Positive Women's Network http://pwn.bc.ca Thu, 15 Jun 2017 19:39:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 http://pwn.bc.ca/2017/05/19097/ Fri, 12 May 2017 17:25:30 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=19097 May 11, 2017 Dear Members, RE:      Notice of Special General Meeting of Members – Wind Up and Dissolution It is with great regret that we inform our members that PWN is no longer in a financial or operational position to continue its operations in accordance with its mission, vision and values. This conclusion was drawn […]

The post appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
May 11, 2017

Dear Members,

RE:      Notice of Special General Meeting of Members – Wind Up and Dissolution

It is with great regret that we inform our members that PWN is no longer in a financial or operational position to continue its operations in accordance with its mission, vision and values.

This conclusion was drawn by the Board after discussion and careful consideration with funders and other stakeholders. It is a response to the shifting landscape of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) services as well as the challenge in sustaining long-term funding to run PWN’s programs. As communicated to the membership in a letter dated on April 4, 2017 (a copy of which can be found at pwn.bc.ca), we have seen our core funding reduced by roughly 60% in one fiscal year with little potential of securing additional funding in the future.

Accordingly, the Board is now taking steps to wind up the operations of the organization with a view toward dissolving the organization in the coming months.

Wind-Up Activities

As part of winding up the organization, the Board is ensuring that PWN members’ interests and needs are considered. PWN staff are currently taking steps to provide transition services that support our members. Charisse Knowlan and Judy Mitchell are leading such efforts in the following activities:

  • Our women’s only foodbank, held Thursday mornings at AIDS Vancouver
  • One-on-one support counseling
  • Transfer of members to alternative community services
  • Community outreach activities
  • Information about community supports and services on PWN website

Invitation to Special General Meeting

As part of the process, we invite you to attend the upcoming special general meeting of the members of PWN to discuss and approve the decision to close the organization, as specifically set out in the proposed resolution attached to this letter.

Meeting details are as follows:

Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Time: 5:00pm
Place: PWN Office  614-1033 Davie Street, Vancouver
Call in: conference call dial 1 (888) 433-2192
Your participant code is 3839470

We hope to see you at the meeting to address your questions or concerns about the transition of the organization.

Although we are sad to say good-bye, we are proud of our accomplishments and the evolution of women’s HIV movements and we would like to acknowledge our members. Without each and every one of you this organization would not have evolved to be so impactful in BC and beyond.

Thank you for supporting PWN, accessing our services, becoming peer leaders, and committing to the vision that all women with HIV can receive care with dignity.

Sincerely,

The PWN Board of Directors

Brittany Graham, Board Chair
Carly Daoust
Heather Holroyd
Negar Hooshmand-Mozaffar
Patti Telford

The post appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Getting to Know… Judy Mitchell http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/10/getting-know-judy-mitchell/ Tue, 11 Oct 2016 20:34:31 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17952 Today I have the pleasure of introducing Judy Mitchell who joined PWN the beginning of July 2016. We are very fortunate to have Judy on our team – what an intriguing woman! And these are just a few questions. I can only imagine what other stories she has to share. I look forward to getting to know her better and I think you will too.

The post Getting to Know… Judy Mitchell appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Hello again. Today I have the pleasure of introducing Judy Mitchell who joined PWN the beginning of July 2016. We are very fortunate to have Judy on our team – what an intriguing woman! And these are just a few questions. I can only imagine what other stories she has to share. I look forward to getting to know her better and I think you will too.

What is your position at PWN? How would you describe this job to someone unfamiliar with PWN?

I am the Indigenous Women’s Support Program Coordinator…serving all women at PWN. This position is a partnership between Red Road HIV/AIDS Network Society and Positive Women’s Network. The program provides a culturally safe place where Indigenous women can hear Aboriginal Elders and mentors – including women with lived experience – teach about various aspects of our culture and where you can connect with others to build healthy relationships.
We host weekly Kitchen Table Meetings where participants learn how to incorporate more cultural practices into their daily lives. We also host 12 Knowledge Gatherings per year (knowledge on cultural practices and prevention health methods) as well as peer-led monthly support groups for those who identify as Indigenous or Aboriginal women living with HIV. These support groups are facilitated in partnership with Oak Tree Clinic.
We welcome women to visit us on-site or to call us at any time (visit: 614-1033 Davie Street, Vancouver or phone: 604-692-3008).

What is your background? Why do you work with PWN? Why not another community?

