Volume 43 Issue No. 27 March 28, 2011 www.fsu.ca/interrobang/
HIV is not something you want tothink about when you’re gettingready for some fun with a partner, but it’s something women need to beaware of, as they’re becomingincreasingly at risk for contracting it.A new local campaign, called AWoman Like Me, aims to openwomen’s eyes about their risks of contracting HIV. It began onMarch 8, to coincide withInternational Women’s Day. It is being put together in partnership by the Regional HIV/AIDSConnection and the Options Clinicservice of the LondonInterCommunity Health Centre.“There’s a notable increase inwomen contracting HIV. This has been going on since 2000,”explained Bonnie Baynham,women's HIV/AIDS communitydevelopment coordinator for theRegional HIV/AIDS Connectionand organizer of the campaign.“There are some theories aroundwhy women are more susceptibleto contracting HIV, one being our bodies,” said Baynham. “There’smore area in our vaginas, for exam- ple, for the virus to get in. If thereare any cuts or scrapes, or maybean existing STI. Women actuallycontract it easier than men do.”Internationally, women betweenthe ages of 15 and 24 are 1.6 timesmore likely to be infected withHIV/AIDS than their male peers.Despite the fact that morewomen are contracting the virus,they are still not being tested.“In 2010, the Options clinic test-ed 871 people (for HIV),”explained Lyn Pierre Pitman, coor-dinator of the clinic. “Of those 871 people, only 23 per cent werewomen.”“Younger folks under the age of 19 aren’t really being tested,” shecontinued. The majority of peoplewho were tested last year wereaged 20 to 29, representing 38 per cent of those tested. The under-19age group only represented four per cent.“About 30 per cent of peoplewho have HIV don’t even knowthey do … because they’re not being tested,” said Baynham.A Woman Like Me aims toempower women of all ages withknowledge and increase their awareness about the importance of being tested.“It is really built on women tak-ing charge of their sexual healthand taking care of their health ingeneral,” explained Baynham.“We need to empower eachother,” added Pierre Pitman. “If theguy doesn’t want to wear a con-dom, women need to be able tospeak up and say, ‘This is my body. You may not want to, butyou need to, because I need to keepmyself safe.’”Part of the campaign includeseducating women about testing andwhat the process involves.The Options clinic is the onlyone in London that offers a rapidtest. It is free and completelyanonymous – no identifying infor-mation is required. “Anonymoustesting means that nothing isreported about the client. Even if the client were to test positive, thatinformation would stay with us,”added Pierre Pitman.An appointment to be tested atthe clinic involves counseling before and after the test. Pre-testcounseling involves a risk assess-ment, where the counselor willhelp you explore your lifestyle tosee how at-risk you are for HIV.This can include talking about sex-ual history, needle use and acci-dental workplace exposure, and thecounselor will address the ways of doing things safely and outline the basics of how HIV is transmitted.“We’ll talk about condoms or theneedle exchange program, safe tat-tooing and piercing, things likethat,” Pierre Pitman said. Thecounselor will also discuss stepsthat will be taken in the event thatthe test shows positive for HIV.The test itself doesn’t take long.Baynham said it was comparableto a diabetic blood sugar test – asimple finger prick to draw some blood. The blood is then examinedfor the presence of antibodies cre-ated by the body when it is infect-ed with HIV. The test can tell if theantibodies are there, but not theconcentration, meaning that thistest cannot determine how long a person has had the virus.“Fortunately, most people dotest negative,” said Pierre Pitman.“The odds are 99 to one that some-one will test HIV negative.”In the event a person tests posi-tive for HIV, Bayham said the clin-ic will perform a second blood testto make 100 per cent sure.The next step, according toPierre Pitman, is to give the persona copy of their test results to take totheir family doctor, who will refer them to the infectious disease pro-gram at St. Joseph’s hospital. Theywill then perform a viral load test,to determine how far the virus has progressed, and decide on medica-tion and treatment from there.The campaign aims to informwomen about the resources in thecommunity that are available tothem to learn more aboutHIV/AIDS or for support shouldthey test positive.“It’s not about the scare tactics, but more about information. I think with the information, people can be better informed about what their risks are,” Baynham said. “Thiscampaign, A Woman Like Me, isreally about that – ensuring infor-mation gets out, and that womenfeel empowered with that informa-tion to take the precautions theyneed to stay safe.”For more information about theRegional HIV/AIDS Connection,visit aidslondon.com. For informa-tion about the Options Clinic andthe London InterCommunityHealth Centre, visit lihc.on.ca.
