Franco from Ottawa

Andrew, infected at age 18, from Ottawa

Leahann, from Vancouver

Chantal, infected at age 19, from Montreal

Tabby, 27 infected when she was 20 years old, from Toronto
Anonymous, infected when he was 18, from Montreal

Hilary, infected when she was 17, from Toronto

Send your story to tsmith@catie.ca

Franco from Ottawa

I'm not infected with HIV, but my aunt was and she passed away three years ago. She moved to Montreal in the very early 80s. We are from Iqaluit, Nunavut. I actually didn't know that she was infected until about seven years ago. The plus side of keeping it a secret from me was that it showed me you can't just tell who has the virus just by looking at someone. I guess my mom didn't tell me because I was very young.

Originally I thought it was only a couple of years that she'd been infected, but I just found a couple of months ago when I was talking to my sister about her it was actually 10 years that she lived with the HIV virus. My mother and my aunt were really close. It was very hard on my mother to keep it under wraps. I don't think the rest of the family knew until it was a few years afterward too.

Outside my immediate family, no one got to see her, just communication over the phone, that was about it. Because of the high cost to travel in or out of the communities none of my aunts and uncles got to see her before she passed away. We were fortunate to take our annual vacation, and we would come and visit her every summer. I always wondered why we didn't go to Disney Land, or Disney World, but now I know it was because the time with my aunt was limited.

My mother told us my aunt had HIV when my aunt started to get sick often. She was losing a lot of weight, you could see she was getting weaker every summer. I knew something was wrong. I knew she was ill, so when I was finally told it wasn't such a big shock, plus by then HIV and AIDS was not as new and was well known of around the world.

It was a bit of a shock, but probably not as big if I found out when she was first tested positive for it. For those years I didn't know, she looked completely fine, completely normal. I was 12 when I found out and at that time I've never seen anybody in my family really ill. How she got it was of no importance to me. I've never really asked and they haven't told me. She wasn't an IV drug user but I'm not saying she hasn't tried it, I really don't know. I always tried to think better of her, which was never hard. How she contracted it; I didn't think that was really my business. If she wanted to tell me she would, I respect that.

We have a very accepting family. No one disowned her, no one stopped talking to her. You hear a lot of bad stories about how people are chased out of their towns and how other families just pretend they're not there anymore. I've heard a lot of sad stories, but I am grateful that none of that happened to my family.

My community is the biggest community in Nunavut. We had the first AIDS walk in Canada's Arctic. There is a lot of risk behaviors going on in my community. Teen pregnancy and STDs have reached an alarming rate. I don't think the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS can have on my community is taken serious enough.

I work at Pauktuutit Inuit Women's Association of Canada. I work with Todd Armstrong, who is the Senior Advisor on HIV/AIDS Programs. I started off as a summer student last summer, I was supposed to be just a general office assistant, now I'm working a lot with Todd. I'd like to continue to work with him on the issue of HIV/AIDS and Inuit.

 
 
 
 
Hospital for Sick Children University of Toronto Positive Youth Outreach CATIE