I am a member of the Tla’Amin Nation (Powell River, BC) on the Sunshine Coast. It is a community of approximately 1000 nation members (600 living on-reserve/400 living out-of-town/off-reserve), located just outside the town of Powell River, BC. I have 4 brothers & 3 sisters (from two families). I lost a younger brother tragically in a car accident on Vancouver Island in 1987; he was 17 years old. I grew up on-reserve until the age of 18 and also upon graduation from high school. I then left to Vancouver Island to begin my post-education.
I was lucky to have two culturally traditional parents who worked outside of our home all of our lives and strongly encouraged our post-secondary education. My father was the Chief of our nation for 13 years and my mom was a Community Health Nurse. I am a mother of two sons, one aged 26 years and the other aged 9 years. My educational background is in Drug & Alcohol and Sexual Abuse/Family Violence Counselling. My work background has included working with First Nations Youth (in BC & AB), Indian Residential School Survivors, HIV/AIDS-Healing Our Spirit, and Family Support (Women).
I work with PWN because I believe all women need as much support as they can possibly get. With the added challenges of living HIV+, with addictions, marginalized and/or Indigenous, life can be a big struggle. Add to this, living in a big city, possibly with children, and it can be downright overwhelming. If the programs at Positive Women’s Network can make some of these women’s lives just a little bit easier then I believe we are doing our jobs. I am also a woman with lived-experience, and not all of it was good. I can relate to the struggles some of the women face and hope I can offer programming that encourages positive outcomes.

Besides PWN, you’re also doing other work in the community. Are you comfortable sharing a bit about this work? How it impacts your work with PWN?

I also work with Red Road HIV/AIDS Network Society. We hosted a workshop on Sept. 19th & 20th at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. It was entitled “Pathways to Wholeness” and the gathering contributed to the holistic development and wellness of First Nations individuals, families and communities by providing tools and resources for healing. It included guest speakers such as Dr. Lee Brown from the Cherokee Nation, sharing 9 Principles imperative to Indigenous health & healing; the First Nations Health Authority, sharing Indigenous wellness and culture around sexual health; AIDS Vancouver Island; and an Indigenous Support Services Panel which included reps from PWN, Red Road, Vancouver Native Health & Cowichan Tribes. Self-care Reiki sessions were also provided. We worked hard and I enjoyed meeting new people at this workshop.
Many of the Indigenous women living in Vancouver come from other cities and communities. I have lived in many cities and visited many first nation communities on Vancouver Island and on the mainland. I know people from all of these communities. I find this very helpful; I have no problem getting in contact with resource workers or family members if need be.

What excites you about PWN?

Many Indigenous people living in the city have grown up without cultural practices to fall back on when times get tough, as they always do. My hope for this program is to provide Elders, resources and teachings around praying, smudging, brushing, making medicine bags, bundles, anything we can provide that women can use for instance when they are faced with crisis or challenges and our offices are not open. Something they can turn to, especially each other, that would be ideal.
We have a peer-led support group which started on September 21st in Room #103, facilitated by Flo Ranville.
Our Indigenous Women’s Advisory Group, who meet a couple of times a month, are in the beginning stages of planning a 4-day Land-Based Retreat specifically for Indigenous HIV+ women, from throughout BC. This is to take place in March of 2017 and will in the lower mainland. Of course, more information will be provided as we move through the planning stages.
I am excited for the coming months and the year ahead. I’m very happy to be here and look forward to meeting all of you. We can never have enough positive women in our lives!

One more very important question: When it comes to the issue of chocolate, do you prefer dark, milk or the controversial white chocolate?

Milk chocolate, all the way!! 😃

Interview by Monique Desroches

The post Getting to Know… Judy Mitchell appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Let’s talk about therapy. How does that make you feel? http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/09/lets-talk-therapy-make-feel/ Wed, 28 Sep 2016 22:36:56 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17946 Let’s talk about therapy. How does that make you feel? Sometimes therapy itself can be absolutely crazy-making and not at all therapeutic. Have you ever wanted to better understand your suffering? Not necessarily poke at some pain or re-live anything but rather explore who you are now and how you survived. Far too often the tendency of therapy is to focus inwards rather than at the external situations which may be causing, influencing or exacerbating a struggle. This inward focus could be misconstrued and reinforce self-blame.

The post Let’s talk about therapy. How does that make you feel? appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Let’s talk about therapy. How does that make you feel? Sometimes therapy itself can be absolutely crazy-making and not at all therapeutic. Have you ever wanted to better understand your suffering? Not necessarily poke at some pain or re-live anything but rather explore who you are now and how you survived. Far too often the tendency of therapy is to focus inwards rather than at the external situations which may be causing, influencing or exacerbating a struggle. This inward focus could be misconstrued and reinforce self-blame.

On a personal note, I have an extensive history with various therapies and I studied psychology during my undergrad. I am also currently working towards becoming certified as a trauma-sensitive yoga therapist. I know some things about therapy mainly because I grapple mightily with chronic depression. In looking back over my life I can see signs of depression spanning almost 40 years. I am by nature an introvert and a contemplative person which is a source of much pleasure yet these characteristics can become detrimental when I’m descending into a depression. This was the case four years ago when I met the biggest, baddest, depression beast to date. I struggled with making meaning of the growing abyss. I tried traditional talk therapy and it just wasn’t touching the despair. I needed something else. But what?

