When you think about HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome), do you believe it only impacts places overseas, like Africa,
or more metropolitan areas, such as London, Toronto, or Vancouver? If you do, you're
The reality is, HIV affects many communities, both urban and rural. HIV does live
in Elgin County. In fact, the prevalence in Southwestern Ontario is approximately
1,600 people, or 0.1% of the population. Statistics from 2008 show that approximately
40 people are living with HIV in Elgin County.
Because many rural communities have not experienced the same number of people living
with HIV/AIDS as have larger centres, little consideration has been given to establishing
local resources like social support for individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS,
or organized education programs specific to HIV/AIDS. HIV is becoming more prevalent
in rural communities but information about the virus is often outdated or unavailable.
As a result of this overall lack of knowledge about HIV, the stigma and discrimination
associated with it continues to grow.
The term AIDS-related stigma refers to the prejudice and discrimination directed
at people living with HIV/AIDS (PHA) because of the communities with which people
assume they may be associated. As a result, PHAs may experience rejection from the
larger community, be shunned, discriminated against in the work place, or even be
PHAs also struggle in smaller communities with a lack of privacy. Often people in
smaller, rural towns have personal connections to those who may be providing them
with health care services, social services or even services in pharmacies. This
has implications for an individual's confidentiality and anonymity. Seeking information
about a highly-stigmatized medical condition such as HIV and remaining anonymous
becomes difficult in a smaller community.
Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (formerly known as the AIDS Committee of London) began
expanding regionally in 2008 to help to address these issues. The agency serves
six counties in Southwestern Ontario - Elgin, Oxford, Perth, Huron, Lambton and
Middlesex. RHAC is working to bring greater understanding in rural and smaller communities
of the many issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. Knowledge is the key to helping PHAs live
healthier lives. By educating health care professionals, secondary service providers,
youth, and the general population about HIV, we can begin to address the lack of
services available to people living with HIV. The lack includes services such as
limited access to local health care professionals with up-to-date HIV information,
transportation to and from medical appointments, and practical, financial, social
and emotional support from service providers and peers.
It is the mandate of RHAC that everyone, regardless of geographic location and financial
ability, have access to HIV/AIDS care and support. Social, financial, practical
and emotional supports are available to people living in Elgin County who are living
with, affected by, or at-risk for HIV/AIDS. Education and prevention services, and
fundraising and volunteer opportunities are also available to the community at-large
and social service and health providers.
If you have questions about HIV/AIDS, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection or would like
more information about the work RHAC does, please visit our website, www.hivaidsconnection.ca or call