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Posted March 3, 2020 by Blue
What they don’t tell you about the power, about the magic, about the joy.
Terms used in this article:
Cisgender: To identify with the gender you were assigned at birth.
Before you start reading, here are some defintions and terms that will help you throughout this posting...
I knew right from childhood that I was different and it was the last thing I wanted. When you are an overweight boy, good in school, and a bit on the effeminate side, the last thing you want to do is stand out any more. However, despite my best efforts, stand out I did. It wasn’t enough that I had a last name that was easy to make fun of, I also got branded a “fag” by kids who probably had little idea of what that meant.
Posted February 20, 2018 by manager
Posted By: CGrimard
Written By: Hudson Lees
Posted By: CGrimard
Written By: Hudson Lees
A few days ago I was at a doctors appointment that finished off with me waiting in the lobby for my ride.  As I was waiting in the lobby, I noticed that there was a person who appeared to be waiting for someone.
I really just wanted 2016 to be a year of change.  I didn’t want to look back on 2015 as it was awful. However, that’s a whole other story.  I keep backtracking as I can’t seem to figure out where things went so wrong.  I try so hard not to place the blame on anyone or any one event, but you do wonder… if certain things or choices weren’t made would I be where I am right now? 
Posted By: Positive Prevention Coordinator
Written By: Constance Gowland
It is estimated that the rate of people with HIV/AIDS who smoke is approximately three times the national average.1 This is a significant difference which begs the questions, why is smoking so prevalent among people living with HIV?
Posted By: Positive Prevention Coordinator
You know when you LOOOOOOVE something, but you know it’s no good? That boy/ girl who’s great in bed, but treats you like shit. That movie that scares the hell out of you, but you watch it anyway. Drinking… smoking.
Damn, I LOVE smoking.
How strange it is to be sitting beside a man who I thought was kidding 
about life and its registration and admission. 
 Though he was around for hide and seek,
 little did I know my anger was at peak. 
Anger towards the Sam within my soul, 
the Sam that didn’t give a damn about what this man sold: 
brass, bronze, silver or gold. 
It didn’t seem to be within reach.
 It didn’t seem like I could learn from the teach, 
not everything is what it seems.
I thought I had some shit figured out n I didn’t,
thought I was on the right path but it was myself I was kiddin',
the sun goes down at night, but my thoughts are always risen,
in my own lil prison,
that I choose to continue sittin' in.
so fuck the numbness,
fuck the fog,
I want to be able to feel real again.
Smell the flowers,
touch his skin,
I want to be able to reverse this pain.
I have been on the receiving end of it many times from strangers and even family members, but there was a time I embraced it. I practiced homophobia as a means of hiding who and what I was.
Homophobia (From Wikipedia)

The use of pronouns is something that individuals tend to take for granted.  In today’s colonized-North American[1]-culture, common pronouns used by the majority of individuals represent the gender-binary.
From November 24th to December 1st the world recognizes AIDS Awareness Week.  This is a time to remember those who have passed on, and to contribute to efforts that fight for the dignity, support and care of those living with HIV/AIDS.
"Plants and Animals can help us reconnect to a reality we've lost track of." 
A common denominator of all trauma is an alienation and disconnection from the body as well as a reduced capacity to be present in the here and now. The body, instead of being an ally in ones road to recovery, becomes the enemy.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.My life has proven this to me time and time again.The one time of course that I questioned this scenario was the day I found out I was HIV+.
It still baffles me today when I think of how my life has shifted so dramatically from where I thought I was heading. 
With the weight of Robyn Williams' death still on our hearts, we are called to remember all those impacted by suicide tomorrow on:World Suicide Prevention DaySeptember 10th, 1014 
I'd like to say that the Positive Prevention Train the Trainer was the inspiration for me venturing into the world of social media and sharing my story but I can't. I can say that the course empowered me to do it. I've confessed several times, when I went into the course I had my mind made up that I wasn't going to do anything with it, I didn't have the confidence to do anything, my mind wasn't as open as it needed to be even for my own good. But I had the ability to change.
Homophobia is an illness; it can be prevented, it can be cured.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, ("Homophobia Gets Me Angry") I believe I can get over the homophobia I've had directed my way from a family member but I failed to say how I know I will do it. I will because I am empowered now, I have learned the tools I will need to deal with all that happens in my life in my future. I still have a great support/care team and my future is looking pretty darn amazing.
I "came out" to my family about 21 years ago and it all went well. I felt privileged that it went so well. I wished for everyone to be so accepted as I felt I was. I've met people who feel they can never tell their family or their friends, so they live double lives, for fear of rejection. So often I've asked myself, how can one person receive so much support and others are given none? I've never known how hard it is for them, what they felt. Sure living in a closet until your 37 can be confusing and emotional sometimes but I chose to do it.
