Canada: War on HIV Has Changed Since Terrible '80s
April 18, 2006
HIV Network of Edmonton is today a different agency than when it was formed by gay activists in 1984. The men who gathered around a kitchen table at that time to create a committee called the AIDS Network of Edmonton were responding to the city's first diagnosed AIDS case. They began drafting a plan to educate gay men about the disease and provide care and support for those who were infected.
"AIDS moved very swiftly then," said founding member Walter Cavalieri. The group spent most of 1985 looking to establish a permanent office, while volunteers photocopied information pamphlets to pass out in bars and faced the grim task of planning funerals. By mid-1986, Alberta had recorded 36 AIDS cases, including 25 from Calgary, seven from Edmonton and the rest from other towns, and 24 deaths.
The arrival of antiretroviral drugs in the mid-1990s changed everything, turning the fatal disease into an incurable chronic condition. "We had just gotten a big grant to train people to go into people's homes and help them die with dignity, and then poof, antiretrovirals," said Deborah Jacubec, HIV Edmonton's executive director. Eventually, the agency changed its focus to HIV, and to reflect that, its name.
HIV Edmonton's challenge now is to reach clients from disparate groups, such as women, IV drug users, aboriginals in high-risk lifestyles and immigrants from AIDS-endemic countries. While some clients die of AIDS, most do not. Yet, HIV-positive people still struggle with numerous problems, including discrimination and stigma, and HIV Edmonton continues to assist them, said Jacubec.
04.15.06; Susan Ruttan
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.