Dec. 1, 2018 – Children approach a red ribbon memorial candle display placed at the legislature on Dec. 1 marking the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day and the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Victoria resident reflects on being diagnosed with HIV and cancer

World AIDS Day aims to break the stigma surrounding the disease

A Victoria resident found out they were both HIV positive and had cancer on the same day.

In 2015 Daniel Sands was homeless and often sleeping in Beacon Hill Park. Sands – who is two-spirited and prefers a they/them pronoun – said that for a long time they just felt like they had a flu that just wouldn’t go away, so when they got tested by a street nurse they were shocked to hear the results.

“I was devastated, it felt like a death sentence at the time,” they said for a project made with the federal government called Healthy Canadians.

What Sands didn’t know, however, was that just four years later they’d be in remission for cancer, and that their HIV would be untraceable thanks to modern medication.

ALSO READ: AVI’s new identity reflects AIDS as a chronic, manageable condition

“U=U, it’s kind of changed everything,” they said. “As long as I take my medication I’m going to live a long life, a long healthy life.”

The U=U campaign is put forward by the province and the Prevention Access Campaign; U=U stands for undetectable equals untrasmittable. Immediate treatment of HIV/AIDS means that a patient can live a normal life and can’t transmit the disease to someone else.

“Kind of destigmatizing myself and learning the actual medical facts about it really changed everything,” Sands said. “I have a chronic manageable illness just like someone with diabetes—take your medication every day and you’re good.”

Changing the stigma is something that World Aids Day on Dec. 1 aims to achieve.

“Stigma is still a huge issue for people living with HIV,” said Katrina Jensen, executive director of AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI), where Sands now works. “The more we can get education and awareness out, the more we can confront and end stigma in our community.”

This year in Victoria more stories from people like Sands are being shared across the city in the form of “We Are Here” Story Boards seen in Greater Victoria Public Libraries.

Additionally, on Dec. 1 there was a candlelit ceremony at the steps of the BC Legislature to commemorate people who have died from the disease.

ALSO READ: Island women cycling 275 km to fight AIDS in Africa

Any donations put forward to AVI on World AIDS Day went towards the organization’s Hot Lunch Program, which offers nutritious meals five days per week.

“People living with HIV are often living with compromised immune systems and they need high quality foods,” Jensen said. “But because many people are living in poverty, the rising costs of food make it really difficult for people living with HIV to access.”

In 2018 more than 8,000 meals were served through the program.

For more information on the organization visit avi.org

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

 

Dec. 1, 2018 – A red ribbon memorial candle display is placed at the legislature on Dec. 1 marking the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day and the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Just Posted

Happy Buddha pot shop going ahead, but with a new name

Sidney reverses position, will allow town’s first cannabis retailer to set up shop downtown

Commen-Terry: Early election campaign tactics are tactless

How about showing us a little faith in yourself, instead of attacking others?

Abandoned Neucel mill in Port Alice to cost at least $17 million to decommission

Removing hazardous waste and de-risking the site ratchet up bill to taxpayers

Storm watchers urged to be careful after two rescued from Ucluelet shoreline

“People need to take responsibility of their own actions, the district can only do so much.”

Fire crews put out blaze in Cowichan Secondary outbuilding

Three halls respond to fire in storage structure

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

B.C. Greens introduce all-women slate for Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay ridings

School trustee Nicole Duncan assumes Oak Bay-Gordon Head candidacy

Man who stole truck and canoe in View Royal believed he was fleeing zombies, court finds

Judge finds man not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder for 2019 thefts

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Long-term care study credits fewer COVID deaths in B.C. than Ont. to funding, policy

The study was published Wednesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

Most Read