’t have that opportunity, but when I came to Toronto, I volunteered at the HIV office, which is in Oshawa, and then when I came to Edmonton, they referred me to HIV Edmonton. That’s how I came to volunteer here. It’s of great interest to me … What I’ve noticed is that my people, the black community, they don’t want to like, come out, you know. Maybe because of peer pressure, or whatever. I don’t know, but I always feel that if you come out and be open and tell your story, you live a longer life and it’s better for you. So I’m always praying that these people come. There are some people who come, you know, and they see me at the reception and they say, ‘Oh wow, you’re working here.’ I hope it helps people in coming. I have a lady who is now coming because I said, ‘Oh you should come.’ She started by coming to breakfast, then lunch, and now she attends the discussion groups.”

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 – Fourteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

 

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“I’ve had a lot of struggles because of the stigma related to HIV. In about 2004, I was charged because of trespassing in the General Hospital. This was when I was still drinking—I don’t even remember any of this. But I was charged because I was in there after hours and was passed out on a chair or something. The security guard asked what I was doing there, and I spat on him. So anyway I was charged for trespassing. Once they found out I was HIV positive, they upgraded the charges to assault causing bodily harm. It’s a really serious charge. Now I’m on a watch list Canada wide because of that. So I was in jail because of this. I was doing five months, trying to fight this. The lawyer said, ‘You might as well plead guilty because this is the best I can do.’ So I pled guilt to this big charge. So I was in jail on this charge because of having HIV and they were denying me my medication because they were waiting for one of their specialists to come and check my blood to make sure that I was in fact HIV positive. Even in jail there was stigma. They separated me from the rest of the population … When I got out, I had a big chip on my shoulder and I thought, ‘This has to change.’ People in jail living with HIV need to have a few more rights than what I was given—medication and proper healthcare.’ So I told my story to a few people and now people in jails have better access to care.”

“It was about 2008. That’s when I started to realize, ‘Well, I’m living now so I need to learn how to live because I don’t know how. Dying is easy, living is hard’ … Then I started to open my mind a little more and see the big picture globally and realize the affect that HIV has on people globally … Wow, it’s staggering and overwhelming, like what the heck can I do? All I can do is what I can do for me. Hopefully what I do for me can help other people, just by example and sharing my story—help others become aware of HIV and the kind of struggles people living with HIV face. I also want to create an awareness that this isn’t going away and it is getting worse. Certainly in the aboriginal population it is increasing. That’s what concerns me the most … I think a big reason why is communication. I’ve been going out and speaking to aboriginal communities. There’s a fear for them because, living in such small communities, they don’t want to be singled out and be shunned. It’s very heavy in the native community. There’s a silence, you can feel it. I wonder why people don’t just talk about it. I think back to my plight when I was first diagnosed with HIV. That was it. I slammed the door onto the world basically—I wouldn’t let anything in and I wouldn’t let anything out. But a human being can’t live that way and we weren’t created that way. We need each other, that’s something I learned through this. I learned about the amount of resources that are available out there to a person who has a disease—thousands of people out there willing to help. I had never seen that before. I saw the other side of life where everybody is taking stuff, so seeing that really gave me hope and made me think I wanted to live again … I just keep feeding my spirit because the rest of me is pretty much gone. But I’m getting healthier. I keep believing that before I die there will be a cure or a better way of treating it. I take four pills a day now, every twelve hours and they kick the shit out of my digestive system. I can’t sleep, no appetite, no energy … Be sure, get tested. It’s free.”

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 – Ten

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

Tsion 1

“I came from Ethiopia. When I lived in Ethiopia, I had an opportunity to do research in high schools that had ‘anti-AIDS’ clubs they called them at that time. This was way back in the early 2000s. Then I got introduced to what it means to be living with HIV and how rampant it was at that time in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. I fell in love with research and applying social justice in this field of HIV where poverty and other social determinants of health sort of have the upper hand in communities. I was very much involved with social justice and human rights issues. So when it was time to apply for grad school, I applied to come to the University of Alberta and I did my masters in HIV education.”

“When we talk about HIV, I think we need to talk about stigma. I think a lot of us in the community do not really know and understand what HIV is about. We may think that it’s just a virus that lives in a person. But with one pill a day, you can live a healthy, amazing, sexually active, productive, fulfilling life, but it’s not like that. HIV is not killing people, it’s stigma that’s killing people. We need to be more aware about HIV and other things that are around HIV. We don’t talk a lot about it in public spheres and we sometimes forget about it, but it’s an issue that is still happening—transmission and infection is still happening, so it’s something to think about. Instead of having stigmatizing or discriminating attitudes, we need to be more supportive of individuals who are living with HIV and also of the research being done around HIV.”

“I’ve worked at HIV Edmonton for eight years. I may be the longest standing staff member for HIV Edmonton. I work as an educator so I do a lot of workshops in the community, especially with professionals and healthcare practitioners and members of the African and black communities in the city. HIV Edmonton has really given me a platform to practice what I love in the broader perspective of social justice but also in the HIV field.”

“Last year I received an award, it’s the RISE Awards, recognizing immigrants’ successes in Edmonton. So I was one of the recipients in community leadership. It was really awesome to be recognized by fellow community members and peers. I was nominated by someone I knew based on the work I’d done that contributed to the immigrant population.”

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 – Nine

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton

Brook

“I’ve worked for HIV Edmonton for fourteen months now. It’s good. It fits with who I am and what I’m about. I’m HIV positive myself and I’m also a part of the queer community. We are a community that continues to be disproportionately impacted by HIV amongst a whole slough of other health outcomes. This position gives me an opportunity to really make a difference in that area.”

“Is there anything you’d very much like to accomplish?”

“The goal is health equity. I really want to see my community thrive and there’s a million different things involved with that but I think we could come to a day when queer men have equitable opportunity to experience positive health and wellbeing. That’s the dream and we’re far from it. The work we do with HIV and sexual health is a big part of it. Men who have sex with men continue to make up about half of new HIV infections every year across Canada. The numbers can fluctuate—here in Alberta it was a little less last year, but still, across the board. I think it says something about how we are valued as a community—as sexual and gender minorities and I think it’s really important. There was some really amazing stuff that happened back in the early days of the AIDS movement. I don’t think our community as a queer community has ever really demonstrated the type of organization and passion that we did back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and I think we’ve become a little complacent and haven’t really done too much. People aren’t dying like they did in the ‘80s when it was very apparent and horrific, but now people are still dying but it’s much more silent and because of that I don’t think we really engage in matters of our health’s much but it’s still extremely important—both in terms of HIV and mental health across the board so it’s really about organizing the community and consolidating power so that we’re able to take our health into our own hands and say, ‘This is not enough.’”

“HIV didn’t go anywhere, but the conversation fell silent. It’s a hard line to walk because HIV is much more manageable now—I’ve been living with HIV for about four and a half years, and it really doesn’t factor into my life as far as my physical health. It would be harder to manage something like diabetes … We now have the tools necessary to stop HIV legitimately. I mean there’s not a vaccine and there’s not a cure, but we know about prevention in terms of treating people living with HIV and the impact that has on rates. We know now that we have interventions like image result for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It was just approved by Health Canada. Essentially, people who are HIV negative who might be at a higher risk of infection, they can actually take HIV medication and it’s extraordinarily affective at preventing infection. So we do have the types of tools necessary to end this epidemic amongst the populations that it most impacts, which are sexual, gender, and racial minorities. So it’s just about the political will. We really need that to make a dent in it.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith
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