Last September I wrote about having some success with my hobby. When I was diagnosed HIV positive and left my job, I needed a hobby so I used some of my money to buy a decent digital camera and get back to my love of photography. I take most of my photos in colour but black & white are by far my favourites. If I think one of my photos would look good in black and white, thanks to digital technology, it’s just an extra click on a photo program.
What does being "sex positive" mean to you?
I was following ACG's Twitter (@AIDSGuelph) a while ago and I notice that Megan had put this out to the online world. She recently told me that it didn't get any responses. This surprised me. The subject used to stump me. How do you answer this; what is it?
To be (a PHA) or not to be?
How I answer that question:
In the last couple weeks I have been a part of a friendly debate about being called a PHA and naturally I am the one who makes it a debate. While others don't like the the acronym, I don't have a real problem with it. For me its what I'm known as in the HIV community, at my AIDS Service Organization, at training sessions, at HIV conferences or anything else that I do as a person living with HIV. But that is just a small part of who I am and a small part of my world.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I spend a lot of time online following social media. Many hours I'm on Facebook and Twitter reading and sharing things I think are important to me and ACG and my peers. One of my many passions is searching for more information on HIV and aging. Being someone who is living with both, it's becoming important to me to make sure I can live out my senior years with dignity like anyone else. What I'm learning is that the healthcare system isn't really ready for me as a gay man, or as someone who is living with HIV.
There are times when I'm asked what message would I like to give to people about HIV. It stumps me. So many things run through my mind and I always forget a few. I have learned so much in the last couple years, so now I have a list of messages. I know by the time I finish this I will have forgotten some while trying to remember others. It could be just a normal aging thing or it could be part of the HIV and aging process I'm currently learning about.
First of all, this information is intended for those who are able to take Vitamin D and other supplements. I have heard from people who say they can't or shouldn't take them. Checking with your doctor is always the best advice.
In this posting I'm going to talk about something I've been doing for a year now and haven't blogged about it yet. Last year about this time, I was just finishing up the Positive Prevention course and had done a couple blogs on here, when I was approached on two occasions to see if I would be interested in sitting on the ACG Board of Directors. I was informed that there are two seats on the board for community members, PHAs (persons living with HIV/AIDS). Honestly, being asked took me by surprise but they told me to think about it.
I have never wanted to have any of my photos put to paper or enlarged....yet, but I think it is time for one of them. It feels kind of weird to be doing it but I think I am going to start a portfolio, oh yeah! I wanted to create something with my hobby that I could share with others and hope that some would actually like it. I had tried to do things like this years ago with a good film camera but I failed about 95% of the time. However, I was very good at taking pictures of people, kids in the family and events.
Wow, it’s almost Labour Day. Where has the summer gone? I wish I could say that with some sort of loss, but with the heat I had to endure, I am so glad to see it go. "Bring on the Fall", my favourite time of year.
A year ago this month I was in the second installment of the Positive Prevention Train The Trainer program not knowing where it was going to lead me. I honestly had my mind made up at the start that I probably wouldn't do anything, I didn't feel I could go out and facilitate workshops, do public speaking or even advocate for HIV and ending stigma. Within two weeks of completing the course, I had written my first blog and I was hooked.
On May 24, 2011 I facilitated my first workshop called, "Photography as a hobby" and it went very well. I say my first because there may come a day when I would want to do another one, if I find a topic I know something about. Hmmm, maybe .........ummmm, blogging?, hmmmm!
Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote a blog for ACG, so I apologize for being gone so long and get busy here.
Again, just one more time, I really have to thank Megan DePutter and the ACG for running the Positive Prevention - Train the Trainer course. I was able to take it the second time it was going and then I volunteered to help with the third installment. When I started the course, I had no real plans of doing anything with it when it was over except to use the tools that I learned to help me take better care of myself and my health.
When I took the Positive Prevention - Train the Trainer course I heard someone say "I have HIV, HIV doesn't have me". This statement has really stuck in me and made me realize, there is still a lot more to me than this disease. HIV is in my blood, not tattooed on my face. I can get out there and do whatever I want to do, whatever I need to do to take care of myself and my health. I don't have permission to say his name in here but I would like to take this time and thank him for saying it.
In early January of this year I signed up for a workshop called "Speaker's Bureau". I told myself last year that I would take as many workshops as I could fit into my schedule, I wanted to learn more about HIV and "Living" with it. I never even thought about it, or asked what exactly it was all about. Speakers Bureau is learning how to go out into the community and tell your story to groups of people and try to put a face to HIV, not letting HIV be just a number, just a statistic. People out there need to know who can get HIV.
On January 19th the ACG held a workshop on "Resiliency" so I signed up to take it, not really understanding what exactly it is. I don't even use this word. I don't use the vocabulary that most people seem to use. I was once described as being or having a "fiduciary" something something. I learned it meant something about the job I had done as a caretaker or being a caretaker, I don't know. See, I can't even explain it.
