As long-acting injectables near approval, daily pill versions of the same drugs show long-term benefit.

A once-daily oral regimen of cabotegravir plus rilpivirine maintained HIV suppression for five and a half years after a six-month lead-in period, according to results presented at IDWeek 2019 this month in Washington, DC.

The LATTE trial was designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of cabotegravir and rilpivirine taken as once-daily pills. This set the stage for testing long-acting injectable versions of the two medications administered monthly or every other month.

Researchers tested the pill versions first because the long-acting formulations can’t be easily removed from the body if they cause side effects or other problems. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon make a decision about approval of the monthly injectable regimen (Cabenuva).

Cabotegravir is an experimental next-generation integrase inhibitor being developed by ViiV Healthcare. Rilpivirine is an approved nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) marketed as the stand-alone Edurant pill and as a component of the Complera, Juluca and Odefsey oral coformulations.

At IDWeek, David Margolis, MD, MPH, of ViiV presented the latest results from the Phase IIb LATTE study with follow-up through 312 weeks. This study enrolled 243 previously untreated participants. Almost all were men (in part because hormonal contraception was not allowed), about two thirds were white, about 30% were African American and the median age was approximately 33.

Participants were randomly assigned to start on one of three once-daily doses (10, 30 or 60 milligrams) of oral cabotegravir plus a then-standard backbone of two nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Six months later, if their viral load was below 50, they replaced the two NRTIs with oral rilpivirine as a maintenance regimen. A control group received Sustiva (efavirenz) plus two NRTIs.

At week 96—the end of the randomized part of the study—those originally assigned to take any dose of cabotegravir could opt to receive the selected 30 mg oral dose plus rilpivirine in an open-label phase. Ultimately, those who maintained undetectable viral load for the full 312-week follow-up period were eligible to roll over into a study of the long-acting injectable formulations.

In 2014, Margolis presented 48-week findings showing that 82% of participants who used oral cabotegravir plus rilpivirine maintained undetectable viral load, compared with 71% of those who took Sustiva. At 96 weeks, the corresponding response rates were 76% and 63%. Looking only at those who started cabotegravir plus rilpivirine maintenance therapy, 86% maintained viral suppression.

The latest results, through the end of the open-label part of the study, showed that 66% of participants taking cabotegravir plus rilpivirine still maintained viral suppression at week 312. More of the original participants had dropped out of the study by this point—25% had no available viral load data—which accounts for most of the decline in the response rate. Just eight people experienced virological treatment failure according to the study’s definition, six of them before week 144 and two between weeks 144 and 312. Most of them had evidence of new HIV mutations conferring resistance to integrase inhibitors, NNRTIs or both.

Treatment was generally safe and well tolerated at weeks 48 and 96, and this continued to be the case at week 312. Only two out of the 160 remaining participants (1%) experienced serious drug-related adverse events, and eight people (5%) stopped treatment because of adverse events, most of which did not appear to be attributable to the medications.

As follow-up in LATTE was continuing, researchers went on to test the long-acting injectable formulations of cabotegravir and rilpivirine in new groups of patients. As reported at this year’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, the injectable regimen proved highly effective in Phase III clinical trials, both for first-time treatment and as a switch option for people with undetectable viral load.

Click here to view the IDWeek 2019 program.

Author:  Liz Highleyman


That is according to a meta-analysis including nearly 500 people.

People with HIV can find relief from depression and anxiety through exercise, aidsmap reports.

Publishing their findings in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, a team led by Andreas Heissel, PhD, of the University of Potsdam in Germany conducted a meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled studies published between 1990 and 2018 that included a total of 479 people with HIV. The studies all randomized participants into two groups: One was prescribed an exercise program; the other one wasn’t. Symptons of depression or anxiety were assessed after the intervention period.

The participants were about evenly split between men and women. The studies were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, India, the United States, Iran and Germany.

Eight of the studies assigned participants to aerobic and resistance training and the other two assessed the effects of yoga. The exercise programs lasted four to 12 weeks and included two to six sessions of 45 to 75 minutes weekly.

Ninety percent of the participants finished their study’s follow-up period.

Of the nine studies reporting on depression, five were supported by high-quality methodology. They indicated that the association between exercise and a reduction in depression was highly statistically significant, meaning it was very unlikely to have been driven by chance.

In the depression studies, the investigators found that the factors that most greatly mitigated depression included aerobic exercise, training at least three times per week and engaging in supervised exercise.

Two of the five studies with data on anxiety were considered to have provided high-quality data. Just as with depression, exercise had a highly statistically significant association with anxiety reduction.

“[These] findings suggest that exercise may serve as a therapy that helps people living with HIV to reduce depression and anxiety,” the study authors concluded.

To read the aidsmap article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.



Elton John says Ryan White’s funeral was ‘the catalyst’ for him to get sober after cocaine ‘opened’ him up

Elton John revealed the death of his friend Ryan White inspired him to get sober.

The 72-year-old shared that prior to the 18-year-old’s passing from AIDS-related pneumonia, he was abusing cocaine and other substances.

