"Sometimes the tools you get growing up aren't the tools you need to succeed in life," says Andy, who is among a surge of intravenous drug users living with HIV in London.
While the rest of the province has seen a decline in HIV rates, alarm bells have been ringing in London, Ontario as the prevalence of HIV among intravenous drug users has surged. In the past 10 years, a staggering increase has been seen in HIV, and hepatitis C rates have remained high.
The Infectious Diseases Care Program of St. Joseph's Health Care London currently provides care to more than 600 individuals with HIV, either through partnership outreach initiatives or at St. Joseph's Hospital. Of those, nearly 200 are injection drug users, many of whom struggle day-to-day to look after themselves, with double the stigma of addiction and HIV, and with a profound sense that they don't matter.
St. Joseph's recently put a face to this issue. For World AIDS Day on December 1, the organization shared the story of a patient who was willing to talk about his struggle with both an addiction and HIV. Those on the frontlines see the challenges up close every day, but for most Londoners, these individuals remain faceless. Andy, 60, agreed to tell Londoners his story, which posted on World AIDS Day on St. Joseph's website.