HIV organization Positive Living BC to end its services in Vancouver after operating for over 30 years

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      A local nonprofit organization that arose during the onset of the AIDS crisis—and amid far more prevalent discrimination against HIV–positive and LGBT people—is coming to a close.

      Positive Living BC board of directors chair Walter Petram posted a message on the organization’s website that explains that the organization will be ending its services is due to “steadily declining revenue” over the last few years.

      “Cutting operational expenses, maximizing our volunteer workforce, and pursuing new income sources have allowed us to survive until now,” Petram stated. “But we are unable to balance a six-figure shortfall in financial support from our major funder in 2020.”

      Petram also stated that they are negotiating some programs to be transferred to other community organizations.

      Positive Living BC has offered services including financial and health-related assistance, a community dental clinic, a wellness centre (with treatments from massage and naturopathic medicine to tai chi), healing retreats, support, and treatment outreach.  

      All Positive Living BC programs, services, and operations have been consolidated on the third floor of 1101 Seymour Street, with restricted access to the fourth floor. All scheduled activities are being offered on the second floor until March 31.

      As of January 30, the members’ lounge, Polli and Esther’s Closet, and the hair salon all permanently closed.

      On February 12, the Community Health Fund will permanently close (applicants must submit receipts by February 5).

      Meanwhile, monthly donors have been contacted with new options for donations and tax-receipt information.  

      Support for anyone experiencing challenges in dealing with this change is available from peer navigators.

      The Positive Living Society of BC was founded in 1986 as the Vancouver Persons With AIDS Coalition to advocate for the rights and health issues of people living with HIV/AIDS. It was known as the B.C. Persons With AIDS Society until 2011.

      “In those early days we said, 'Enough is enough, if we don’t do it ourselves, no one will,” founder Kevin Brown (who died in 1989) said in a statement on the organization’s website. “What we discovered along the way was that it gave us a tremendous sense of empowerment.”

      On February 5, AIDS Vancouver executive director Brian Chittock sent out a letter in response to the closure, noting that it will be “a significant loss for people living with HIV”.

      Chittock also reassured that AIDS Vancouver, which began in 1983 as Canada’s first AIDS service organization and is housed in the same building as Positive Living BC, will continue to provide its services.

      The Georgia Straight has contacted Positive Living BC for comment.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.