My therapist, who I’ve worked with for many years, suggested some creative visualization and together discovered a safe place within myself and fortified it. She harnessed my interest in story-telling and my rich imagination to help me find some solid ground. This led me to re-reading some of my favourite childhood stories and listening to lots of audiobooks from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés (who is an amazing story-teller). Eventually, I got to writing down my own stories and in my continual quest for finding ease within suffering I stumbled upon narrative therapy. Now this is what I was looking for!

What is narrative therapy? The narrative approach is a collaborative model which recognizes that people possess natural competencies, skills, and expertise that can help guide change in their lives. It is a non-pathologizing therapy wherein the person is viewed as separate from their problems, and in this way, a therapist can help externalize sensitive issues which dissipates resistance and defences. Personal experiences are transformed into personal stories so that the effects of the problem can also be transformed. Problems are viewed within the context of social, political, and cultural storylines that influence the way we view ourselves and our personal stories.

No one needs fixing. People are the experts of their own lives; problems are separate from the person and have a relational context; people have inherent skills to influence problems.

Does this sound familiar? What do these assertions remind you of? They remind me of our guiding GIPA principles, which recognize the expertise of persons living with HIV in the response to HIV/AIDS; realize the rights and responsibilities of persons living with HIV, including the right to self-determination and participation in any decision-making processes having a personal effect; and creates space for involvement and active participation of persons living with HIV in all aspects of the response to HIV/AIDS.

I am encouraged by this style of counselling and community building. I find it aligns well with PWN’s culture. I recently completed the Foundations Level Training of Narrative Therapy with The Vancouver School of Narrative Therapy. We had the benefit of hearing from some guest instructors who work in the Vancouver area. Rosa Artega, Manager of Direct Services and Programs at Battered Women Support Services (BWSS), discussed a post-feminist, anti-oppressive, narrative therapy approach to working with trauma and intimate violence against women. Aaron Munro, Associate Director at RainCity Housing, discussed the creation of a Housing First Program designed to assist Queer, Trans and Two-Spirit youth experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Səl̓ílwətaʔ, Xʷməθkwəy̓əm, & Sḵwx̱wú7mesh peoples (Vancouver, BC) by utilizing Housing First, Queer Theory and Narrative informed approaches. It was an inspiring week of intense learning and I look forward to exploring narrative therapy further.

by Monique Desroches

The post Let’s talk about therapy. How does that make you feel? appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Getting to know… Charisse http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/09/gettting-know-charisse/ http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/09/gettting-know-charisse/#comments Thu, 01 Sep 2016 22:24:36 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17907 This week we get to know Charisse Knowlan a little better. Thanks for sharing Charisse! As an HIV+ woman who is not only a member at PWN but also part of the staff team, I am thrilled to be working alongside Charisse.

The post Getting to know… Charisse appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Hello, one and all. This week’s blog post is a little different. I’ve posed a few questions to my co-workers and I’ll be sharing their responses over the next few weeks.

This week we get to know Charisse Knowlan a little better. Thanks for sharing Charisse! As an HIV+ woman who is not only a member at PWN but also part of the staff team, I am thrilled to be working alongside Charisse.

What is your position at PWN? How would you describe this job to someone unfamiliar with PWN?

My official position title is Intervention Services Advocacy Staff but to someone unfamiliar with the work that PWN does I would describe myself as a community service worker or support worker. The foundation of the work that I do is built upon relationship building with members and community partners, creating and maintaining a safe, women-centered space at PWN, cultivating meaningful relationships of mutual trust and respect with members. In a practical sense, I would explain the work that I do as providing emotional support to women, intervening in crisis situations, and being an advocate and ally for women. This overflows into many arenas including the health care system, legal system, family relationships, personal relationships, food security, safety, and housing

What is your background? Why do you work with PWN? Why not another community?

My education background is psychology and social work and my passion is women’s rights, women-centered care, trauma-informed care, and highlighting the importance of the sometimes unpopular feminism and its place in our wider systems, structures, and values. I had the good fortune of being placed at PWN as a practicum student with no prior knowledge of the distinctive challenges that women living with HIV face. The past year at PWN has been an exceptional journey of learning and coming to truly understand both the obvious and less visible barriers that women are faced with daily and how and where they find strength, resilience, and community to overcome them. I’ve learned about the unique barriers, discrimination, and trauma that women living with HIV live with on a daily basis and this has ignited a new passion for advocating for women. I feel so fortunate to have been able to learn through this community and feel an acute sense of devotion and commitment to all the women of the world and especially those living with HIV.

What do you think makes PWN special?

PWN is special. It is a place that is continually striving to create a safe space for women. It is a place that listens to women, believes them, advocates for them, and stands with them. I see PWN as a pillar in the community advocating for and delivering women-centered, feminist, trauma-informed care that supports and empowers women. I see it as a place where women are accepted, celebrated, and believed. I see PWN recognizing women’s individual strengths and holding a place for their weakness. I wish for the program to continue to grow, to thrive, and to provide women with stability, familiarity, belonging, and community.

