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Casey House aims to crush stigma associated with HIV with a pop-up spa



Sheryl Ubelacker, Canadian Press

Published Friday 30 November 2018 12:17 EST

TORONTO – Randy Davis remembers attending a social function shortly after he was diagnosed with HIV and watched the hostess greet the succession of the guests and each of them took a warm hug. But when his turn came, a woman's hand came out and she suggested not to get too close because she was cold.

"Their excuse that I did not bother to protect me from cold," said Davis, who was open to HIV status. "But they keep hugging the rest of the people all night."

It was a lesson, as if Davis needed one, to continue stigmatizing people with HIV-AIDS, based on the fears of many people that they are somehow at risk of infection through a simple act of touching.

And it is the belief that Casey House, the independent hospital of Toronto HIV-AIDS, hopes to help disperse with the pop-ups that offer free massages to the general public provided by HIV-positive volunteers who have undergone healing training.

A healing house that runs on Friday and Saturday (World AIDS Day) in a separate location in downtown Toronto focuses on engaging the public in talks about a myth that shakes someone's hand, touches a bare hand, or swaps an embrace. catching the virus.

Along with that, the baths remind us of the need and the strength of touch.

"It really creates relationships between man and the other and ensures that we do not feel alone," says Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House, which was founded in 1988 to look after those with a disorder.

"It's the warmth of one's skin on the skin that makes us feel comfortable and comfortable, safe and secure and loves," she said. "You would not have imagined it to be a very lonely world."

By contrast, people with HIV are often rejected by this experience – a fact confirmed in a Leyger Casey House survey that found that while 91% of Canadians believe the human nature would want to experience a touch, only 38% of respondents said they would be willing to share contact skin with anyone diagnosed with this virus.

While Americans are a bit willing to touch someone with HIV-AIDS (41 percent), more than a quarter of respondents surveyed in a separate US survey believed they could infect HIV through skin-skin interaction, compared to one-fifth of Canadians.

"It's really hard for the human spirit – and we know the touch is so important," said Simons. "So it really was a public debate about HIV to try to challenge the thinking and behavior of people."

For this purpose, Casey House recruited Melissa Doldron, a registered massage therapist for the Toronto Blue Jays, to teach 15 HIV-positive volunteers the basics of therapy.

Doldron said the public could decide for a 10-minute hand and forearm massage, or sign up for arm massage, which involves handling stress relievers on the back, neck, shoulders, and scalp.

Massage has a number of benefits throughout the body, stimulates vascular, lymphatic and neurological systems, as well as relieving stress and promoting relaxation.

"So the massage helps both physiologically and psychologically, and for everyone who deals with diseases, the benefits are twofold."

Davis, who works as a male sexual health coordinator at the Gilbert Center in Barrie, Ont., Where she lives with her husband, believes that touch is essential for everyone, HIV-positive or not.

"I remember when I was diagnosed for the first time, the first thing that came to my head – and I was one person at the time – was that I would be alone for the rest of my life and nobody would ever love me, let alone touch or hug me" said Davis, who volunteered as one of the healers in the Casey House event.

"When I revealed my status, many people who are close to me were warm and caring, but doctors and people who do not know me well have obvious signs of discomfort and apologize for not touching me."

Almost 40 years after the onset of a fatal AIDS epidemic, fears that someone can get into the infection by accidental touch is still there. Yet for many people, current antiviral medicines can reduce HIV in the body to an undetectable level, which is unlikely to transmit the virus to another person, even through gender.

Davis, who started taking antiviral drugs soon after being diagnosed early 2015, considers HIV to be a chronic disease that is easily manageable for him. "I'll take the pill a day, and that's all."

His hopes for a pop-up spa are that people come not only to a massage but also to get acquainted with people living with HIV – "to feel good and realize that you know what, we're not at risk anybody."

"It's a big thing for me, it's not the virus we have to fight, it's the stigma we have to fight."

Surveys 1 581 Canadians and 1501 Americans were recently made using the LegerWeb LegerWeb online panel. Probable samples of the same size would provide an error margin of about plus-minus 2.5%, 19x of 20.


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