Niagara Region shedding light on the highly forgotten HIV/AIDS pandemic

Photo by: Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Last week, Niagara took prominent steps to raise awareness for the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the Positive Living Niagara organization.

The epidemic has been around for over 40 years and currently affects over 38 million individuals worldwide living with the disease. Tens of millions of individuals have also died due to AIDS-related causes since its first appearance. It is recognized as one of the world’s most serious health and developmental problems, and its recent recognition has led to significant progress in addressing and treating HIV.

Despite the prominent steps made to treat and prevent the virus, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been met with various challenges and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of the pandemic, HIV/AIDS has seen a serious decline in essential health services.

In light of COVID-19’s effects on the epidemic, and in commemoration of World AIDS Day, Positive Living Niagara, a community-based organization committed to providing a safe environment for HIV-positive individuals, has been working to shed light on the overlooked epidemic.

On Monday, Nov. 28, Positive Living Niagara and its many volunteers took to the streets in downtown Niagara Falls to remind locals of the countless individuals living with HIV and that, despite the longstanding stigma attached to the disease, medical advancements have led to people with the virus living long and fulfilling lives. 

The event was partnered with the Red Scarf Project, an interactive art installation that raises public awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and gives back to the community. The project is held successfully amongst various Canadian communities, having been initiated by the AIDS Network in London, Ontario. 

The project consists of depositing various red scarves along streets and around participating communities, knit by the project’s numerous volunteers. The red scarves are to represent the red ribbon, which is the symbol for HIV/AIDS awareness, allowing community members to be educated in its purpose as well as stay warm during the colder weather. The scarves are free and to be taken by members of the community. 

This year, over 1,600 scarves were knit by volunteers and placed around St. Catharines and Welland.

Alongside the event last Monday, Positive Living Niagara held a flag raising ceremony next to Niagara Falls’ City Hall, which was followed by the red scarves being tied to various lampposts. On Friday, Dec. 1, Positive Living also held a World AIDS day vigil at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Centre.

Without proper treatment towards HIV, which attacks the body’s immune system, the virus can progress to AIDS and produce potentially fatal consequences. By raising awareness of such outcomes, Positive Living works to inform the community on the importance of receiving the proper care.

The event also provides the community with the opportunity to commemorate and honour the lives of those affected or taken from the disease.

For more information on HIV and AIDS, its history and proper treatments, be sure to visit Positive Living’s official website.

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