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Tracey Bell and Conni Smudge lead annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser

In its 15th year, the Heart of Richmond AIDS society continues raising money and awareness

The Heart and Soul dinner and dance fundraiser was started in 2002. Credit: Heart of Richmond AIDS Society

On Oct 22, 2016, the Heart of Richmond AIDS Society (HORAS) will host its 15th annual Heart and Soul dinner and dance fundraiser, with entertainment from Tracey Bell and a DJ set from Hot Wax.

The fundraiser features silent and live auctions, a WestJet raffle, music and MCs Fred Lee and Conni Smudge, making Heart and Soul a great evening out that raises awareness (and much needed cash) for people living with HIV/AIDS.

To find out more about the work HORAS does year-round, Daily Xtra spoke to Carl Bailey, the president of HORAS, via email.

“We were organized by a group of concerned people to help those with HIV/AIDS to receive support without having to go [downtown],” he says. “We started with a weekly support group which has continued to this day [and HORAS] has grown to help with housing and food/nutrition.”

HORAS was also instrumental in establishing the Gilwest Clinic in 1999, in partnership with Richmond Health Services. Prior to the clinic’s opening, people affected by HIV/AIDS in Richmond had to travel to downtown Vancouver to access medical and support services.

The Gilwest Clinic offers support from addiction counsellors, a social worker and a dietitian. HORAS maintain a close relationship with the clinic through an outreach worker who Bailey tells us works, “one-on-one with our clients and families.”

HORAS also offers support in other ways, including through grocery vouchers provided to clients with low incomes, as well as a supplementary health fund that helps clients access funds for things such as dental work and prescription eyewear.

Bailey also notes that this individualized support, including advocacy and a weekly support group, is not just available for people living with HIV/AIDS — it’s for their family, friends and caregivers as well. “This disease doesn’t affect only those infected but all those associated [around] them,” he says.

Bailey foresees some challenges in the upcoming years for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Affordable housing is and always will be an issue,” he says, adding that the advancement of antiretroviral medications could also pose new issues for people.

The cost of medications and the impact of chronic health issues on a person’s employment and housing status conspire to leave people with HIV increasingly vulnerable. “Having clients live longer on the meds and [therefore having to] deal with specific facts of aging may be issues in the years to come.”