What ARCH has done to help me.

I have been involved with the AIDS Committee of Guelph pretty much since I was diagnosed in 2003 so I’d like to talk a little on what it has meant for me.

I had heard about the ACG from others in the gay community as well as ACCKWA in Kitchener. A friend and I inquired about volunteering to be in the “Buddy” program that they had several years ago. I had a job at the time and couldn’t do the training on the days they offered so it never happened. Then I learned of my own HIV status. I had no idea how I was suppose to feel, what I should know about all of it.

I made the call to the ACG and was given an automatic appointment for some support. I did know others with HIV and had learned some things but you never really know everything until you are in the position. I knew I needed to talk to people who knew more than I did. At first I was a bit reluctant to go to the office, I was going to suggest meeting with someone over coffee in a neutral setting. I didn’t want to be seen
going to the office with fears that everyone in town knew why I was going in there. I was assured that I shouldn’t worry about being exposed to a crowd outside watching to see who is going in.

So I decided to do it, I met with Tom who was the support worker at that time. He made me feel safe and he listened to me. I felt very comfortable to tell him anything and ask any questions. The atmosphere was very positive, everyone smiled and each were busy doing their jobs. I could see that it wasn’t just a place to go for help, the staff was busy trying to improve the help they were offering.

Several weeks later I received a mailing asking for PHA’s to come to a meeting to discuss ways of expanding the services that were being offered. They were looking at moving to a larger location and wanted to know what WE would like to see. I believe 8 of us showed up and many ideas came from that meeting and I see a lot of them being used today. I know they still look for new ways to help us cope, educate us and teach us ways to live well and live longer. The current location, I feel very comfortable going there. There is a lounge where you can go and just sit and talk with staff or other PHA’s if they have time. Coffee is always available.

So far this year, I have been to many workshops, I completed the Positive Prevention Train-the-Trainer course, we went to Canada's Wonderland, we went to a Educational Dinner at the Babel Fish Bistro, it was so good, and on the last Tuesday of each month we have “movie night” with pizza or some other type of dinner.

I have met many people and made a few friends and acquaintances. So basically what I would like to say or encourage people to do is to be involved. If there is something you would like to see happen to get you involved, make a suggestion, chances are you are not alone and will get plenty of support to make changes. Stress is not a friend of HIV so getting out and letting off some tension and sharing a laugh or just a relaxing conversation with someone else may be just what is needed to keep the stress level down.

A good start would be the next installment of the Positive Prevention course starting up in October.

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