Dec. 1, 2018 – A red ribbon memorial candle display is placed at the legislature on Dec. 1 marking the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day and the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Victoria resident reflects on being diagnosed with HIV and cancer

World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 aims to break the stigma surrounding the disease

A Victoria resident found out they were both HIV positive and had cancer on the same day.

In 2015 Daniel Sands was homeless and often sleeping in Beacon Hill Park. Sands – who is two-spirited and prefers a they/them pronoun – said that for a long time they just felt like they had a flu that just wouldn’t go away, so when they got tested by a street nurse they were shocked to hear the results.

“I was devastated, it felt like a death sentence at the time,” they said for a project made with the federal government called Healthy Canadians.

What Sands didn’t know, however, was that just four years later they’d be in remission for cancer, and that their HIV would be untraceable thanks to modern medication.

ALSO READ: AVI’s new identity reflects AIDS as a chronic, manageable condition

“U=U, it’s kind of changed everything,” they said. “As long as I take my medication I’m going to live a long life, a long healthy life.”

The U=U campaign is put forward by the province and the Prevention Access Campaign; U=U stands for undetectable equals untrasmittable. Immediate treatment of HIV/AIDS means that a patient can live a normal life and can’t transmit the disease to someone else.

“Kind of destigmatizing myself and learning the actual medical facts about it really changed everything,” Sands said. “I have a chronic manageable illness just like someone with diabetes—take your medication every day and you’re good.”

Changing the stigma is something that World Aids Day on Dec. 1 aims to achieve.

“Stigma is still a huge issue for people living with HIV,” said Katrina Jensen, executive director of AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI), where Sands now works. “The more we can get education and awareness out, the more we can confront and end stigma in our community.”

This year in Victoria more stories from people like Sands are being shared across the city in the form of “We Are Here” Story Boards seen in Greater Victoria Public Libraries.

Additionally, on Dec. 1 there will be a candlelit ceremony at the steps of the BC Legislature to commemorate people who have died from the disease.

ALSO READ: Island women cycling 275 km to fight AIDS in Africa

Any donations put forward to AVI on World AIDS Day will go towards the organization’s Hot Lunch Program, which offers nutritious meals five days per week.

“People living with HIV are often living with compromised immune systems and they need high quality foods,” Jensen said. “But because many people are living in poverty, the rising costs of food make it really difficult for people living with HIV to access.”

In 2018 more than 8,000 meals were served through the program.

For more information on the event or the organization visit avi.org

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Victoria resident Daniel Sands was diagnosed with HIV in 2015. Thanks to modern medication, the disease is now untraceable in their blood. (Screenshot/ Healthy Canadians).

Just Posted

New Victoria Conservatory music scholarship recognizes long-time Sidney resident

O. Thomas Webb died in Sidney last year after retiring to the community in 1975

Victoria resident lives well despite dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

New Oak Bay bylaw supports planting 5,000 new trees

Residents can share thoughts on new tree protection bylaw at Jan. 29 open house

New BC Ferries hybrid-electric vessels arrive in Victoria

BC Ferries plans to add four more hybrid-electric vessels to fleet

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Intense winds en route to Greater Victoria

Winter storm warning in effect for east and west regions while wind warning to hit south and north

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Most Read