One more very important question: When it comes to the issue of chocolate, do you prefer dark, milk or the controversial white chocolate?

First of all, white chocolate isn’t chocolate. It’s a chemical candy mixture that doesn’t deserve to carry that name. Second, dark all the way. Preferably with chili peppers in it.

By Monique Desroches

The post Getting to know… Charisse appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/09/gettting-know-charisse/feed/ 1
Lauding Marcie Summers http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/08/lauding-marcie-summers/ http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/08/lauding-marcie-summers/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 20:02:08 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17901 “When I was hired in 1993, I was the only staff member in a small office in a building shared with AIDS Vancouver and what was then BC People with AIDS. PWN had 20 members, and I had to rent a computer to write the first grants. We’ve come a long way. As a woman, […]

The post Lauding Marcie Summers appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>

“When I was hired in 1993, I was the only staff member in a small office in a building shared with AIDS Vancouver and what was then BC People with AIDS. PWN had 20 members, and I had to rent a computer to write the first grants.

We’ve come a long way. As a woman, as an advocate, as an activist, I am incredibly proud to have been part of the PWN story. Thank you to our members, staff, Board of Directors, volunteers, and community allies.”

—Marcie Summers reflecting upon her upcoming retirement after 22 years as PWN’s Executive Director (PWN Annual Report 2014-2015 pg 4 of 11)

*Woven into this post are the words, thoughts, and sentiments of others who have also worked with Marcie. We all miss our shared times with her. She was not only our Executive Director, she was also our beloved friend and mentor. 

Marcie has been a true leader in the Canadian HIV community. She is a strategist, coalition builder, and eloquent spokesperson who has pushed for understanding of women’s issues. Marcie’s soft yet determined voice has sounded in local, provincial and national forums. Nationally as everywhere, Marcie spoke to the intersections of socially prescribed roles for women and HIV, gender inequality, economic discrepancies, the continuum of violence and other social determinants of health which lead to HIV risk and compromised health outcomes for women with HIV.

Marcie went well above and beyond in her 22 years as Executive Director at PWN to dedicate much of her professional career to working on gender and social justice issues, and making the links between violence against women and women’s health risks including HIV infection. She worked tirelessly to keep women on the agenda in the national HIV arena; her long term dedication to positive women — both those who are public with their status and those who aren’t — is exemplary.

She was resolute in fostering partnerships at PWN and elsewhere. As former co-chair of the Pacific AIDS Network (PAN) she helped bring about a provincial entity which works and contributes to all who work in the field of HIV. She balanced voices from rural and urban communities, recognizing that some challenges of HIV differ through geography. She worked to ensure everyone’s voices and contributions were acknowledged, even when seemingly competing concerns emerged. At the national level she is acknowledged as a leader by her peers for her numerous contributions including being a founding member of Blueprint for Action on Women and Girls and HIV.

While much of the focus of her work was on women’s issues, Marcie was steadfast in her effort to promote social justice overall. She brought an invaluable analysis and keen intellect to her work, when developing programs and services at PWN, but also when visioning a way forward for the entire sector: policy makers, government funders, academics and community based researchers.

A red cardigan.  A black tote with the red ribbon.  Always savoury, often potatoes.  Sparkly eyes.  Quiet strength.  Soft easy laugh.  Assertive trailblazer.  Passionate advocate.  Devoted activist.  Gentle leader.  Genuine friend.

Marcie has been a positive influence in many people’s lives and has without a doubt inspired me to be the woman I am today. We’ve known each other a long time and I quickly recognized a strength in Marcie that I knew I needed for myself. Marcie taught me that it’s okay to be soft and emotive, and that in being so my strength is not diminished. She taught me that being vulnerable and emotionally honest is a strength and not something to shy away from or be embarrassed about. Her embodiment of this truth was a revelation to me because up until meeting Marcie I had not seen a woman fight for what she believes with tears in her eyes and without a lick of shame about those tears.

I first witnessed this facet of Marcie at an annual general meeting for the Canadian AIDS Society in the mid-90s. She would stand up and advocate, yet again, for gender parity on the board and for a women’s only caucus. The room would erupt with shouts of opposition and Marcie stood firm. I was transfixed and it was at these meetings that Marcie mentored my commitment to advocacy.

Marcie was unwavering in reminding people that HIV affects women differently, women engage and participate differently, and women have different safety concerns. She maintained that a women-only space is not just plain necessary but it is also effective. When she stood amidst dissenting peers her voice would sometimes waver and her eyes would often fill with tears because of her passion and commitment. Yet, she never backed down. I knew — everyone knew — that she was a force to be reckoned with, regardless of any emotions leaking out. I truly admire this quality in Marcie and working alongside her reminded me to be authentic to my true nature and to go after what I believe in with integrity.

