“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.

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.

Launch of Give a Day 2012 Legal Community Campaign

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

As they have each year since 2006, the legal community in Toronto have come together to join their considerable forces in working towards a world without AIDS.  At a time when real scientific advances have been made, and many programs are in place that make the reality of an aids-free generation a true possibility, we are seeing global support and funding pulled back.  While we see the global AIDS pandemic beginning to fall off the agenda of many, HIV and AIDS continue to be very much a reality in the lives of those affected, and people on the front lines are still working determinedly every day to improve the situation.

On Thursday, October 4, representatives from Toronto law firms gathered to make plans for the Give a Day 2012 Legal Community Campaign.  The group was inspired by updates from the field that helped us understand the incredible impact a day’s pay can make through the excellent grassroots projects that Give a Day supports. Dr. Adrienne Chan from Dignitas International informed us that since Give a Day 2011 they have gone from supporting 50 health facilities to 140.  Margaret Wright from the Stephen Lewis Foundation brought news of the wonderful grandmothers in Africa who have been caring tirelessly for their orphaned grandchildren and who are now standing up and calling for their own rights.

The group left this meeting ready to implement plans for activities and speakers at their firms as World AIDS Day approaches on December 1.  They were reminded that AIDS is not over, and just how far a day’s pay can go to impact the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS.

Residents Without Borders Photography Exhibit – The Gladstone Hotel

Thursday, December 15 will be opening night for the annual Residents Without Borders Photography Exhibit in support of World AIDS Day and Give a Day to World AIDS. Always an exciting event, this year’s show promises another fascinating and beautiful collection.

The photo exhibit opening will take place from 6 pm until 9 pm on Thursday, December 15 at the Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen Street West in Toronto. Photographs will be available for sale, with all proceeds going to Dignitas International and the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The exhibit will continue until January 2, 2012, so be sure to add a stop at the Gladstone to your calendar and to drop by to enjoy this collection before the show closes.

GLINT- Learning About HIV on World AIDS Day

On World AIDS Day, Give a Day held the first ever GLINT Challenge.  The Give a Day Live Not-so-Trivial Challenge was a marathon for the mind – a one-hour online twitter-based contest organized by Give a Day volunteers on the topic of HIV and the people and places most affected.  Over the course of one hour, 200 questions were tweeted from GLINT headquarters, recognizing that 200 people in the world die each hour because of HIV.  Aside from gaining a lot of knowledge, and bragging rights, the winning team would be able to direct $1000 in prize money to an organization that will use the money well in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

At noon on December 1, the volunteers at GLINT headquarters were ready with 200 questions and worked as a team to systematically tweet them out.  Twelve different twitter handles were registered in the challenge, and while individuals from Canada, the U.S. and South Africa played along, the most intense competition was between the multi-person teams which ranged from high school students, to a group of seniors from Toronto.  During the hour of GLINT, 1029 tweets were exchanged, causing some accounts to go temporarily over their daily capacity!  Teams quickly switched over to alternate accounts and kept playing.

Anne Greenwood, a GLINT participant commented, “GLINT was a great event! It was a great way to get together with people on World AIDS Day.  And the questions really got the conversation started. After we finished answering the questions, we sat around for over an hour discussing HIV/AIDS here in Canada and around the world.”

After all the tweeting was complete, the answers were tallied and the winner was @StratfordNWSS, the team from Stratford Northwestern Secondary School in Stratford, Ontario.  Runners-up were @BulldogAttack, @anne_greenwood and @bethanyphilpott.  The students at Northwestern met to discuss different organizations and have decided to direct their prize to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

The GLINT Challenge winners- Stratford Northwestern Secondary School!

Volunteers who organized this challenge report that it was an exhilarating experience. We often say that Give a Day donors are very unique. They have the ability to connect at a distance with people they will never know, and to see common ground and shared similarities.  Twitter has now given us a new way to connect with others who are concerned about HIV in the world and to work together to get people talking about HIV and how we can learn and respond. While we might not ever meet personally with those who participated in GLINT, it was remarkable to spend an hour together on World AIDS Day, and to know that so many others were using their time and energy to work towards a world without AIDS.