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Taking AIDS education to the TTC tracks

The Asian Community AIDS Services wants to spread awareness during city commute

Staff and volunteers from the Asian Community AIDS Services will be on transit stops Dec 1, 2015, to help spread education and awareness about HIV and AIDS.  Credit: ACAS/Facebook

For the second year in a row, the Asian Community AIDS Services will be providing a quick educational lesson for transit riders in Toronto on World AIDS Day.

The Red Ribbon on the Rocket campaign will see ACAS staff and volunteers giving out information and red ribbons to transit riders at four downtown subway stations: Wellesley, Osgoode, St Andrew and St Patrick.

ACAS, which was formed on World AIDS Day 21 years ago, focuses its work on people living with HIV in the East and Southeast Asian communities in Toronto.

Christian Hui, community engagement coordinator for ACAS, hopes the campaign will provide more visibility for Asian people living with HIV.

“A lot of time you don’t actually hear about the issues that are impacting the Asian community, particularly Asians living with HIV or Asians who are from the LGBTQ community,” he says. “Sex is often not really talked about within our community. HIV still has a lot of stigma.”

While ACAS is mostly focused on helping people in Toronto, it does occasionally extend into the Greater Toronto Area — like its outreach program that targets Asian migrant workers on farms around Oshawa and Hamilton.

While the broader HIV/AIDS community is dealing with funding freezes and a sense of apathy among the broader public, Hui believes that there’s momentum within the Asian HIV-positive community.

“For us, the conversation has never been easy to begin with,” he says. “It’s always been challenging to do outreach to our community.”

Hui points to the recently created Ontario Positive Asians Network, an initiative supported by ACAS and the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, as a sign of progress. Almost 30 people attended the first caucus in June.

“It was a really great start to empower Asians living with HIV in Ontario,” he says. “It was a really crucial space for our community members to come together to discuss issues."

Hui hopes that events like Red Ribbon on the Rocket will bring more visibility to the needs of Asian people living with HIV.

“We want to encourage our community members so that our needs are acknowledged and people know that we exist,” he says.