Working with Marcie has definitely been one of the highlights of my life. I worked with her at PWN for over 20 years, and, during that time, Marcie was my mentor, my leader, my colleague, my friend. Daily, she demonstrated a passion for women’s health, and advocating for women who didn’t have a voice. Her passion and advocacy was contagious. She fought for programs and services for women living with HIV when no one else would. She stood up to politicians and bureaucrats, demanding funding and access for women. More than once, Marcie faced up to the “mansplainers” and demanded that women’s issues and rights be put on and kept on the table. She advocated locally, provincially and nationally for PWN to be “at the table”.

Marcie has a huge heart and was compassionate and always understanding as a supervisor. She modelled a flexible work – life balance which supported and enabled many staff to stay at PWN for years and years. Her office door was always open to PWN members, and even though she couldn’t promise everything, she always listened. She taught all of the staff at PWN so much, trusted us, and supported us to aspire to do great work.

Marcie worked tirelessly on women’s issues; she was an unrelenting and determined activist. For decades she continued to repeat the same message: women-centered care is necessary. During a recent webinar for Pacific AIDS Network Marcie noted that the sad thing is she had first given this talk in the 1990s and 25 years later it’s the same talk. She remained an unrelenting and determined activist with a humble unwavering commitment. No cynicism, just a genuine desire to educate and make change.  When I feel defeated or stumped in my work, I think about the years and years of persistence and perseverance Marcie has demonstrated and it gives me hope and motivation.

In closing, several things stand out about Marcie, She saw all women as vivid and wise and worthy. She listened to what *they* identified as important to them in pursuing health. She never assumed or suggested she knew better. She spoke with persistence and clarity about gender inequities, never giving up on speaking out. She honoured staff to do their work, guiding and supporting as needed, but always respecting their input and experience. I will always remember her being gracious and welcoming. I will also remember her joyful laughter that would carry down the hall from her office.

Because of Marcie’s commitment Positive Women’s Network is a different kind of place; a special place, with special people, who benefited from 22 years of leadership from a special person.

Marcie – thank you for all you’ve given and shared. You have influenced many lives. You have our full gratitude. Our hearts overflow. All the best as you navigate this next journey in your remarkable life.

Readers – please share your thoughts in the comments below, no doubt Marcie would be glad to read them.

by Monique Desroches

The post Lauding Marcie Summers appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/08/lauding-marcie-summers/feed/ 1
My Body, My Choice http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/08/my-body-my-choice/ Wed, 17 Aug 2016 20:10:46 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17895 “If you have yet to be called an incorrigible, defiant woman, don’t worry, there is still time.” ― Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés The following blog post is my personal opinion and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified […]

The post My Body, My Choice appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>

“If you have yet to be called an incorrigible, defiant woman, don’t worry, there is still time.”
Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The following blog post is my personal opinion and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something I have written or you have read on this website.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1994 there were not a lot of treatment options available. It would be another two years before the availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in Canada. At the time of diagnosis I was not offered any medications and had I been offered I would have declined treatment. Other than a short period in the late 90’s and then again from 2010-2013 I have chosen to not take HIV meds. This decision has put me opposition to many, including some of my peers living with HIV and my HIV specialist. Yet this is my body and I have not made this decision out of ignorance. I have made an educated choice and I know many others who have made the same choice.

I don’t take any HIV meds for a variety of reasons, which I will share with you and in return I’m curious to hear your thoughts around medical treatments whether HIV specific or not. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The primary reason I don’t take HIV meds is because I am not convinced of the long-term treatment safety. As with most intensive pharmaceutical intervention there are side-effects caused by those medications. Antiretrovirals contribute to accelerated bone mineral loss; an increased prevalence of lipodystrophy; and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome (dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, and cardiovascular disease). My genetics give me a predisposition towards metabolic syndrome and I’m not eager to add antiretrovirals to the mix for this reason. My family history has also instilled in me a healthy skepticism towards passively accepting medical intervention without first considering all options.

With that said, if I were in an intimate and sexual relationship I would adhere to antiretroviral therapy because I will not infect another with this virus neither do I want to be criminalized for being HIV positive. In Canada, the law states that people living with HIV can be prosecuted for not disclosing their HIV+ status to sexual partners—even if the virus was not transmitted or the chance of transmission was minimal. Positive Women’s Network created a concise resource about HIV disclosure and criminalization which you can order from CATIE. Regardless of the law I will always disclose my HIV+ status and take all available precautions to mitigate risk of transmission because my choices were taken away from me when I was infected by someone who knew he was HIV+ but declined to share that information. I will not do the same to another person. I know there are other modes of HIV infection besides sex, however this is the only transmission avenue I would be going down and this is a post about my reasons for not taking HIV meds.

