December 1, 2010

World Aids Day December 1 2010

Posted in current events tagged at 4:17 pm by Jennifer

Every day two people are infected with HIV in Toronto, gay and bisexual men account for more than half of all new HIV diagnoses in Toronto and one out of every five people diagnosed with HIV in Toronto is a woman. (WorldAids.ca)

As shocking as locally relevant statistics can be we all largely have the same type of reaction; “that’s terrible” followed by feeling safe with the thought that “it will never happen to me”.

In 2006 the current mayor of Toronto Rob Ford made the following offensive comment; “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably”. The backlash was immediate and lasting but I think Ford’s comment is a reflection of the stigma that still exits in society.

The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s dangerous. The fact is AIDS/HIV has become a “blame the victim” infection and neglects the many personal stories of the people who are living with this illness. At the end of the day does it really matter what circumstances led to infection? What matters the most is what comes next including treatment, education and public/community support.

HIV/AIDS awareness is a cause I have felt strongly about for years, and I wanted to share why on World AIDS Day. The truth is there are many reasons I support this cause but one in particular sticks out in my mind and has impacted me for years.

One day I was on my way to work just like any other day, when I saw a woman standing on the subway platform. It was rush hour but there was still a pretty big space around her. I then realized she was wearing a t-shirt that said “I have HIV”. A million things rushed through my mind; Was this part of a campaign? A personal choice of hers? A study being conducted? Does she really have HIV? How does she feel, standing there all alone? Why is she doing this?

The train pulled in and I automatically stepped on it, but once the doors slid shut she and I made eye contact through the window and right away I regretted not walking up to her, talking to her and showing my support by bridging the distance between us. The truth is social stigma and my own fear prevented me in that split second decision but this chance moment between absolute strangers has always stuck with me and I still think of her. And then I think about the many people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto and around the world. I realize I can’t change my actions that day but I can choose to stand with people living with this illness from that day onwards.

All of the things I want to do and become involved with are still taking shape but for today, I wanted to be a part of the dialogue and recognize the importance of World AIDS Day. I hope you’ll do the same.

For further resources, support and testing;

www.actoronto.org

www.avert.org

www.hasslefreeclinic.org

www.womenscareclinic.ca

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