The very first time I had to do an HIV Community Link (at that time AIDS Calgary) booth was at a local round dance happening in the urban aboriginal community in Calgary. I was a bit nervous and apprehensive because bringing awareness about HIV/AIDS was a brand new job for me and I was less than 2 months into my position.
I arrived early, said hi to some people I knew in the community and then I started to set up my booth. As I was setting up the table cloth and back drop an older lady came up to me and started talking.
“My cousin had AIDS” she said really excited. As I turned to listen her tone quickly changed to sadness. “All my family was scared to touch him. I knew. I knew I couldn’t get AIDS by touching him so I would always hug him whenever I saw him and told him that I love him.” I asked if is he was still alive? “No, he since passed away, but I just wanted to tell you I am glad you are here and you have your booth here”. She then quickly disappeared as more people started to come into the building. Although I have seen her in the community she has never talked to me since.
Throughout my two years working with HIV Community Link, there have been many family members and friends of Aboriginal People living with HIV who have come up to me to encourage my work bringing awareness and education about HIV/AIDS.
Many of the stories are filled with sadness, guilt, and shame. Often times I would validate them in their support and encourage them in their journey, helping their friends and family. Usually that is our only conversation.
On December 1 we are celebrating World AIDS Day and the start of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week (December 1-6). On this day the Strong Voices Aboriginal Program will be hosting the Strong Voices Gathering to recognizes and support Aboriginal People living with HIV/AIDS and the people that support them.
Please come out and help us celebrate the courage and love of our people effected/affected by HIV/AIDS.
Cherri Low Horn
Strong Voices Aboriginal Program Coordinator
HIV Community Link