As it is, I am not in an intimate and sexual relationship, neither am I seeking such a relationship, therefore I do not feel compelled to adhere to antiretroviral therapy for this reason. Other than a few months in 2012, I have been celibate since HIV diagnosis. This is less of a decision and more of an expression of my sexuality. I have a low sex-drive and while I have not explored it in depth (because I’m not terrifically sex motivated) I suspect I am on the asexual spectrum. I am most certainly demisexual and this orientation is in direct opposition of modern social norms in urbanized Western societies which only reinforces my default celibacy. If I were sexually involved with someone or seeking to be sexual I would most certainly take the meds. Without a doubt I would take the meds.

Those are the reasons why I chose to not take HIV meds. Let me state again that this post is my personal journey. I have made an informed choice about HIV treatment. It is my right to do so and I have no regrets. I am not a medical professional and am in no way offering any medical advice. Seek your own answers.

Here are a few resources to get you started:
AIDS MAP: When to start treatment
AIDSinfo: When to start antiretroviral treatment
AIDSinfo: Limitations to treatment safety and efficacy
CATIE: Why some people don’t want to start treatment
CATIE: A practical guide to HIV drug side effects for people living with HIV
PWN: HIV disclosure and the law

By Monique Desroches

The post My Body, My Choice appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Farewells http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/08/farewells/ http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/08/farewells/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 17:51:36 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17890 “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King Positive Women’s Network was established in 1991 by a group […]

The post Farewells appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
“Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Positive Women’s Network was established in 1991 by a group of women both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS with the assertion that women experience HIV differently than men and therefore require women-centered care. PWN was founded upon grassroots, collaborative, and feminist values; together, we have witnessed and contributed a lot in these last 25 years. I’ve been involved at PWN for 22 years in various roles – public speaker, conference delegate, peer advocate, board member, retreat coordinator, admin coordinator and currently as our MIWA Implementation Manager. In the last few months we have gone through big changes and we’ve had to say goodbye to some staff—Bronwyn, Janet, Melissa, and Erin. This is my fare-thee-well to those colleagues.

My introduction to PWN was in the spring of 1994 shortly after receiving an HIV+ diagnosis. I had fled to British Columbia from Ontario and was homeless and afraid. I cannot recall how I found out about PWN but I do recall with great clarity standing in a phone-both down a dusty country road out in Maple Ridge. It was mid-May and an absolutely beautiful spring day. The world was glistening in the morning dew and was filled with bird song, and I was desperately clinging to a very thin veneer of sanity. I picked up the receiver and dialed PWN’s toll-free number (1-866-692-3001). Bronwyn answered the phone, listened to my fears, answered my questions, and invited me to come visit. Thus began a treasured relationship which has grown deeper over the years.

Bronwyn Barrett was the first support worker hired by PWN and she has been a key player in the development of programs such as retreats, holiday grocery vouchers, drop-in lunches, and one-to-one support either on the phone or in-person, and more. Bronwyn is kind and patient with a seemingly endless store of compassion. I’ve sought out her support on more than one occasion because I trust her and I know she won’t pressure or judge. I am just one person who has benefited from Bronwyn’s support—there are hundreds more who will echo my sentiment.

Janet Madsen was one of the first employees at PWN. Her insightful mind and wicked writing skills have created the Pocket Guide for newly diagnosed women, the pregnancy resources, Pocket Guide on Aging, our extensive disclosure series, many newsletter articles, website pages, blogs and more. Janet has a sincere curiosity and an uncanny ability to see many sides of an issue. Her prolific contribution of resources will continue to inform and bring clarity to the realities of being a woman living with HIV.

Melissa Medjuck started her time at PWN as a practicum student and it’s been a pleasure getting to know her over the years. It was no surprise when she was hired onto staff where she has coordinated retreats, skills building weekends, advocacy, one-to-one support, and more. Melissa is fierce and always ready to navigate the confounding avenues of bureaucracy in order to find justice. There are many women who have drawn upon Melissa’s astute fortitude (myself included) to overcome a challenge. Melissa, her dog, Janet, myself, and my dogs spent many years working together and I’m going to miss my Friday crew.

Erin Seatter fit in seamlessly with the team. Her clear vision, ability to see the larger picture, and design skills have created conference posters, brochures, educational resources including our disclosure series, newsletters, and more. She is politically savvy, well-read, informed, and not afraid to speak her mind. Do not be mislead by her quiet demeanor unless you appreciate surprises. Erin’s zany sense of humour is an added bonus when things get tough.

