AIDS Walk Raises Money, Awareness
Prince George, B.C. – Supporters of the fight against HIV/AIDS gathered at Canada Games Plaza for the 2017 Scotiabank AIDS Walk through downtown Prince George.
The annual walk is organized by Positive Living North, whose Executive Director Vanessa West says “the importance of the walk is raising awareness in our community of HIV because although we’re 30-plus years with HIV living in our communities there is still a need for awareness to break down the stigma and discrimination that exists in a lot of communities.”
“We happen to have the wonderful support of a number of organizations in Prince George, and these walks are breaking down the discrimination that still exists, especially in the smaller communities where there’s not much information.”
Dr. Abu Hamour, the lead physician on the Northern Health AIDS/Hepatitis C program, told the gathering “when I look back at my journey working in this field, it spans over a quarter of a century, I remember as a trainee in Manchester, U.K. I used to spend my Saturdays attending celebration of life funerals of patients who had passed away. It’s so gratifying to see the progress we’ve made in treatment and looking after patients with this disease.”
“So it is no longer considered a death sentence but is considered just like diabetes or high blood pressure or any other illness that people can live with. But we still have a long way to go, we still have to work together, and I think it’s fitting this year’s theme of the walk, Tied Together, is so fitting and appropriate. We are truly tied together because we need to work together to get down to zero. Zero discrimination, zero stigma, zero poverty, zero homelessness.”
Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council Chief Terry Teegee noted that indigenous people “have disproportionally high rates of HIV and AIDS, not only in Prince George but also in the downtown eastside of Vancouver and I think that when we talk about this disease there’s definitely a stigma to it and we have to erase that stigma. And for those that are suffering from this disease we have to create awareness and prevention measures, as well as treatment for those suffering.”
Teegee says “far too often in the “80s and the 90s it was out in the media, there was a lot of awareness back then. Nowadays its not as prevalent. I think we need to be vigilant and keep the awareness up so we can really prevent this disease from spreading.”
Scotiabank Branch Manager Ray Noonan says the bank has been involved with the walk since 2007 and became the title sponsor in 2008, and “over $43 million has been raised (nationally) through these walks in that amount of time. It’s about fundraising but it is also about awareness.”
He pointed out that when he was sent from Prince George to Vancouver in 1999 he was “approached to sponsor the AIDS Walk, and I sent it up to our Public Relations department and they declined. They said this isn’t something we want our name behind, this is something that still has a lot of stigma attached to it. We’ve come a long way since then.”
“A long way as a title sponsor, but a long way as a community of individuals. This disease affects people of all ages, races, religions around the world, and it really is something that we need to put more focus on.”
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