The Ontario AIDS Network (OAN) is a network of community-based organizations which were formed as a grass-roots response to needs for AIDS services and information.
The OAN held its Annual General Meeting and its Member’s Meeting on Sept. 7-8. In addition to concerns about government funding and exchanging news about each agency, delegates also received updates on the OAN itself, which is recovering from a difficult year and is in the process of re-building.
A recurring theme at the meeting was quality of life for people living with HIV. While work in education and prevention have reduced new diagnoses of HIV, Ontario still saw 842 people diagnosed with HIV in 2015, and the province has approximately 30,000 residents living with HIV. Many rely on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and assistance from agencies such as Bruce House to maintain their health, homes, and meet essential needs.
From depression to social isolation, we know that mental health is a significant concern for many of our clients. We also know that many struggle to pay their bills and to afford sufficient, nutritious food. All this is exacerbated by living below the poverty line and being unable to afford dinner out with friends or other outings many of us take for granted. Bruce House programs such as the Community Kitchen and the Volunteer Buddy Program directly address issues of quality of life. We look forward to ongoing conversations about quality of life and how we can advocate as a sector to ensure all individuals impacted by HIV can lead a happy life with dignity.