“I think the catalyst was Ryan White’s funeral and seeing what Ryan went through,” John revealed on “Today,” as reported by People magazine on Tuesday, about his decision to finally get sober.

“When he died, being there in Indianapolis and coming back to the hotel and complaining about the wallpaper, the décor in the room, [I’m] think, ‘You are the most ungrateful little bastard,’” continued John. “’You complain about everything. This boy has never complained about contracting HIV and AIDS from a blood transfusion. He’s never complained, he’s only encouraged people to get tested. You are a piece of s—.’ And that’s how I felt about myself.”

Ryan White and Elton John.

Ryan White and Elton John. ((Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage))


White, a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from blood transfusions, fought a legal battle for five years against school officials who barred him from attending classes, saying he posed a risk to other students. He won that fight, which became the basis of a television movie about his life.

White died on April 8, 1990. Among those who attended his funeral were John, as well as first lady Barbara BushMichael Jackson and talk show host Phil Donahue.

In the show, John also shared why he initially started using cocaine.

“I saw someone doing cocaine and I said, ‘Well, what is he doing?’ and he said, ‘Well, it makes you feel free,’” said John. “And I thought, ‘Hmm, I was always on the outside looking in as far as, like, school, and I was never a member of the gang, or whatever. So, I thought, ‘I’m going to try that.’”


Singer Elton John playing piano and singing at the funeral of teenage AIDS victim Ryan White.

Singer Elton John playing piano and singing at the funeral of teenage AIDS victim Ryan White. (Photo by Taro Yamasaki/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

The star immediately got hooked.

“I liked it because I could talk,” said the singer. “I was very shy, so I thought, ‘This is the drug that has opened me up. I can converse, I can be verbose.’”

The outlet reported that after years of denial, John finally checked himself into Chicago’s Parkside Lutheran Hospital that same year. He has since been sober for 29 years.

Today, John is happily married to David Furnish. The couple shares two sons — Zachary, 8, and Elijah, 6. John also established the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised over $400 million toward fighting the disease.

Elton John attends IMDb LIVE At The Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards® Viewing Party on February 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Elton John attends IMDb LIVE At The Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards® Viewing Party on February 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (ich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)


“I could have been one of them,” John admitted. “Of course, I could have become HIV positive; I was very lucky. I was blessed and I always thought it was for the reason, when I got sober, that I would give something back.”

Author: Stephanie Nolasco


Collaborative HIV-positive peer mentorship program in Saskatoon looking to expand

With AIDS Saskatoon making some big changes — namely, moving all of its operations into the forthcoming first safe consumption site in the province — the HIV-positive peer mentorship system it helps facilitate is looking to do some expanding of its own.

Working as an HIV-positive peer support mentor can be challenging work — which isn’t to say it’s not rewarding.

Operating under an umbrella of harm-reduction and HIV/AIDS support organizations, mentors confront being comfortable with sharing their status in order to help others better understand their own.

“I think it’s really important that it’s an individual who’s got living experience, who’s actually living with HIV as their background,” said mentor Knighton Hillstrom. “It comes off as more tangible. It’s far more rewarding.”

Lyndon Kequahtooway (Left) and Knighton Hillstrom are peer support mentors for people living with HIV.

The work mentors like Hillstrom and Lyndon Kequahtooway do takes them into homes, hospitals and beyond in order to provide compassionate support to others living with HIV. Most recently, mentors were at the Remai Modern Saturday to provide pre- and post- HIV testing support as part of the BODY FLUID (BLOOD) exhibit.

Developed and informed by peers, the Saskatoon peer mentor education program provides training and opportunities for mentors.

AIDS Saskatoon runs the program, but it’s a joint initiative between the four organizations represented by most of the city’s mentors: The Elizabeth Fry Society, Sanctum Care Group, the Persons Living With AIDS Network of Saskatchewan (PWLA) and AIDS Saskatoon.

With AIDS Saskatoon making some big changes — namely, moving all of its operations into the forthcoming first safe consumption site in the province, the mentorship system is looking to do some expanding of its own.

Hillstrom has been with the program since its creation three years ago. He doesn’t work under a specific group but incorporates land-based work, like medicine picking, into his culturally-competent support work. Before working as a peer mentor, he was already doing peer support with PWLA.

Kequahtooway has been involved in peer mentorship for two years and works with Sanctum Care Group to facilitate peer group meetings. He said working as a peer mentor is valuable for mentors as it provides them support and knowledge of their own.

“The education part of this has been teaching me a lot. That’s probably the first step of getting rid of the stigma, to educate yourself first,” he said.

You should do your own research and you’ll come to find there’s ways to deal with it, there’s people out there and this program exists and it’s good to be a part of — it’s good to be part of leading the way and trudging our own path.”

Aside from helping mentors attain a better understanding of the virus and a better grip on their own healthcare, the work provides additional financial support.

However, formal part- or full-time jobs in HIV-positive peer mentorship don’t exist. That’s something to be remedied, said Carli Down, a peer facilitator at AIDS Saskatoon who helped put the program together.

“In all these CBOs (Community-Based Organizations), in the Health Authority, there should be a role for mentors to be there to provide that support,” Down said. “Because they are experts.”

