AIDS still a concern among Victoria youth

Walk highlights importance of getting tested

Barb Cavill

Karen Dennis says she is lucky not to have HIV.

As a substance user of 19 years, Dennis came across her share of needles, which can transmit the disease.

“By the grace of God, I guess, I never contracted HIV,” Dennis said.

Now that she’s the executive director of the Victoria AIDS Resource and Community Service Society, also known as VARCS, Dennis feels “so lucky to work with the underdogs” of the community – people who have HIV and are stigmatized because of their lifestyles.

“We’ve come a long way – it’s certainly not like it was 30 years ago. But now so much of the funding is put towards the substance abuse population that people now are associating the disease with that population,” Dennis said.

“Gay men are still at a huge risk, particularly young gay men who were not around for the big epidemic” in the 1980s.

Dennis added youth are also at a high risk of contracting the disease, also in part because they didn’t experience the fear in the 1980s and some might believe the disease has been eradicated.

“People 25 and younger account for half of all new infections worldwide,” Dennis said. “A lot of people don’t get tested and that’s the other unfortunate part.”

She added people who have engaged in even just one high-risk activity – having sex without a condom or sharing a needle – should get tested for the disease.

In Greater Victoria, 1,500 people are known to have HIV.

To raise awareness of the disease and to raise money for AIDS research, VARCS is helping to host the Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life on Sept. 21. People are encouraged to walk, donate or volunteer for the event by going to www.aidswalkforlife.ca/victoria.htm.

“I was around 30 years ago and know a lot of people who passed away (from HIV-AIDS),” Dennis said.

“I just feel that anybody who … has been touched by HIV or wants to see this disease stop being spread, join the walk because it honours those who paved the way and went through those horrible, brutal times of that pain and being disenfranchised. Many of them paid with their lives.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Greater Victoria liquor stores see spike in sales amidst COVID-19

Customers are buying go-to products in larger quantities

Victoria fills more than 100 motel rooms with homeless population

Mayor says staffing is the biggest issue impacting opening of Royal Athletic Park

Esquimalt’s Buccaneer Days cancelled due to COVID-19

The pirate-themed fair will take place in 2021

‘Small python’ found in vacant Cook Street apartment

Snake taken to CRD Animal Shelter to be claimed

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Nanaimo man arrested after allegedly setting house fire

Firefighters arrived to find mobile home ablaze on Barnes Road in Cedar on Thursday

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Most Read