Over the past few years I have lost part of the support team that I had in place or thought I had. The hardest part of finding the right support people is finding people I could trust. During this time I have had to re-evaluate who were my friends and who were just acquaintances and question who in my family I could count on. When I had a falling out with some of them my HIV status got passed around so fast, most of it on the internet and to people I don't know.
In the Positive Prevention - Train the Trainer Course, the subject of HIV disclosure & the law was covered with a facilitator from HALCO- HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario). After the presentation we were all asked how we felt about this information. My reaction was that it scared me. Unless I can prove I disclosed to someone before having sex, then I can be prosecuted, and I could go to jail. How do I prove that I disclosed?
Thursday December 2nd was the last day for the third installment of Positive Prevention - Train the Trainer, and my second time going through it. This time though, I was the volunteer helping Megan. The purpose of the course is to hopefully get people involved in a volunteer role or advocating healthier and safe lifestyles for people living with HIV.
Over the past couple months I have attended the Opening Doors Conference and The AIDS Awareness Symposium and have seen a few workshop/speakers talking about HIV and aging. I realized that I have not even given much thought to this aspect of my life. In other workshops I have met people who have lived 25 - 30 years with HIV, through all of the hard times dealing with the old medications and treatments. These people talk of getting their diagnosis and being told they may not live very long but are surprised somewhat to still be here.
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.
By ChatJunkie
There is a lot of stigma attached to poz people in chatrooms.
In my previous blog, I apparently put the cart before the horse so to speak. In order to have my stories flow, I will share with you how I met my soul mate/best friend, Gordon. It was Halloween of 1990. A local pickup hockey team was hosting their annual dance before the season started. I hesitated about going because I had just come out of a bad relationship,but then again I didn't want to sit home and watch the paint dry.
How does someone cope with the dreaded news of being HIV positive and keep moving forward?
Who would have thought that a timid and self conscious mouse like me would get up and tell my story of how HIV/AIDS has affected my life? I grew up in rural Ontario, where we planted corn, had a huge vegetable garden and pigs to feed. I think I had a pretty normal childhood. I attended the local high school when AIDS hadn't even been heard of yet! sort of makes sense that my first exposure as a HIV positive speaker would be to a grade nine class in Paris, Ontario. My hands shook, my knees wobbled and my brain was mush. My thoughts were .....OMG what have I got myself into?!
I once asked Beth, "Who do you write a journal for and who would want to read it? "
I don't remember her answer, but I soon found out in times of stress, it helped me to put my feelings down on paper. Writing letters to my husband was my coping skill that helped me get through the worst days of my life.
Dear Gordon,
In January of 1998 I had a regular visit with Patricia (the Chaplin at the hospital). She was the easiest outsider to talk to about my grief issues. On this particular visit I told her "I don't know if I've come to some sort of acceptance around the death of my husband or if it is the calm before the storm. I am having a hard time functioning, When Gordon was ill I was like the proverbial energizer bunny rabbit. Now I am......... just lost."
Grief can have a quality of profound healing, because we are forced to a depth of feelings that is usually below the threshold of awareness.Stephen Levine,Taken from the Colour of Light.
This blog about the loss of my mom has been the hardest to write and a long time coming.
Tucked away among the trees on the shore of lake Huron there resides a camp known to many of us campers as the camp with a heart. A place where each summer HIV positive individuals, their partners, and their families can relax and be pampered for a week. My first year as a camper I was shocked to find out such a great place existed. I was so impressed that the second year I invited my biggest supporter (my sister Beth) to join me. Last year was my third year and I wanted to give back in any way I could.
Blog#45 Mo-Monday
"Hey, where did everybody go I am wondering to myself? I didn't do anything wrong! So, why am I being blinded by megawattage of lightsglaring me in the face?" I felt like a deer in headlights with nowhere to run......
Missing You Valentines Day 2014,
I have been struggling this past while with such things as rejection, an example of this is having been denied a spot at camp this year. I applied to go as a staff volunteer and found myself sending the camp an apology letter for my abruptness when I initially got the news. Others were seeing this behavioral change and suggested the following:
Conflict Check In:
Point 1Take five deep, slow, long breathsJohn’s take on it - Helps to relax, withdraw momentarily from the situation, and helps keep composure
Last year I received my 15 year Ontario Service Award for Volunteers, as well as, the Gretchen Sangster Award for Education presented by Gretchen and ACCKWA. I would like to share a couple of scenarios that keep me moving forward through words of respect and appreciation:
Kitchener RecordManulife FinancialJune 9, 2012
Applauding our community volunteers
What a life lesson…………………my Mother tells me to check in with seniors living in our neighborhood to assist with any chores they needed to be done. These were not just complete strangers however, although it wouldn’t have mattered anyhow. These were customers of my Mother’s, as she was a Leading Avon Representative, not only in London but for Southwestern Ontario. Prizes that she obtained for top sales included a new car. Certainly not the kind of prizes they give nowadays that I know of.
