Dec. 1, 2018 – A red ribbon memorial candle display is placed at the legislature on Dec. 1 marking the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day and the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Dec. 1, 2018 – A red ribbon memorial candle display is placed at the legislature on Dec. 1 marking the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day and the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Victoria resident reflects on being diagnosed with HIV and cancer

World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 aims to break the stigma surrounding the disease

A Victoria resident found out they were both HIV positive and had cancer on the same day.

In 2015 Daniel Sands was homeless and often sleeping in Beacon Hill Park. Sands – who is two-spirited and prefers a they/them pronoun – said that for a long time they just felt like they had a flu that just wouldn’t go away, so when they got tested by a street nurse they were shocked to hear the results.

“I was devastated, it felt like a death sentence at the time,” they said for a project made with the federal government called Healthy Canadians.

What Sands didn’t know, however, was that just four years later they’d be in remission for cancer, and that their HIV would be untraceable thanks to modern medication.

ALSO READ: AVI’s new identity reflects AIDS as a chronic, manageable condition

“U=U, it’s kind of changed everything,” they said. “As long as I take my medication I’m going to live a long life, a long healthy life.”

The U=U campaign is put forward by the province and the Prevention Access Campaign; U=U stands for undetectable equals untrasmittable. Immediate treatment of HIV/AIDS means that a patient can live a normal life and can’t transmit the disease to someone else.

“Kind of destigmatizing myself and learning the actual medical facts about it really changed everything,” Sands said. “I have a chronic manageable illness just like someone with diabetes—take your medication every day and you’re good.”

Changing the stigma is something that World Aids Day on Dec. 1 aims to achieve.

“Stigma is still a huge issue for people living with HIV,” said Katrina Jensen, executive director of AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI), where Sands now works. “The more we can get education and awareness out, the more we can confront and end stigma in our community.”

This year in Victoria more stories from people like Sands are being shared across the city in the form of “We Are Here” Story Boards seen in Greater Victoria Public Libraries.

Additionally, on Dec. 1 there will be a candlelit ceremony at the steps of the BC Legislature to commemorate people who have died from the disease.

ALSO READ: Island women cycling 275 km to fight AIDS in Africa

Any donations put forward to AVI on World AIDS Day will go towards the organization’s Hot Lunch Program, which offers nutritious meals five days per week.

“People living with HIV are often living with compromised immune systems and they need high quality foods,” Jensen said. “But because many people are living in poverty, the rising costs of food make it really difficult for people living with HIV to access.”

In 2018 more than 8,000 meals were served through the program.

For more information on the event or the organization visit avi.org

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Victoria resident Daniel Sands was diagnosed with HIV in 2015. Thanks to modern medication, the disease is now untraceable in their blood. (Screenshot/ Healthy Canadians).

Victoria resident Daniel Sands was diagnosed with HIV in 2015. Thanks to modern medication, the disease is now untraceable in their blood. (Screenshot/ Healthy Canadians).

Just Posted

A new daycare at Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre is slated to open in September. (Rendering courtesy of West Shore Parks and Recreation)
Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre brings daycare centre to Colwood

New centre to offer 80 spaces come September

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia’s Float the Boat fundraiser campaign is underway. The goal is to raise $25,000 in donations to help with the cost of running virtual programs and onsite operations. (Courtesy Maritime Museum of B.C.)
Maritime Museum of B.C. looks to Float the Boat in Victoria

Fundraiser proceeds will support multitude of virtual programs and onsite operations

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read