A woman like you
CREDIT: REGIONAL HIV/AIDS CONNECTION
The A Woman Like Me campaign aims to inform local women about pro-tecting themselves against HIV.
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Despite all the excitement sur-rounding the new downtown artscampus slated to open next year,some staff members are regardingit with caution.Darryl Bedford, president of OPSEU Local 110, the facultyunion, said he is concerned withthe creation of full-time positionswithin the college. “The business plan had indicated 75 positions(would be available downtown). Itsaid full-time staff, so it wasn’tclear whether that was all faculty,or whether it was faculty, supportstaff and administration.”“Some of the programs that theyidentified (that will reside in thedowntown campus) already exist,”he continued. “We were wonder-ing if there were faculty beingtransferred from other campuses,whether it be Citi Plaza or fromLondon campus. A problem we’vehad in the past is that there will bea promise of job creation – and Idon’t necessarily blame the collegefor this; the politicians will prom-ise that jobs will be created – and itdoesn’t happen.”Dr. Howard Rundle, president of Fanshawe College, said this wasnot a solid number but an estima-tion.“All we do is estimate the num- ber of students (at the new cam- pus), then use a formula, which is just based on the past. That’swhere the 75 comes from. It’s notnecessarily 75 full-time staff.”As part of a move to raise aware-ness about the union’s stance onthis issue, Bedford and other unionmembers sent letters to local politi-cians and Fanshawe College offi-cials, urging them to find or pro-vide the funding to hire 75 full-time staff members.According to Bedford, the only politician who responded wasLondon West MPP Chris Bentley,who agreed with the union thatfunding was needed to create full-time positions.“We just want to make sure thatthat money is there; that this juststrictly isn’t a renovation for anumber of downtown buildings, but without the support needed tomake it successful,” said Bedford.“In order for Fanshawe Collegeto grow … we need capital fund-ing, and we need operating fund-ing,” explained Rundle. “Thosetwo never come together – they’realways separate. Operating comeswhen the government creates itsown budget for the year, and thatgives us our operating funding.That’s what we use to hire staff,and we need that in order to growsignificantly.”“Fanshawe’s situation right nowis that, even if there were moreoperating money, right now, today,we couldn’t grow our enrolment byany significant amount because wedon’t have space,” he continued.“We have a need for space, andtherefore, capital funding.”“You can’t just create a buildingovernight. You can hire staff prettyquickly, but you can’t create facil-ities quickly.”The city of London is consider-ing providing the college with upto $20 million in capital funding torenovate heritage buildings down-town. The union is looking to the province to fund the operating budget.Bedford said that in a meetingwith representatives from the cityof London and Fanshawe Collegeon March 14, the union’s concernswere echoed. He said that the rep-resentatives had indicated that theyhad wanted to see jobs created, not just moved from one campus toanother. “The city did share thatconcern in that they wanted to seethe jobs created (within the col-lege).”According to JanetteMacDonald, manager of theDowntown London organization,the downtown arts campus has the potential to rejuvenate the core of the city and create lots of jobopportunities in the downtown dis-trict.“It is absolutely going toincrease jobs in the college, and Ithink the union reps have everyright to take care of that, but wehave to look at the entire city,” shesaid. “We feel that, not only will itcreate new jobs within the college,it will definitely create other jobsas well.”“We already have people (com-ing to us) to say, ‘With Fanshawecoming, I have this great businessidea,’” she said, adding that manyof the businesses are art-themed,including art supply and fabricstores. “People are already specu-lating on how good it will be.”
The downtown campusand job creation