Every year, from Nov. 24 until World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, we commemorate AIDS Awareness Week. This is a time when Positive Living Niagara reaches out to the community to remind people that HIV still impacts people in Canada.
As of 2016, there are an estimated 63,110 people living with HIV in Canada. Although we have the knowledge and tools to prevent new HIV infections, this number represents a five per cent increase over two years. While local numbers are hard to come by, we know that there are several hundred residents living with HIV in Niagara.
HIV has changed from what was once a death sentence to what is now a manageable chronic condition, provided there is access to medical care. People living with HIV who are on treatment live just as long as people who are not living with HIV. Further, when a person is on treatment and the levels of HIV in their blood can no longer be detected, then they cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners. We call this ‘Undetectable = Untransmittable’ or U=U. This breakthrough represents a new era for people living with HIV.
AIDS Awareness week provides us the opportunity to highlight this information to the greater community. We have several public events taking place over the course of AIDS Awareness Week and we hope to see you there!
Positive Living Niagara hosts awareness events throughout the region during AIDS Awareness Week, most notably The Red Scarf Project. On Friday, Nov. 25, starting at 11am, our flag will be raised at St. Catharines City Hall. Following the flag raising, approximately 400 red scarves will be strung up on railings and in trees on St. Paul Street as we make our way to Silver Spire United Church at noon, where we will receive guests with refreshments.
A similar event in Niagara Falls will take place on Monday, Nov. 28, starting at Niagara Falls City Hall at 11am. After the flag raising, participants will make their way to Niagara Falls Community Health Centre where refreshments will be available. The red scarves adorning St. Paul Street in St. Catharines and Queen Street in Niagara Falls will be available for passersby to take home. Staff and volunteers will be on location to answer questions about HIV and related services in Niagara.
At Community Care of West Niagara, 4309 Central Ave., Beamsville, we will hold a special movie screening on Thursday, Nov. 25 at 11 am, followed by a question and answer session so that people can learn more about HIV and about how best they can support people in their community.
On Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, Positive Living Niagara will host a vigil to celebrate the lives of those affected by HIV and to look towards a future where HIV is eradicated. This will be held at the St. Catharines Museum from 6pm. to 7:30pm. The community is welcome and encouraged to attend in support of those living with or lost to HIV. The vigil will also mark the beginning of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, which runs from Dec. 1-7. Refreshments will be provided.
During Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, a Sacred Fire will be held to honour those we have lost or are currently living with HIV. This takes place from sunrise to sunset on Dec. 7 at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, 796 Buffalo Rd., Fort Erie.
There will be a tent with hot drinks, soup, and information for any who wish to be involved in this activity. Staff will be on site to answer any questions.
Other events that are open to the public may also be scheduled, so be sure to check out our website at positivelivingniagara.com and our social media regularly for more information.
Out and abOUT is a column focusing on Niagara’s Sexual and Gender Diverse Community courtesy of OUTNiagara through their members and community partners.