A visit to Cranbrook from a special guest will show how far attitudes have progressed towards those afflicted with HIV, struggling with addiction and other suchlike issues.
The Ktunaxa First Nation, the East Kootenay Addiction Services Society (EKASS) and the Aids Network Kootenay Outreach and Services Society (ANKORS) have partnered to bring Ken Ward — a renowned HIV prevention advocate — to town, to talk about overcoming illness, recovery and living a flourishing life.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive.
Ward has been living with needle-use related HIV for 25 years.
“Through his own journey through recovery, he’s coming to share his experiences with us,” said Gary Dalton, co-ordinator with ANKORS.
Dalton said that in 1998, Ward was involved in a film for the National Film Board of Canada, called “The Long Walk,” in which the camera follows Ward as he works to bring hope and tolerance to others as an HIV prevention advocate.
“We brought this video to our office (in Cranbrook),” Dalton said. “And a lot of people have been asking how Ken’s been doing since.”
Ward will be visiting Cranbrook on Saturday, March 15. During his visit, “The Long Walk” will be screened, and Ward will talk about the issues surrounding recovery.
“Challenging barriers is having faith and the will of self/community to collectively work together by removing stigma, labelling and denial to create understanding and harmony,” Ward has written. “Acceptance is the key to open doorways of progress.”
Ward’s visit to Cranbrook is part of the ongoing process, Dalton said. It raises awareness that such issues exist in our community, and to help show the positive process that is unfolding.
“In the past, attitudes towards HIV have not been positive,” Dalton said, “resulting in some people leaving the community or giving up their kids. But the trend is more positive.”
The work that ANKORS, EKASS and the Ktunaxa’s Operation Street Angels does goes a long way to working towards positive change, Dalton said, “making the invisible visible.”
Ward writes: “If one can identify what contributes to addictions, or where it stems from, then it’s possible to challenge the barriers. However, without key close support from family or community, the challenges are far more of a struggle to maintain balance for a quality of life.”
Ken Ward will be at the Ktunaxa Nation Gym in Cranbrook on Saturday, March 15, starting at 7 p.m.
“People with HIV are living a lot longer than we used to think, and leading extraordinary lives,” Dalton said. “Not just surviving, but flourishing.”