You must be gay…………….I lived with this statement for years growing up………………..the answer is YES. Some would then suggest that you must be gay because you were labeled as such? The thought crossed my mind different times, till such time as I became attracted to the same sex. I was around girls endlessly, to say the least. Some guys were even jealous, but you still must be gay. There was no evidence to me that hockey players considered the possibility that dance lessons could enhance their own skills in the 60’s and 70’s.
Living a life of a normal child, till the age of 10 that is... my life course changed before my eyes. I came home from school one day after seeing a production performed by a touring group with the National Ballet of Canada at our Elementary School. I announced to my Parents (adoptive Parents), that I wanted to become a ballet dancer. My Mother passed me the phone book and said, look up some dance schools and give some a call. I grew up in London, ON and the first place I called was Dorothy Carter’s School of Dance Arts, later to become known as Victoria Carter’s London Dance Centre.
Even though others have shared this sacred space,For one week we enjoyed our special place.Tradition is what this place is all about....Native,spiritual,acceptence there's no doubt.Friendships made and compassion shared.....Life's pain and frustrations sometimes bared.The tears we shed are accepted here,From year to year and peer to peer.An expression of how much we care,To let them flow if we dare.This place is where we feel understood,By campers ,staff ,we knew they would.
Posted September 3, 2014 by manager
This summer, the ARCH Clinic benefited from having two occupational therapy students join us from McMaster University, Same and Heather. They joined us as part of an effort to increase collaboration between AIDS service organizations and occupational therapy. Sam and Heather created a presentation to highlight some of the ways occupational therapy can help people living with HIV who are aging that they gave on August 21. You will find the slides and/or a recording of the presentation (with video, audio & slides) on our website.
As I turned 56 at the beginningof the month I am reminded of my late husband ,who'sbirthday was three days before. But one year younger.This poem is for him. 
the veins of my arm pour to the ground, blackbleed into the grass, rip through the dirtgrasping at roots, anything, something to ground mehold me income back, come back, come backempty bottleopen sorefalling teeth and broken skinlips tight, no cryingI died so long agobut is this how to remember life?
Floating like I'll never come downSo solid in the airLike I don't remember the ground
Branches reaching outTrying for a chunk of clothNo words can leave my mouth
Burning in my cocoonBurning as I leave itFlames rip from my lungsI am new, I am reborn
A while ago I stumbled upon the concept of "aggressive self love". I think people as a whole tend to forget that our bodies are truly ours. We are constantly dealing with many kinds of media telling us how to look, dress and act. We are also constantly told to ignore these messages and live our own lives. But that's it. We are not led into deeper discussion as to what it means to live our own lives and own our own bodies. 
I eventually moved from my hometown to Kitchener, Ontario and found myself at the doorstep of the local AIDS Service Organization, and over the course of 17 years I obtained support from this agency. Support was strongly needed to help me overcome the stigma that came with an HIV diagnosis. ACCKWA (AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area) became my second home. As the blood started to flow through my veins again, so did my desire to connect with the outside world.
After 10 years of training to become a Classical Ballet Dancer, it was now time to venture away from the nest to start performing professionally. I left Ontario to settle in Halifax Nova Scotia, joining a very young dance company. The first year came and went by so quickly. And then came the news that funding would not allow the company to exist the following season. It was devastating. However, I was young and full of energy and my career soon took me to the other side of the country to Edmonton, Alberta.
It seems like yesterday when my Mother sat at the kitchen table across from me and told me that I was adopted.
“Whatever you decide to do, know that we love you very much and will not hold you back,”is what she  said to me.
Of course I felt that I had to say something in return. The first thing that came to mind was simply that they are my parents. And there is no need to be concerned that I will want to search out my biological parents.
I had only been dancing for 2 or 3 years when I decided to attend Vorp’s Summer School Dance Program in Toronto. I had the privilege of being taught by the Artistic Director of Dance Detroit who offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. He pulled me aside one day and asked if I would consider dancing in his production of The Nutcracker that winter!
By: Cassandra Sheppard, Hepatitis C Outreach Coordinator
April is STI Awareness Month. Here are some facts about STIs that you may not have already known.
I just returned from doing another talk to a small group of 13-15 yr olds. The questions they asked following certainly indicated to me that they were listening rather intently. This is exactly what I love to see, as it means it's become an educational tool for sure. They will undoubtedly take this information and apply it in a variety of ways to further educate themselves and others. They were just finishing up lunch when we arrived and it smelt like we walked into a restaurant not a church.