Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano was on hand at the Group Health Centre on McNabb Street Friday afternoon to collect a free ‘Unlock Love’ lock to show his support for people living with HIV.
This week (Nov. 24 to Dec. 1) marks Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, culminating with World AIDS Day Dec. 1, to be followed by Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week from Dec. 1 to Dec. 5.
“This year we’re not doing the Red Scarf project, instead we’re doing a Red Lock campaign. We are giving away these red locks as a reminder to unlock love, hope, and acceptance for people living with HIV,” said Shana Shipperbottom, Group Health Centre HIV/AIDS Resource Program support services worker (the program’s office located at 170 East St.).
“We’re happy to have the mayor here today to unlock a lock. It’s an anti-stigma campaign. We want to shift the conversation to the opposite of what people tend to think about HIV, so we want to shift the focus to qualities everyone can relate to, to empathy, love, hope and acceptance. We want to be a more supportive community for people living with HIV,” Shipperbottom told SooToday.
“We wanted to put the Algoma district on the map, so this lock campaign is being run in communities as far east as Serpent River First Nation and all the way north to White River.”
“We’re asking people to take a picture of themselves unlocking the lock, unlocking love, hope and acceptance for people living with HIV and put them on social media and remove the stigma,” Shipperbottom said.
“I think there are a lot of people who still have big misconceptions about people living with HIV. HIV treatment has progressed so far, you just take medication and it reduces the amount of the virus in your blood, and then the virus can’t be transmitted anymore, so to take your treatment is the best form of prevention in terms of spreading HIV.”
“It’s best to be tested early and people who are living with HIV now, as long as they’re taking their medication, they’re living long, happy, healthy lives into their senior years. I think the message is getting out, we keep working at it,” Shipperbottom said.
The free locks will be available at a booth at GFL Memorial Gardens during Sunday’s Soo Greyhounds game beginning at 2 p.m. and locations across Algoma.
For a list of locations with free locks available, click on the Group Health Centre’s HIV/AIDS Resource Program’s website