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Local AIDS Walk Puts A 'Face' To HIV

By 250 News

Sunday, September 18, 2011 06:00 AM

Participants of the Scotiabank AIDS Walk For Life at Masich Place Stadium on Saturday

Prince George, B.C. - It was a hard-hitting and poignant start way to start the 17th annual AIDS Walk For Life yesterday as five city residents living with HIV chose to share a portion of their stories with those gathered at Masich Place Stadium.

The five are all members of Positive Living North's 'Front Line Warriors' - a group dedicated to making a difference in the face of HIV/AIDS. They speak to high school students and other community groups in the hopes of raising awareness, educating, and reducing the stigma attached to the disease.

"What we do at Positive Living North is:  we put a face to HIV," Shannon Froehlich, PLN's Positive Prevention Coordinator told the crowd.

She said, "I think the best people to hear it from - the prevention story of HIV - is probably from those living with it and a lot of people tend to stand up and listen a lot more when someone living with HIV talks to them about living a life with HIV."

With Froehlich's assistance, one of the Warriors, Clifton, told the crowd that he was diagnosed with HIV 25-years ago, when he was 14-years old.  Clifton shared that he had been raped everyday as a child and said the day he told his abuser he was positive was one of the happiest days of his life because the man stopped raping him. 

Stephanie has been positive for four-and-a-half years.  The young woman said she became infected on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside after using a dirty needle.  She said she became enraged after receiving the diagnosis and didn't seek medical attention until she became pregnant in 2009.  She has since cleaned up.  "I have a beautiful, negative little girl and my husband is still negative," Stephanie said to applause.  "Life is really good, I came to PLN and they're like my family - they're my support."

Trevor grew up in Prince George and went to Kelly Road Secondary.  He's been HIV positive for 17-years.  "I came from a good home.  I grew up on the Hart Highway and I was pretty spoiled and stuff - I try to teach people that HIV doesn't discriminate," he said.  "It doesn't matter what colour you are or where you come from."

"I made some bad decisions in my life and the biggest one was drugs and I contracted HIV at a young age, 25," he said he learned he was positive while serving time in jail.  Trevor said AIDS awareness has come a long way since then, but he says more needs to be done.  "I go to some schools still and I cannot believe how much people still shut it out of their lives - like if, you don't know about it, don't hear about it, you're not going to see it," but, he added, "That's not how it really is."

Warrior member, Marilyn, thanked participants for coming out to support those with HIV and AIDS.  She's had HIV for five years, she said, "You really find out who your friends are when you come to something like this and you see the people who give you the support and who really care for you."

David has been living with HIV for 19-years.  At that time, he was told not to expect more than 14-years.  "It wasn't my goal in life to get HIV, but I've got it and I do the best I can and try and live a good life and be an example and do what I can to help," he said.  "But it's by having people like this on my side, who I talk with and who I share my dreams with...they understand me and I understand them and I want to thank you all for coming out to support us."

All the funds raised from yesterday's walk will go directly towards supporting local programs.  Scotiabank has been the major sponsor for the past three years and local rep, Vivian Rogers, announced the bank has signed on for another three-year commitment to 2014.

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