BRACEBRIDGE — Rene Caisse never looked so warm or fashionable.
The likeness of the local cancer treatment inventor was draped in a large red scarf this morning.
And while Friday’s weather may not have been cold enough for scarves, five Muskoka Grandmothers were busy handing out the “Red Scarfs” for a good cause.
Or more like the old song, Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree, this was tie a red scarf to a lamp post and let whoever needs it take it.
Saturday is World Aids Day, and the lucky recipients of three dozen Canadian-coloured wraparounds will be able to wear them for World AIDS Day.
The free giveaway of the hand-knitted scarves was made possible by Sylvia Bouchard, Debby Andrews, Barbara Borland, Gwendellen Robbins and Lea Dooley.
They and the other Muskoka Grandmothers have been busy stitching together this day for months – in anticipation of this day and the start of World AIDS Awareness Day.
It’s part of a national awareness campaign to remind the country that AIDS remains real.
The Grandmothers, a Muskoka chapter of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, have for years been doing projects like this to keep alive the movement that began by aiding other grandmas around the world who found themselves primary caregivers again after their own children died from AIDS and they had to take full-time care of their grandchildren.
Thus the Red Scarfs.
So, if you see someone with a hand-knit red scarf today, you know they’ve been touched by the Muskoka Grandmothers.
And if you feel like it, you can wrap yourself in red of any kind to remind others of the continuing plight of AIDS decades after it first came to light.
Meanwhile, to mark this year’s Dec. 1 World AIDS Day, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is celebrating advances in the medical treatment of HIV.
They say in a release that treatment which is now available for people living with HIV reduces the amount of virus in the blood to the point where it can no longer be sexually transmitted to other people.
“People living with HIV who maintain an effective treatment plan can get the level of the virus to a very low and ‘undetectable’ level. This means that they live a healthy life, and they cannot sexually transmit the virus to others,” said Dr. Colin Lee, Associate Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
“Scientific evidence has been building over years to show that the risk of sexual transmission is effectively zero when there is an undetectable viral load,” Dr. Lee asserts. “This is why we need to encourage HIV testing and improve timely access to treatment not only for the health of those living with HIV, but also to work towards ending HIV transmission.”
The health unit has endorsed the ‘Undetectable Equals Untransmittable’ (U=U) Consensus Statement developed by the Prevention Access Campaign, an international collection of authorities on HIV, infectious disease and the law. More than 760 organizations in nearly 100 countries have endorsed the statement.
Gerry Croteau, executive director of the Gilbert Centre in Barrie, which provides LGBTQ and HIV support, welcomed the declaration as an important step in creating broader community acceptance of people living with HIV.
“No one with HIV regardless of viral load deserves the stigma and discrimination that so many still face,” Croteau said. “The Gilbert Centre stands behind the science of U=U and encourages everyone to get tested to know their status.”
Locally, the number of new cases of HIV varies between 3 and 23 per year. While the numbers are low, it is estimated that one in seven infected persons is unaware they have HIV, stressing the need for people to be tested and to practice safer sex. HIV testing is available through your health care provider or our sexual health clinics by calling the Health Connection Line at 1-877-721-7520.
Those who wish to learn more about the U=U consensus statement can visit www.preventionaccess.org/consensus.