Chris Klinge was waiting with soup and a smile for anyone wanting to learn more about the virus that nearly 10,000 British Columbians live with every day.
No, not that one.
Klinge is the co-ordinator for West Kootenay chapter of Health Initiative for Men, which provides education about HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI). On Wednesday, he was outside ANKORS in Nelson to mark World AIDS Day and Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week.
He said there are still common misconceptions about HIV and AIDS, which the World Health Organization says an estimated 37.7 million people were living with at the end of 2020.
“I think a lot of people have this stigma that it’s a disease that’s quote-unquote dirty, and it’s not a death sentence anymore,” said Klinge. “A lot of people still believe that.”
At ANKORS, Klinge handed out soup to visitors and offered information about local services such as STI clinics and at-home outreach with a nurse.
“We basically go and meet people where they are at,” he said. “Sometimes people can’t make it into town because we service such a wide area. So we make the effort to find them where they’re at to provide services or medications.”
The United Nations has set a goal of ending the AIDS pandemic by 2030, and in B.C. there’s reason to be optimistic about that.
The provincial government offers fully subsidized anti-retroviral therapy for people living with HIV.
To reduce the risk of HIV infection, more than 8,000 people have enrolled in a program to receive free pre-exposure prophylaxis since 2018, the B.C. Ministry of Health said in a statement Wednesday.
The drug is easily available in urban centres, and work is underway to make it accessible in rural areas via a phone line.
To learn more about ANKORS services, visit ankors.bc.ca or their office at 101 Baker St.