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Casey House aims to destroy stigma associated with HIV with pop-up baths



Cheryl Uebalaker, Canadian press

Posted on Friday, November 30, 2018 12:17 PM EST

TORONTO – Randy Davis recalls the presence of a social function not long after his HIV diagnosis and seeing the hostess welcomes the guests' succession, giving them warm hugs. But when his turn came, the woman's hand climbed up and proposed not to get too close because she had a cold.

"Their excuse for not hugging me was to protect me from being cold," said Davis, who was inaugurated for his HIV status. "However, at night, they are still hugging other people."

It was a lesson, as if he needed Davis on the constant stigmatization of those with HIV-AIDS, based on the fears of many people that in some way they were at risk of infection through the simple act of touching.

And it is the belief that Casey House, an independent HIV-AIDS hospital in Toronto, hopes to help with the emerging bathroom that offers free massages for the general public provided by HIV-positive volunteers trained for treatment.

The Health House, which operates on Friday and Saturday (World AIDS Day) at a special location in downtown Toronto, aims to engage members of the public in discussions about the myth that shaking one's hand, touching their bare hand or exchanging a hug , are potential means of catching the virus.

Along with that, the bathroom is a reminder of the need and the power of touch.

"It really creates ties between one person and another, and this ensures that we do not feel alone," said Joan Simmons, CEO of Casey House, which was founded in 1988 to take care of those with the disease.

"It is the heat of the unclean skin of your skin that makes us feel comfortable and comfortably and safely, surely and lovingly," she said. "Without it, it is a very lonely world, I would imagine."

However, people with HIV are often denied this experience – a fact that was found in Leigh's study of the Casey House case, which showed that while 91 percent of Canadians consider it human nature to want to touch, only 38 percent of the respondents would be willing to share the skin skin contact with someone diagnosed with the virus.

While Americans are a bit more willing to touch someone with HIV-AIDS (41 percent), more than a quarter of those polled in a separate US poll believe they could agree on HIV through skin and skin interactions, compared with a fifth from Canadians.

"It's really hard for the human spirit – and we know that the touch is so important," Simmons said. "So it was really an incentive to hold a public talk about HIV to try to challenge people's thinking and behavior."

To this end, Casey House recruits Melissa Toddle, a registered massage therapist for Toronto Blue Jersey, to teach the 15 HIV-positive volunteers the basics of therapy.

Doldron said that members of the public can opt for a 10-minute hand and a forearm massage or sign up for a massage chair, which includes tension releasing the back, neck, shoulders and scalp.

The massage has numerous benefits throughout the body, stimulating vascular, lymphatic and neurological systems, as well as providing relief from stress and promoting relaxation, she said.

"So, massage helps both physiologically and psychologically. For those who deal with disease, the benefits are double."

Davis, who works as a sexual health coordinator for men at the Gilbert Center in Barry, Ont, where she lives with her husband, believes that touch is essential to all, HIV-positive or not.

"I remember when I was diagnosed for the first time, the first thing that happened to me in my head – and I was the only one at the time – was that I would be alone by the end of my life and no one would love me again, let alone touch me or to embrace me, "said Davis, who volunteered for one of the healers at the Casey House event.

"When I discovered my status, many people close to me were cozy and caring, but acquaintances, medical professionals and people who did not know me well showed obvious signs of discomfort and did not endure to touch me."

Almost 40 years after the onset of the once deadly AIDS epidemic, the fear that someone can be infected through a simple touch is still retained. However, for many people, today's antiviral drugs can reduce HIV in the body to invisible levels, making it unlikely that they can transmit the virus to another person, even through sex.

Davis, who started taking antiviruses soon after being diagnosed at the beginning of 2015, believes that HIV is a chronic disease that is easily managed for him. "I took a pill one day and that's it."

His hope for a pop-up bath is that people will come not only for massage but also learn about people living with HIV – "so they can feel comfortable and realize that, you know, we are not a risk to anyone ".

"It's a big deal for me, it's not a virus we need to fight, it's a stigma for which we have to fight."

Research on 1,581 Canadians and 1,501 Americans were recently conducted through the online panel Leger, LegerWeb. Samples of probability of the same size will give a margin of error of approximately plus or minus 2.5 percent, 19 times of 20.


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