Four women. One non-profit society. Hundreds of members. Thousands upon thousands of hours spent building Positive Women’s Network. Infinite relationships. You know what has come to an end and like me, I’m sure you’re deeply saddened. I am curious to see what the future holds for myself, my departed colleagues, my remaining and new colleagues, my HIV+ peers, and PWN. What indeed.

by Monique Desroches

The post Farewells appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/08/farewells/feed/ 4
She Who Cannot Be Named http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/07/she-who-cannot-be-named/ http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/07/she-who-cannot-be-named/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 17:42:26 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17870 In 2010 the World Health Organization designated World Hepatitis Day (WHD) one of only four official disease-specific world health days, to be celebrated each year on the 28th of July. This year, in conjunction with WHD, the World Hepatitis Alliance is launching ‘NoHep’, a global hepatitis elimination campaign. The WHD theme in Canada this year […]

The post She Who Cannot Be Named appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
In 2010 the World Health Organization designated World Hepatitis Day (WHD) one of only four official disease-specific world health days, to be celebrated each year on the 28th of July.

This year, in conjunction with WHD, the World Hepatitis Alliance is launching ‘NoHep’, a global hepatitis elimination campaign. The WHD theme in Canada this year is ‘Know Your Status’. Both of these themes are inextricably tied to how well we can respond to and eradicate the stigma and discrimination that walks closely and persistently with a diagnosis of hepatitis C.

Women living with hepatitis C in BC come from all social and economic backgrounds. Some women are at risk for passing the virus along. Many are not. Stigma, ironically, doesn’t discriminate. It impacts all women living with hepatitis C and can be experienced most intensely within the very system – the health care system – that women must access in order to look after their health. That was true for “she who cannot be named”, a young woman who died of treatable illnesses before the age of 25.

At Positive Women’s Network’s annual Springboard event on May 21 in Vancouver – an event that educates about the health, social, legal and community issues that impact women with HIV and/or hepatitis C and their families – we talked about women and hepatitis C. Education events such as Springboard are so important: they highlight ways of working and relating, based on principles of dignity and respect and inclusion that counter stigma and discrimination and shine a light on wiser practices. Those wiser practices (sometimes also called ‘best practices’) guide us in creating places not just of treatment and other medical supports but of healing and growth.

While we didn’t talk about “she who cannot be named” at Springboard, the presenters spoke to those practices and experiences, each from their own unique perspectives. We were welcomed to the territory and the day by Elder Roberta Price and her fierce, honouring words. Gina McGowan from the Ministry of Health spoke of the overarching issues within the system in BC and presented ideas to improve and build on strengths within the renewed Healthy Pathways Forward document. Dr. Alexandra King of the Lu’ma Medical Centre spoke with heartfelt clarity about the reality of self-determination and reconciliation in the context of HIV and hepatitis C, and Dr. Leora Pick provided a detailed snapshot of their exciting work integrating hepatitis C care into HIV care at the Oak Tree Clinic. Claudette, with Sally Lin of the CHIWOS research team, brought us face-to-face with lived reality. Erica Thomson and Deb Schmitz of Pacific Hepatitis C Network illustrated how stigma impacts women who live with or are at-risk for hepatitis C.

The population of people who use injection drugs have the highest annual incidence of hepatitis C in BC. Women who are involved in drug use, who are in active addiction, who are involved in sex trade may be seen as either a victim or as someone who volunteers their involvement. At some level, much of the general public buy into the notion that women who are addicted and street-involved are ultra-deviant when viewed against male counterparts in similar life circumstances. This is because they have ‘further to fall’ (from an idealised view of women as nurturers and upholders of family life). This view of women as ‘ultra-deviant’ serves to enforce beliefs and behaviour – for instance, refusal of services in health or social service settings – that keep women excluded, marginalized and extremely vulnerable.

How does hepatitis C stigma impact women? When a single woman is viewed as ultra-deviant and lacking any semblance of agency in her own life, we are all judged as such. It’s simply a matter of degree.

We judge others and when we find ourselves in similar circumstance, that judgment, this animal we have fed, turns toward us. The teacher who contracted hepatitis C via blood transfusion 30 years ago, who feels fine and has no clinical sign of liver disease, obsessively hunts avenues to access treatment to ‘just get rid of it’. She should be able to access treatment, of course. Recognizing (service delivery-wise) that the ‘it’ being treated includes internalized stigma is important because while on an individual basis accessing treatment likely means a cure and the ability to distance herself forever from ‘it’, ‘it’ still remains, prowling and hungry.

And so, the view of women as ‘ultra-deviant’ must lose its standing at our doors. Regardless of whom we serve, we must dedicate ourselves to the work of reframing our references and meeting women where they are at. This is a fundamental wise practice. This is the practice that could very well have made the difference – between living and death, between healing and hurt, between illness and treatment – for she who cannot be named. I promised her that I would never speak her name, and I keep that promise. But in the continued work to acknowledge, address and resist stigma towards women who are walking this hard path, I do speak about her and about how we simply failed her and about how we can honour her and those other women, many of whom we do name, by being better versions of ourselves and making our offerings better by extension.

