Dr. Avnish Jolly : Lucas was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 — one of the first Winnipeggers to test positive, because of his diagnosis, he experienced prejudice, which influenced his decision to move north for a few years. He now volunteers at Nine Circles, Community Health Centre. It is a community based, non-profit centre specializing in HIV/STI prevention, care, treatment and support.
Nine Circles marked World AIDS Day and took the opportunity to reflect on progress that has been made in the fight against HIV and also look ahead to what more needs to be done.
According to Nine Circles, 1200 people in the province receive HIV care and treatment through the Manitoba HIV Program, a number that grew by 116 patients last year. It’s a venture in the delivery of community-based health services in Winnipeg.
HIV/AIDS is considered as a stigma in the society but not many know that people of all sections are suffering from this deadly disease. In the early 1980s medical fraternity began noticing rare cancers and infections striking otherwise healthy young gay men. Something was destroying their immune systems — something fatal and possibly contagious. At first it was called the ‘gay plague.’ Then others began dying: Haitians, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs and heterosexuals. Fear and confusion reigned as the disease eventually known as HIV/AIDS grew from a mystery to a pandemic.
The term “death sentence” was often associated with a positive HIV diagnosis, Chris Lucas recalls and said, “I can’t touch that glass because you have touched it. It was really scary, because their parents would say; I can’t go to school because his parents have AIDS. It was really that scary.”
In this situation with the help of good diet, regular exercise, support, positive attitude and counselling with continues and systematic approach under the purview of Public Health he comes out from the stress, stigma, and discrimination. He advocates, “I’d basically say, don’t give up, keep moving forward and don’t accept the negativity that’s going to come back at you.”