act today Perhaps you think that HIV and AIDS are no longer concerns in Canada. After all we don’t hear the stories we did in the 1980s, a time when people who found out they had HIV (the virus that can lead to AIDS) had little options other than preparing for their own death. In Canada, access to life-saving medications has dramatically reduced the number of HIV-related deaths. People with HIV generally are living much longer. In that respect, much has changed. So what hasn’t changed? First, while anti-HIV medications have improved the life expectancy of most people living with HIV/AIDS accessing treatment, there are challenges for effective responses to health issues that are complicated by – not caused by – HIV. In addition, people living with HIV, as well as communities that have been hard hit by HIV infection, still face stigma and discrimination. Toronto continues to be the epicentre of the epidemic in Canada, with an estimate of 18,000 people currently living with HIV/AIDS. Every day there are two new HIV infections in Toronto.
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I have lived with HIV for 24 years. As a gay man, I saw first-hand the way that HIV/AIDS impacted my community in the 80s. This was a time when there weren’t really many treatments for HIV/AIDS, and the ones that existed weren’t that great. For years I never really talked about the loss I felt for friends that had passed away and the way it so affected me until I came to ACT. It’s been life changing to talk about and work through everything I have experienced and to find so many new friends and outlets for support.
act bold ACTâ€™s work focuses on HIV prevention and community health programming to gay and bisexual men, women and youth. At ACT, we know that HIV disproportionately affects certain communities in Toronto and these communities are often already dealing with the negative effects of stigma and discrimination, making them more vulnerable to the spread of HIV. The four pillars of our programs and services represent a range of innovation that addresses the many factors that determine and influence the health and well-being of people living with, affected by, or at risk for HIV/AIDS.
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RESEARCH AND KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE Community-based research Evaluation and program development
community capacity building and training Career planning and assessment Benefits counselling and employment assistance Resume and interview assistance Training opportunities and employment resources Job search and placement assistance
community health promotion
Gay menâ€™s community education and outreach
Positive Youth Outreach (PYO) Womenâ€™s community development
Community health forums Counselling Health and wellness groups Hot lunch programs Income tax clinic Support groups
act strong Over the past 30 years, ACT has developed innovative programs and services that respond to the changing needs of people living with, and affected by HIV. Our support services such as counselling and case management provide information and guidance to those who are living with HIV. Support and discussion groups, community forums, and social support activities help to reduce social isolation and foster strength and resilience. Our employment programs work with people living with HIV to (re)enter the workforce to help them gain the skills and confidence needed to go back to work. ACTâ€™s community health programs work with gay men, women and youth to increase their knowledge, skills and resilience, and reduce HIV transmission. We work with our communities to develop information about HIV, provide outreach and education and create opportunities for community members to increase their skills. All of our programs and services are informed by evidence and the input from the communities we serve. ACT is an active participant in research that helps us to both better understand issues facing those living with and at risk for HIV.
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I came to ACT thinking that, at the very least, I could talk to someone who would understand, who wouldn’t judge me, who could help me sort through things. Not only did I find a friendly ear in my case manager, but I learned so many things about HIV/AIDS. I found lots of information, and I was able to find a doctor and dentist who specialized in HIV care. Over the years I’ve used a lot of ACT’s programs such as Employment ACTion, the Income Tax Clinic and the Women’s Coffee Night, where I met other positive women - even one who came from my home country who has become a good friend and someone that I can talk to.
act resilient Almost from the beginning of HIV/AIDS in Toronto ACT has been here: to educate, to support, to provide hope and promote health. ACT was founded as a volunteer-run organization in July 1983 in response to a strange and largely unknown condition that was primarily affecting gay men in the city. AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – was found to be caused by a virus known as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which attacked the body’s natural defences (the immune system) causing people to fall ill to certain illnesses that a healthy immune system could naturally fight off. Despite those early years of HIV and AIDS when treatments were elusive and a positive HIV diagnoses meant an almost certain death, ACT worked closely with the communities most impacted by HIV in our city.
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The process of finding out I was positive and figuring out what to do next was an evolution that was hugely supported by ACT and the PYO program. Accepting my status was difficult and all I wanted to do was connect with other people like me. I found out about PYO’s peer counselling services and they helped me a lot. It was great to hear someone else’s story and how they dealt with their situation and the people in their life; it made me look at myself – and my positive status – as an opportunity to grow, to make better choices for myself, to take care of my health and keep up with appointments.
act now Toronto continues to be the epicentre of the epidemic in Canada, with an estimate of over 18,000 people currently living with HIV. Every day there are two new HIV infections in Toronto. Treatment advances continue to improve the life expectancy of most people with HIV who are accessing treatment, continuing the evolution of HIV/AIDS into a chronic, manageable illness. As treatment becomes more normalized and as people living with HIV age, there will continue to be challenges for effective responses to health issues that are complicated by, but not caused by, HIV. ACT is working to stop HIV right here at home â€“ providing support to people living with HIV in Toronto, so that they have the information, skills and tools to improve their overall health and well being. ACT will continue to challenge ignorance, fear and stigma. We will continue to speak out in the fight against HIV/AIDS and build strong programs to respond to the needs of people living with, affected by, and at risk for HIV. We continue our legacy as an agency that not only acts but leads.
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act now $50 provides 5 hot lunches and social support for people living with HIV through our twice weekly hot-lunch programs. $100 provides one month of peer support, information and practical advice for a young person living with HIV through our Positive Youth Outreach (PYO) program. $250 provides condoms, lubricant and safer sex information for 50 people at risk for HIV through our outreach initiatives. $750 provides 30 hours of confidential counselling to men, women and young people living with, affected by, or at risk for HIV. $2,000 provides a person living with HIV with career counselling and training supports to help them become ready for work through our Employment ACTion program. $6,000 provides a person living with HIV with job search and job placement supports to help them remain securely employed through our Employment ACTion program.
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about act Since 1983 ACT has developed programs and services that respond to the changing needs of the communities it serves. We have a unique history: founded by a small group of volunteers determined to combat the misinformation about HIV/AIDS, the organization challenged the stigma associated with those who had AIDS, developed and provided ongoing support for people living with HIV/AIDS, and fought for funding for an HIV/AIDS response at all levels of government. ACT was a nesting place, an incubator, for the beginning and growth of other organizations that served particular communities at risk; ACT initiated innovative and candid HIV prevention campaigns and programs that drew national acclaim and turned attention to the importance of not only safer sex, but healthy, fun and satisfying sex. ACT continues to be a strong leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, creating innovative programming and services that address current issues and needs related to HIV/AIDS. From our community health promotion and outreach programming, to our service access area; from our Employment ACTion program that helps people with HIV/ AIDS return to the workforce, to our counselling and case management services - we offer a wide and robust range of programs and services.
act bold act strong act resilient act now
AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) 399 Church Street, 4th Floor Toronto, ON M5B 2J6 Telephone: 416-340-2437 Fax: 416-340-8224 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: actoronto.org f facebook.com/ACToronto t @ACToronto Published: November 2012 Charitable Registration Number: 11877 9024 RR0001