Healing House HIV+ Spa: Smashing stigma with a personal touch

March 07, 2019

Casey House believes care includes amplifying their clients' voice to improve the conditions in which they live. As a provocative reminder that HIV cannot be transmitted through touch, Casey House opened Healing House HIV+ Spa for three days last fall.

The pop-up spa offered light-touch treatments provided by HIV positive individuals; eighteen volunteers gave free mini-facials and hand, head and neck treatments. Healing House was created to explore the power of compassion through touch and address HIV stigma. It was part of Casey House's #smashstigma campaign to bring attention to the myriad of misinformation about HIV and the impact it has on those who live with it, continuing a conversation started in 2017 with June's HIV+ Eatery.

Healing House was a huge success with visitors and garnered widespread media attention. The spa generated over 500 stories reaching over 350 million people, reigniting conversation around HIV/AIDS, stigma, the power of touch and compassion. Comments on social media ranged from doubt that there still is stigma, clear disdain for those living with HIV, to messages of support and encouragement. Negative comments created an opportunity to educate people about HIV/AIDS and break down misconceptions. 

Although the initiative was an awareness activity, as a hospital Casey House relies on generous donations to enhance services and support capital projects, so they also encouraged visitors to financially support Casey House's innovative HIV/AIDS care. Transit ads and billboards continued the conversation and encouraged the public to help #smashstigma by texting to give or donating online.   

This campaign has found success by framing issues in an engaging and thought-provoking way, which piques curiosity, captures attention and pulls the public into a dialogue while compelling them to think about stigma.

Casey House is an independent sub-acute hospital in Toronto devoted to caring for people with HIV/AIDS and their complex health needs.

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