In the waning light of a crisp fall evening, friends and strangers stood in a circle holding hands – singing, talking and honouring a moment of silence for loved ones currently living with or lost to AIDS.
Beside them on the steps of the legislature, candles flickered in a red ribbon memorial display as they marked the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day and the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada.
As the group went around the circle sharing stories about how AIDS has touched their lives and those of loved ones, stigma was a heavy theme throughout.
Accounts were shared of how the stigma had killed, long before the disease had a chance to.
30th anniversary of World AIDS Day and 20th anni of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness week in Canada. Friends and family gather to honour those lost to or facing the disease and the stigma, which can be just as destructive as the disease. #AIDS #WorldAIDSDay2018 @VictoriaNews pic.twitter.com/iZZJhzE3Se
— Keri Coles (@KeriColesPhotog) December 2, 2018
Through the “Know your status” campaign, AIDS Vancouver Island is urging people to get tested and encouraging others to speak openly about HIV/AIDS to avoid stigma and shame.
Research shows that in Canada 25 per cent of people living with HIV are unaware that they have the virus because they’ve never been tested.
Here in this province, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has implemented an innovative pilot program that lets patients sign up and get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections online.
For more information about this program go to www.getcheckedonline.com.