By Ayan Jama
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The HIV virus makes a person sick by weakening the immune system. If someone is living with HIV, it means they have an HIV infection. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It’s the name of the disease caused by HIV. Left untreated, HIV can cause AIDS. However, thanks to new medications, someone infected with HIV can stay relatively healthy. These medications are very expensive and not available to everyone living with HIV around the world.
World AIDS Day is observed on the 1st of December every year. It’s a day for people all over the world to highlight HIV prevention, support the people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have passed away. World AIDS Day was founded in 1988, and it was the first ever international health day.
On December 1st of this year, the Somerset West Community Health Centre and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa are co-presenting the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO)’s campaign, ‘It Takes Courage’. This is a community-based strategy that aims to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS by encouraging more welcoming African, Caribbean and Black faith-based and spiritual communities.
Despite its disproportionate impact on African, Caribbean and Black communities, HIV/AIDS remains a taboo topic. In Ontario the African, Caribbean and Black community is disproportionately affected by HIV. While Black people make up approximately 4% of Ontario’s population, in 2015, African, Caribbean and Black people accounted for 25% of all new HIV diagnoses. African, Caribbean and Black women accounted for over half (58%) of all new diagnoses among women in Ontario.
At Somerset West Community Health Centre, we are involved in anonymous HIV testing outreach and capacity building around HIV prevention, in African, Caribbean and Black communities in Ottawa. Community developers provide prevention resources and educational materials and lead workshops, seminars, and advocacy initiatives, to increase HIV awareness in the community. Free anonymous HIV testing in Ottawa is only available at designated sites, including Somerset West Community Health Centre. Other organizations in Ottawa that support people living with HIV are: AIDS Committee of Ottawa and Bruce House.
For more information take a look at the following links
For anonymous testing call 613-295-9574 or visit www.swchc.on.ca/anonymous-hiv-testing-program
About the writer
Ayan holds degrees in Political Science and Social Work from Carleton University, as well as a certificate in addiction and trauma from Algonquin College. She has been working in the HIV sector for the past 7 years and has supported people living in transitional housing, living with mental health issues, dealing with addiction and trauma. She is currently at Somerset West Community Health Centre where she is the Community Developer (HIV Health Initiative) for the African Caribbean and Black community living in Ottawa. Ayan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org