AVI and VPWAS: HIV-positive people tell the community “We Are Here” through storytelling


Victoria: As a part of Global AIDS Awareness Week and national Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) and the Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV/AIDS Society (VPWAS) are again teaming up with the Greater Victoria Public Library and The Belfry Theatre to bring innovative awareness-raising project to communities in the lower island region in an effort to help dispel the myths and misconceptions about living with HIV.

Now in its third year, the “We Are Here” anti-HIV stigma project involves local people living with HIV sharing their personal stories with their fellow Victorians, reminding us all that HIV doesn’t just happen elsewhere – it happens right here, too. Craig Dales, Executive Director of VPWAS says “This is an important way to decrease the stigma of living with HIV and educate the community about the realities of living with HIV. Everyone’s story is important.”

Heidi Exner, Manager of Health Promotion and Community Development with AVI, agrees. “It’s vital that the community understand that people living with HIV are people first – with hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. And there’s nothing quite like hearing someone’s story first-hand to remind us that HIV stigma doesn’t have to divide us. We can stand together, and choose connection and community over ignorance and fear.”

This year’s “We Are Here” project kicks off with the start of the annual “Storyboards” art installation, where a collection of diverse images and real-life stories and experiences of local HIV+ folks will be on display in Greater Victoria Public Library branches over AIDS Awareness Week and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week (Nov. 22nd-Dec. 6th). As well, this year’s “We Are Here: An Evening of Storytelling” theatre production, generously sponsored by The Belfry Theatre and the Greater Victoria Public Library, will feature both senior and new authors from the “Storyboards” series, sharing glimpses into their lives with insight, passion, strength and humor.


We Are Here” storyboard art installation: On display at 5 branches of the Greater Victoria Public Library from Nov. 22 to Dec. 6st. Check www.gvpl.ca for more info.


We Are Here: An Evening of Storytelling”: Monday, November 24, The Belfry Theatre, 7-8:30pm. Admission by donation. Seating first-come, first-serve. Check www.avi.org, www.vpwas.ca, or check us out on facebook for more info.