Rolling it Forward!

Alisha OstbergGIPA, living with HIV, personal story

The following blog was written by a member of the Women’s Peer Support Group. It presents the candid and personal perspective of an incredible individual who wishes to encourage other people living with HIV to access support programs and talk to others about their experiences. Get in touch at (403) 508-2500 EXT. 106 or at email if you want to join one of the Peer groups at HIV Community Link.

Being HIV positive still seems like a gift to me in many ways. After I immigrated to Calgary, Alberta in March 2017, I registered with HIV Community Link through their Drumbeat program. The Drumbeat program addresses HIV in the African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) communities. Being involved with HIV Community Link has given me life again. I found a supportive team and I love the way I feel now. HIV community Link has given me a chance to work and also share my experience of living with HIV.

I now volunteer for HIV Community Link as a Peer Facilitator for their Women’s Peer Support Group, Positive Connections. This is a new program for women living with HIV, we meet once a month and share our stories, challenges, hopes and successes. It feels good to be doing something for my community and being surrounded by other HIV positive women, we talk freely and have fun.

On World AIDS Day 2017, I decided to be open and disclosed my status. I was fully supported by HIV Community Link and since then I felt so much freedom, which has been a healing process for me. I also want to make sure through education and prevention work that HIV never happens to anyone else.

I would like to share an experience I recently had at the clinic, which relates to the stigma around HIV in the African/Black community. I noticed that there were not that many African/Black people who are HIV positive accessing support programs. When I asked the social worker at the clinic the reason behind this, she stated that many people from the African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) community do not feel comfortable showing their identity (will cover their head with a scarf and wear sunglasses) when picking up medication or attending medical appointments. I reached out to someone from this community and they told me that the ACB community is very small and people living with HIV fear that people within their community will find out and gossip. Also, that within our community it’s better to have cancer than to deal with the stigma associated with HIV. This breaks my heart.

I hope that this blog will reach out to people, especially from ACB community living with HIV and know that they are not alone. We need to break this silence.

I will keep writing about my experience and break this stigma it’s only through education that we can battle this enemy, so it does not destroy our future generations.