Vancouver-based Does HIV Look Like Me? video asks Canadians to Stop the Stigma
Who do you think HIV looks like?
That's what a campaign by the Vancouver-based Does HIV Look Like Me? International Society asks.
The organization aims to counter discrimination against people with HIV or AIDS by boosting awareness about what it is like to live with HIV or AIDS and dispelling myths or erroneous information.
The organization has helped the world by launching campaigns in South Africa, Swaziland, and the United States.
Now it's time to address our home and native land.
Their latest video, called "Stop the Stigma", features Vancouverites, both male and female, ranging from a triathlete to a grandmother, who are living with HIV.
They talk about the discrimination and social challenges they face on a daily basis. They also talk about their hopes, feelings, and dreams, and how hard it was to tell others they had HIV. And they clarify some common misconceptions about HIV.
It was made entirely by volunteers with zero budget, and was designed for web release.
Executive director Brandy Svendson, who started the organization two years ago in Vancouver, said in a phone interview that their intention with this video is to create a buzz so they can start a Canadian campaign.
"One of the things we've been doing is implementing rapid HIV testing in dental clinics," Svendson said. "And I've been finding the same kind of things are coming up that people are surprised about. So working in HIV, [there are] some things we realize that we think of as second nature. For example, people don't realize you can have a child if you're HIV positive. People don't realize now that if you're on medication and you're undetectable, that you can't really transmit the virus to your partner, even if you're unprotected. So there's a lot of information out there that I felt would be good to do a cool little video to kind of talk about that. And then, the intention is to hopefully get some people involved to do the Does HIV Look Like Me? Canada campaign."
For the Canadian campaign, Svendson said she wants people to know that "we're starting to look for partners and support for that." She said they will get two people from each province and train them to become the next generation of HIV leaders.
Here's the video that was released on Sunday (January 15).
The video notes that this video only represents a small number of Canadians living with HIV and may not reflect experiences of others with HIV living around the world.
According to statistics from a 2010 BC Centre for Disease Control report on HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections, the rates of HIV and AIDS cases are on the decline in B.C. Rates amongst males have decreased while female rates have stabilized.
The highest rates are among males aged 25 to 29 and 30 to 39 years old, and among females aged 25 to 29 years old.
The number of new positive HIV tests decreased in B.C. from 337 cases (7.6 per 100,000 population) in 2009 to 301 cases (6.7 per 100,000 population).
The rate of AIDS in B.C. decreased from 110 cases (2.5 per 100,000 population) in 2008 to 77 cases (1.7 per 1000,000 population) in 2009.
HIV became reportable as a disease in B.C. in 2003.
To learn more about, to participate in, or to donate to Does HIV Look Like Me? International, you can visit their website.