Saturday , October 16 2021

Red scarves bring awareness to the week of national HIV and AIDS awareness

In recognition of the week of awareness of National HIV and AIDS, eight hundred red scarves will be tied around posts and poles throughout Simcoe County.

The Gilbert Center Executive Director, Gerry Croteau, said there was a lot of stigma and negativity around HIV and red scarves helped bring awareness to diseases that are now considered chronic conditions.

"Forty-seven percent of HIV infections are still among gay men or within the LGBTQ community," Croteau said. "It's important to keep the message going, and make people aware that they need to practice safer sex."

With around 150 clients, the Gilbert Center in Barrie works with HIV positive people, part of the trans community, as well as gay men to provide social service support.

One of his clients was Randy Davis who was diagnosed with HIV in February 2015. Davis said the medication he took every day allowed him to live his life as he pleased.

"I took one pill which was called anti-retro viral therapy. One pill a day and that makes me healthy, "Davis said. "I consume more vitamins every day than anti retro virus drugs"

This pill suppresses the level of the HIV virus in Davis's blood which makes it undetectable and cannot be transmitted sexually. He said the disease could be confusing, which is why he supports projects such as red scarves.

"This campaign is very important to raise awareness (and) to educate people," Davis said. "It is fear and ignorance around HIV that causes a stigma that really prevents people from being tested."

The big message with this year's campaign is to have people tested, and reduce risk. Choteau emphasizes to the public that HIV is now considered a chronic disease, and that more people are aware, the healthier they are.

"Not knowing your status, not being tested is a risk," Croteau said. "You don't know that you can become HIV positive for ten years before you know that you are HIV positive."

According to Croteau, in the past, anyone diagnosed with HIV will take many pills throughout the day. One pill a day every day gives those who live with this disease a better outlook on life.

"The side effects are less toxic to the body," Croteau said. "People are more aware that they stay healthy. They exercise better. They have a better diet, and there is something more positive if you will see their longevity. That is no longer a death sentence. "

Red scarves will be lowered in communities within the Simcoe Region including Midland, Orillia, and Bracebridge this weekend.

World AIDS Day is December 1.

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