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Campaign begins in Sudbury to raise awareness, reduce stigma of HIV


Almost 200 red scarves decorate various posts in Greater Sudbury’s downtown core – all to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of HIV and AIDS.

The 'Bundle Up in Red’ campaign has been going on in Sudbury for 11 years, organized by the non-profit Réseau Access Network.

It is one of the many events happening as part of HIV and AIDS Awareness Week, which included a candlelit vigil and lighting the iconic Big Nickel up in red.

"Unfortunately stigma is still quite prevalent around HIV so we're hoping people log in to our website, get facts, know there's great new treatments for it, understand they can come in and get tested," said the network’s volunteer coordinator Deborah Josipovic.

"We're hoping it reduces the stigma."

Josipovic is also a registered social service worker.

300 knitted scarves were donated by St. Andrew's United Church to give to those in need and can be picked up at Réseau's office on Larch Street. There are 175 felt scarves with information pamphlets attached outlining available services.

Josipovic said Réseau offers a wide range of wrap-around services for individuals affected by HIV.

"We have two full-time nurses who do treatment, we do testing, we do a lot," she said.

Sean Hosein, science and medicine editor at the Canadian Aids Treatment Information Exchange, also known as CATIE, told CTV News that eliminating barriers around testing for HIV is a way to reduce stigma.

Hosein said of the more than 62,000 Canadians living with HIV, 10 per cent are unaware that they are living with the virus.

"Many don’t consider themselves at risk because the virus at least initially caused mild symptoms, much like the cold or the flu and of course we have COVID recently so some think it’s the cold or flu," he said.

"There's a lot of stigma or ill feeling towards HIV which started at the beginning of the pandemic and has dogged it some 40 years later."

Hosein said one thing that has changed is that science has allowed the advancement of treatments for people living with HIV.

"Treatment today can be as simple as taking one pill a day or talking to your doctor to get an injector treatment," he said.

"Many researchers and doctors and scientists expect people on treatment to live a long and healthy life."

CATIE has partnered with the federal government to give out 200,000 HIV self-test kits which can be ordered online and done from the comfort of home.

Thousands of tests have already been given out.

"HIV is more preventable than ever before," said Hosein.

“Knowing your status is important.” Top Stories

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