Our Charitable Choices feature this week is on Casey House, an HIV specialty hospital in Toronto founded on compassion. Their new campaign encourages people worldwide to consider the role popular culture has played, and could play, in reducing stigma and growing empathy for those living with HIV/AIDS, through never-before-seen episodes of Friends and The Office. We spoke to the CEO of Casey House, Joanne Simons to learn more!
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Casey House, located in Toronto, is Canada’s first and only stand-alone hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS. Through our innovative and comprehensive approach, we remain one of the few places where people with HIV/AIDS can seek care without judgment.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Ultimately, we hope to educate and normalize HIV, so people can see it for what it is now and how far we have come. It is no longer a death sentence like it once was. How we treat HIV has come a long way. How we treat people with HIV hasn’t.
When did you start/join it?
I joined Casey House as the Chief Executive Officer in June of 2016.
What made you want to get involved?
Many years ago, I received a call from a close friend who just found out he was HIV positive. I’ll never forget the fear in his voice and the uncertainty he had about the future. I’ll never forget the shame he felt and the stigma he feared. I wanted to get involved with Casey House to help ensure that others living with the disease don’t feel the same way he did.
I’m proud of the work we do, the innovation we push, and the advocacy we fight for. I’m proud that we’re a place that leaves stigma and shame at the door while providing an enhanced model of care for our clients.
How has it changed since?
Treatments for HIV/AIDS have come a long way and the disease is no longer a death sentence like it once was. Medical advances such as Like U=U makes the disease undetectable and untransmittable and advanced protective measures like Prep make the disease manageable. However, the way people actually treat people with HIV/AIDS hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years. It is important that we educate, inform and create more understanding of HIV/AIDS today so that people stop living in fear and create a culture of empathy, compassion and understanding for those living with this disease.
What more needs to be done?
When it comes to a stigma that has been perpetuated for decades, changing attitudes and perceptions takes time but the time is now. The Stigma around HIV/AIDS is becoming more deadly than the disease. Our goal is to continue to educate and dispel misconceptions about the disease to create a more informed, more compassionate society.
How can our readers help?
I encourage everyone to visit smashstigma.ca to watch never before seen episodes of Friends and the Office in addition to the real-life Untold Stories of Stigma.
We want to harness the power of pop culture to help people empathize with those living with HIV/AIDS. We would also appreciate your help by creating awareness by sharing the link on your social channels using #smashstigma
Do you have any events coming up?
Yes, we have a fundraising event happening on March 4, 5 and 6. We are bringing back June’s HIV+ Eatery.
Where can we follow you?