Facing AIDS on World AIDS Day

Facing AIDS

I'm facing AIDS by studying Public Health!

Dr. Winnie Siu writes…I am marking World AIDS Day in London, UK this year where I’m undertaking a master’s program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

An American classmate took this picture of me yesterday. Inspired by a campaign in the U.S., she encouraged me to complete the phrase “Facing AIDS” by turning it into a personalized sentence. The idea was to post the picture in a social media forum in order to reduce stigma against HIV. I don’t have Facebook or Twitter, so I’m posting it here.

I spent this past May working as a family medicine resident physician on the paediatrics ward of a hospital in rural Malawi. It was my first time returning to sub-Saharan Africa since a deeply moving journey to Zambia in 2008. And though I was not specifically working in the area of HIV, it still permeated everything I did and thought about; it was the explicit and implicit cause and result of so many other medical, social, political, structural, economic, ethical and equity issues.

One of the biggest reasons why, after completing my residency in family medicine, I am back in school this year studying public health is because I realized that I am woefully unequipped to disentangle these complexities. Therefore, I am facing AIDS in a classroom this year, through textbooks and lectures and impassioned discussions with my diverse classmates, some of whom come from areas where they face the reality of AIDS every day.

At times the classroom learning seems so distant and too theoretical, and I itch to get back on the field. I long to face AIDS by working and being face-to-face with those affected by AIDS. But, dreams take work and patience too. So, I read and listen, question and analyze, debate and learn. And I do this hoping that I can one day face AIDS equipped with the knowledge and skills to offer practical, positive change.

This guest post is contributed by Dr. Winnie Siu.  She is a Canadian physician currently working on a Masters program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“Remarkable Transformations” by Dr. Lorna Adams

"I am HIV POSITIVE and I am on treatment"

Dr. Lorna Adams writes…Very soon it will be December 1, World Aids Day.  A time to once again think about the pandemic in Africa, the management of it and the devastation of it.  We can think about the ways that we in this amazing country of Canada can help those that are working to support people living with HIV/AIDS, to decrease the new infection rate and to treat adults and children already infected.

I have worked with both organizations that Give a Day supports, both directly in Malawi with Dignitas International, and indirectly with the Stephen Lewis Foundation.  I have seen the remarkable transformation that occurs when people are able to be treated with the appropriate medications, and when grandmothers are assisted in raising their grandchildren who have been orphaned by the illness of their parents. I have seen when people are able to overcome the stigma of an AIDS diagnosis, and go out in public to openly assist those currently trapped with the shame and stigma of the diagnosis.

I met this woman on a bus in Zimbabwe, a country thoroughly traumatized by an ineffectual government, and the AIDS pandemic.  The stigma of the disease is reinforced by the limited access to effective treatment.  Once people are on treatment, have put on some weight, have returned to work, and have regained a sense of dignity and control of their lives, they are much more comfortable letting others know of their diagnosis, and encouraging others to come forward to be tested and treated.  I asked her if I could take her picture, and use it to assist in raising awareness and funds to fight the pandemic.  I told her that it meant that this picture would be public, for all to see.  She looked at me, and smiled, and said, “I am already advertising my HIV positive status with my shirt, Madam”.  Yes, I said, and thank you.

Please, consider the amazing change that your donation of just one day’s pay could effect for so many of those affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

This guest post is contributed by Dr. Lorna Adams. She is a physician currently working at Southlake Regional Health Centre and a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres/MSF).  She recently returned from working with MSF in South Sudan.

The Give a Day Campaign at Thomson, Rogers

Saturday, December 1 marks World AIDS Day 2012. While the Give a Day campaign was born in the medical community and continues to see generous support there, it soon expanded beyond hospital walls. In the coming days, the legal community in Canada are rolling out the Give a Day campaigns that they have been hard at work planning for months.  Many firms will be hosting speaker events designed to educate about the AIDS pandemic in Africa, and to illustrate just how important support from individuals within the firms has been to the excellent work done by the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Dignitas International.

One such firm is Thomson, Rogers – one of our dedicated, sponsoring firms.  While organizers continue to encourage members of the firm to consider giving a day’s pay, many fun events are also planned for this week, including a silent auction and bake sale, a “guess the baby photo” game and a special jeans day.  All proceeds from these activities will go to Dignitas International and the Stephen Lewis Foundation, along with the donations given by individuals at the firm.

As always, the hard work, ingenuity and passion that the legal community bring to this campaign inspire us all. We are proud to partner with them as we work towards a world without AIDS.

Global Response to HIV at a Crossroads

Dr. Tim O’Shea, Give a Day supporter writes…Now that the days are shorter and the air has chilled, thoughts turn towards this year’s Give a Day campaign.  This year on World AIDS Day, December 1, the call will come once again to donate one day’s wages to an organization engaged in the struggle against HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.  The Give a Day campaign is now in its seventh year, with over $3.5 million raised through grassroots efforts.  In any effort that spans such a time period, it is important to periodically reflect on whether continued engagement is required.  As I write this post, on my way home from a brief visit to Uganda, I am once again reminded of why it is so important that the momentum of efforts like Give a Day are maintained.

Each time I visit Uganda I see signs of clear progress; improved infrastructure, increased safety and security, and a growing sense of engagement within the community.  In the hospitals in which I teach, capacity has increased, and a new, energetic and ambitious generation of young faculty have risen to positions of power, bringing with them fresh ideas on how to scale the problems of the health care system.  There is reason for hope as well in the fight against HIV/AIDS; new and sophisticated treatment and prevention strategies have been developed which have allowed some in Africa to dream of an “AIDS free generation”.  However, nearly thirty years into the epidemic, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that HIV/AIDS remains the single greatest hurdle to meaningful development in much of sub-Saharan Africa.  And at the individual level, nearly two million people continue to die each year, each one a mother, father, sister, brother.  The loss of potential is staggering, and the despair that is left behind is difficult to witness.

So where does that leave campaigns like Give a Day, when the global response to HIV/AIDS is at a seeming crossroads between hope and optimism on one side, and loss and anguish on the other?  Whatever the answer may be, one thing is certain; complacency is not an option.  Faced with the realization that it is entirely plausible that we have the tools available to stop this epidemic in its tracks, we should be talking about re-doubling our efforts, not scaling back.  Each death, each new infection is an indictment of our global values and priorities.   So when that call to “Give a Day” comes this year, let’s make a statement.  Our job doesn’t end when we sign our name to that cheque.  Let’s make sure that our colleagues, friends, family, neighbours do the same.  It is the least we can do.

Osler LLP Launches 2012 Give a Day Campaign

Susan Elliott of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP writes…As is our tradition on this date each year, led by Osler partner Michael Fekete we kicked off our Give a Day campaign with a lunch time event and inspiring speeches by Dr. Michael Schull, Chair of the Board of Directors of Dignitas International and Leah Teklemariam, Director of Programmes, The Stephen Lewis Foundation. Both gave personal accounts of people they have met along the way who have been helped by their work and our support.

Michael Fekete welcomes the group
In the next few weeks our offices will be percolating with contests like, Decorate Your Workspace, silent auctions, events and lots more. I continue to be amazed by what Dignitas International has done in the field and the work done at the grassroots that is supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.