AIDS Vancouver Island executive director Katrina Jensen, left, and AVI educator Taylor Teal examine a naloxone kit used to combat overdose deaths. AVI is in the middle of an online fundraiser to help purchase supplies such as this. Photo by Felicia Santarossa

AIDS Vancouver Island web fundraiser tackles need for prevention resources

Victoria-based support organization battles overdose crisis

Felicia Santarossa/Victoria News

An online fundraiser called the “Safer Summer Party Initiative” aims to help secure valuable resources for harm reduction services offered by AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI).

Executive director Katrina Jensen, who has been working with AVI for 19 years, is grappling with the overdose crisis.

“We haven’t seen anything like this since the early days of the AIDS crisis,” she said. “And in terms of the number of people who are dying, and the numbers of clients [receiving harm reduction support], the ongoing grief and trauma with our clients and our staff are really quite significant.”

Support with overdose response has been requested by many groups of people, Jensen said. According to the group’s fundraising page, funds put towards these educational resources are stretched very thin, something of which Jensen has firsthand knowledge.

“Just to give an example of how much the need has increased, in the whole of last year, we trained about 1,000 people within our existing resources. And this year in May alone, we trained more than 600 people, and that’s with the same level of resources so with what’s happening it’s really stretched.”

Working with AVI allows Jensen satisfaction in being able to give back to the reeling community.

“It’s working on an issue that is preventable, and as much as the overdose crisis continues to worsen, we know that overdose deaths are preventable. I feel really privileged to be able to work to do whatever we can to prevent overdoses and death in our community.

With so much stigma and shame around drug use, she added, it’s important that she do whatever she can to ensure people using substances in this community have access to good health care, get the support they want and are able to live their lives free of being criminalized.

The fundraiser runs now through Aug. 18. To donate or find out more information, visit avi.org or go directly to their crowdfunding page at chuffed.org/project/harmreductionthissummer.

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