'We've made huge strides': AIDS Vancouver celebrates its 35th anniversary
'People are not literally dying around us as they were in early years,' says executive director
This year marks the 35th anniversary of AIDS Vancouver.
The organization opened its doors in 1983 and was Canada's first AIDS service association, providing quality health care and support to people affected by HIV/AIDS in the Lower Mainland. It also provides public education and community-based research on the infection.
The group was created in 1982, after a group of six gay men got together one night for dinner in Vancouver to talk about the AIDS crisis, says Dr. Brian Chittock, executive director of AIDS Vancouver.
At that time, little was known about AIDS and why so many people were becoming infected. AIDS Vancouver was officially incorporated Aug. 4, 1983.
"It was a pretty scary time … people were scared. Nobody knew what this thing was or how we were getting it and how to control it," Chittock told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.
"We didn't know how to deal with the situation. Nobody had gone through anything like this ever before. We were winging it."
While Chittock was not involved with AIDS Vancouver in the early days, he founded the HIV/AIDS Network of Edmonton Society shortly after AIDS Vancouver's launch. He then co-founded the Montreal AIDS Committee in 1984.
"I just remember talking to some of the volunteers beside me who became infected and thinking, 'Am I next?' What's going on? What can we do?' And I had no answers."
Stigma around AIDS continues to be a big issue for the organization. Chittock says they have never been able to deal with it effectively. But he says that prevention and treatment has advanced.
"People are not literally dying around us as they were in early years."
Chittock says there are approximately 15 new infections in Vancouver every year, which is much lower than the early days of AIDS Vancouver. According to Chittock, Vancouver has one of the lowest rates of infection in Canada.
"It's a much more manageable disease for most people today … we've made huge strides in treatment. Research is unbelievable on HIV in Canada … and there is talk of a cure, which will be amazing."
Listen to the full interview here:
With files from The Early Edition.