By Guest Blogger Deb Schmitz

The post She Who Cannot Be Named appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/07/she-who-cannot-be-named/feed/ 1
Changes http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/07/changes/ Tue, 19 Jul 2016 22:49:11 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17746 Many if not all of you have heard from one source or another about changes at PWN. While this is a time of transition for the organization, PWN’s vision and goals have not changed.

The post Changes appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
Many if not all of you have heard from one source or another about changes at PWN. While this is a time of transition for the organization, PWN’s vision and goals have not changed. We are here to provide services that will improve the lives of women living with HIV, to address health inequities from a gendered lens, and to expand services for women living with hepatitis C or women who are facing increased vulnerabilities to HIV and HCV due to social determinants of health and systemic challenges.

We recognize that the HIV epidemic has changed, as well as the funding mechanisms available to us, and we must therefore adjust our service delivery to meet those changing realities. During the adjustment process difficult decisions were made and we are aware that those decisions were not just painful for us internally but also for long term members and stakeholders. We are working collaboratively with our core funders to ensure best outcomes, taking this time to address some identified gaps in PWN’s service delivery mechanisms.

We have many things to celebrate in this our 25th year:

  • Daily services for women living with HIV including food bank, Tuesday hot lunch program, retreats, one on one support and peer mentorship opportunities
  • Knowledge gatherings and trainings for community members, stakeholders, students, community service organizations on the health inequities and how to make a difference for women living with HIV and/or HCV, or women most vulnerable
  • Culturally led programming

We have a clear vision—a society where women living with HIV and hepatitis C can lead lives of health and dignity, free of stigma, discrimination, and violence. Following a path towards that vision, we continue our work of reducing the negative impact of HIV and HCV on the lives of women and their loved ones.

Donna Tennant,
Executive Director

Preferred Pronoun: they/them

The post Changes appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
If – On Managing HIV   http://pwn.bc.ca/2016/07/if-hiv/ Fri, 08 Jul 2016 08:16:15 +0000 http://pwn.bc.ca/?p=17369 HIV has been a part of public awareness for over 35 years, although the origin of the disease goes back farther and is still questioned by some. I’ve watched knowledge about HIV and AIDS rise and fall.

The post If – On Managing HIV   appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>
HIV has been a part of public awareness for over 35 years, although the origin of the disease goes back farther  and is still questioned by some.  I’ve watched knowledge about HIV and AIDS rise and fall. When I started at PWN in 1993, I’d say the general public knew more than they do now. They wanted to learn about testing and generally knew safer sex was important. Back then, AIDS was in the media more, and people knew if you tested positive for HIV, health outcomes didn’t look good, not as they do now.

The turning point for hope in treatment was 1996, when HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) actually made life possible. It was promoted as the gold standard of care and brought a quality of life to people who thought their best days were long gone. That was huge. Since then, treatment has become more simplified. There is Treatment as Prevention for those with HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for those without.  There are solid treatment options for those co-infected with hepatitis C.

Medical care for HIV has come such a long way. Today, newly diagnosed people can have families without death hanging over their heads. They can continue working, as treatments have more tolerable side effects overall.

If. If the conditions are right.

HIV is about more than the body.

HIV is still a big deal from what I’ve witnessed. I don’t live with it myself, but HIV-positive women have shared that there are many layers to living with this disease; something I’ve seen again and again. I’m grateful for the constant reminders women at PWN share.

There is stigma. This is a word you hear a lot related to HIV. If you get diagnosed with cancer, you can tell people, expect support and to go through treatment openly. If you get diagnosed with HIV, you worry about whether people might turn on you or say their kids can’t play with yours anymore. Women report they are shamed in health care or residential settings; Indigenous and trans women in particular.

There is discrimination. There are laws penalizing people with HIV in many countries, Canada included. Being HIV+ can make you a criminal for having safe sex where there is almost no risk of HIV transmission. Courts need to catch up to on science-based evidence (let’s hear it for a recent decision in Nova Scotia) and in the meantime, people with HIV are targeted, sometimes killed.

There are controlling partners that can verge into violence. HIV can trap a person in relationships where abusers insist no one else could love them- a load of baloney to those of us who have seen positive women find elated love after diagnosis, but a real fear to someone who only gets this manipulative messaging. HIV can be a trigger for violence, especially if there’s the suggestion of infidelity (actual or assumed).

Living well with HIV depends on a foundation that includes sufficient money, safe housing, nutritious food, gender-sensitive systems (especially for stigmatized populations such as trans women, Indigenous women, or those in sex work), non-discriminatory health care and support services, advocacy and health education as needed. It’s about having systems and services that work for women, not against them. These are essential truths in HIV care that don’t always get mentioned in these amazing days of treatment.

After 22 years, this is my last post as a staff member here. I’ve worked with a wide array of people who have given their all to improve dignity, care and support for people with HIV. I am grateful to the women who have honoured me with their life stories; thank you for working with me and trusting me to share them as you wanted. I will carry them carefully.

The post If – On Managing HIV   appeared first on Positive Women's Network.

]]>