Retreats are a way for women from BC to come together safely, away from home, away from worries of disclosure and all that it entails. Retreats are a way for women with HIV to connect with other women with HIV. Because HIV is still something people hide because of stigma, women talk about how retreats offer them the chance to be fully themselves. A retreat is an opportunity to be HIV+ among other women with the same issues, and so they won’t stand out.
A weekend retreat offers two full days of connection with other women. Women who have commitments during the week- work, school, family- may not be able to get to weekly events, but they may be able to go away for an occasional weekend like a retreat.
Women do sometimes feel nervous about going on their first retreat. They may wonder, “What am I getting myself into?” especially if they have kept their HIV status fairly private. Imagine if only your doctor knows you are HIV+ and you are about to tell 25 women who are complete strangers!
What happens is that women take care of each other. Usually the “frequent flyers” who have been on several retreats will watch out for the first timers. People are very respectful of what happens at retreats, and everyone remembers how important that first weekend can be.
Over and over, we hear that women love retreats. They are very highly valued on evaluations, and our programs overall. It’s a break from family responsibilities and caring for partners and children. It’s a chance for a woman to focus on learning about HIV, relax, have a massage, learn about all kinds of therapies (traditional and alternative) women use. They are a magical space where connection happens.