Project seeks to record survivor accounts of HIV epidemic onset in Vancouver

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      In the early 1980s, gay men started to die of a strange new disease. It was called the gay-related immune deficiency, or GRID, and sometimes even called the gay cancer or the gay plague.

      However, when the burgeoning disease was recognized to extend beyond gay communities, it was renamed to what we now call the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

      Unlike today, an HIV–positive diagnosis was an automatic death sentence back then.

      Entire social networks of queer men were wiped out. Communities, which were already struggling with discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion, were devastated by the number of fatalities. Closeted men were outed.  

      In Canada, a different timeline of HIV–related developments, the healthcare system, and organization responses contributed to experiences that may differ from what occured in the U.S.

      A new project is being launched to document the history of the HIV epidemic in Vancouver that will help record local experiences in detail.

      HIV in My Day: Reflecting Back, Looking Forward is an oral history project based out of the University of Victoria and the School for Public Health and Social Policy. The project team includes researchers from three universities (SFU, UBC, and UVic), YouthCO HIV and Hep C Society representatives, and community leaders and members.

      The project aims to preserve accounts from early survivors and their allies to provide a historical context for health research promotion and care, and to promote cross-generational discussion, including how past experiences influence and illuminate current perspectives of and approaches to HIV.

      A series of interviews will be conducted with community members and caregivers. The recorded interviews will become a part of a new community resource, which will include an online multimedia archive.

      The project team will hold a community information and discussion session from 6 to 8 p.m. on May 8 at the Best Western Plus Chateau Hotel (1100 Granville Street).

      ASL interpretation will be available. Refreshments will also be served.

      Attendance is free but registration is requested (pseudonyms can be used if necessary).

      For more information and to register, visit this event webpage.