Down and other facilitators are looking to get mentors trained under a broadly-recognized program so that in the future, they may be able to find employment once they’ve completed the mentor education.

But the network wants to go beyond just creating an in-house certification program, Down said.

“What the mentors have put forward, I’m getting to put into provincial training manual,” she said. “It will be implemented top-down seemingly, even though the mentors developed it.”

Beyond that is the internationally-recognized Positive Leadership Development Institute’s (PLDI) training program, launched by the Ontario AIDS Network in 2006.

The program is entirely peer-facilitated and embodies the core principles of GIPA (Greater Involvement of People living with AIDS) and MIPA (Meaningful Involvement of People living with AIDS). It’s also a very high standard of training.

“There’s a big picture going on that’s pretty exciting,” she said. “As long as it makes it so mentors get to have more jobs for what they already do, then I think that’s pretty much the end game.”



Collaborative HIV-positive peer mentorship program looking to expand

India’s HIV-positive trans people find ‘new strength’ in technology

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Shoved, cursed and ridiculed, Nisha’s hospital visits were always stressful as a transgender woman and got worse after she was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

But a new app introduced as part of a drive to end an HIV epidemic in India by 2030 is providing her and the transgender community better access to doctors, lifesaving drugs – and hope – although it has raised concerns about digital privacy.

India has the world’s third largest population living with HIV – 2.1 million people – according to UNAIDS, with recognition that help is needed in the transgender community where the prevalence is 3.1% compared to 0.26% among all adults.

Nisha tested HIV positive last year after earning a living as a sex worker in New Delhi. On the job, she said, condoms would often break or she would not use one for more money.

“That was a bad idea. I ended up with HIV. I felt suicidal after I found out,” Nisha, 29, a trans woman who goes by one name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It didn’t help that going to the hospital was torturous. People made faces, passed lewd comments … a doctor even kicked me out.”

Despite the Supreme Court recognizing India’s 2 million transgender people as a third gender with equal rights in 2014, they are often kicked out by their families and denied jobs, education and healthcare, leading them to begging or sex work.

Trans women like Nisha say they face “double discrimination” and the risk of being shunned and abused – first because of their gender identity and then because of their HIV status.

But a counseling programme along with a new app is helping health workers track down HIV-positive transgender people, monitor their treatment and link them to doctors and antiretroviral therapy (ART) to suppress the AIDS virus.

“I have found new strength. I don’t feel depressed or nervous anymore,” said Nisha, who now begs at traffic lights.

“The app helps keep me physically healthy and she ensures I’m mentally and emotionally (healthy),” she said, pointing to her outreach worker Samyra, an HIV-positive trans woman.

The eMpower app – developed by IBM in partnership with India HIV/AIDS Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – monitored more than 1.2 million people between January 2018 and March 2019.


With mobile tablets in hand, HIV-positive transgender outreach workers keep a tab on others in their community living with HIV and counsel them and accompany them to see doctors.

“I tell them ‘I’m like you. I’m HIV-positive and I’m taking medicines too. You’re not alone’,” said Samyra, who works with Vihaan, a national initiative to expand counselling, outreach and follow-up programmes to people living with HIV.

“That makes a huge difference because it’s coming from one of your own. Half of the HIV battle is won when you have someone to hold your hand along the way.”

Health experts said transgender focused initiatives like this and the launch in March of India’s first HIV treatment clinic in Mumbai city run for and by LGBT+ people were pushing the country towards its target to end the epidemic by 2030.

But to achieve this target they said it was critical for patients to stick with ART. Sometimes stigma and side effects can cause them to drop out of the treatment.

That is why health workers follow up with clients every few months and record information on the eMpower app, including their weight, viral load and CD4 – white blood cells that fight HIV – and advise them on everything from their diet to safe sex.

They also note whether a client has faced discrimination, and arrange for partners and family members to get tested.

Sonal Mehta, head of India HIV/AIDS Alliance, said the app has helped boost Vihaan’s outreach numbers as well as the confidence of trans clients and workers, who often come from poor, semi-literate backgrounds.

“The trans clients definitely feel much more secure … but the outreach workers themselves also feel very empowered. They are professional officers working on the field, talking to doctors, government officers, engaging with various organizations,” she said.

While such technological advances are seen as key in the HIV/AIDS fight, health and software experts warn they can come at the cost of privacy.

The eMpower app creates a profile for each client with personal information including name, biometric ID number, occupation and monthly income, and a map pinning their location.

Without proper safeguards, such an app runs the risk of data breach and sharing information with third-parties, which can further ostracise an already marginalized community, said Ambika Tandon, a cyber security expert.

“The potential to monetise is definitely a risk factor,” said Tandon, policy officer in gender-based research at the Banaglore-based Centre for Internet and Society.

“Another is informational privacy … (clients) may not necessarily know where their information is being stored, who will have access to it … There could be multiple points at which their data could be vulnerable.”

Saravanan RM, a senior technical officer at India HIV/AIDS Alliance, said the eMpower app a “fool-proof system”.

He said all sensitive data was stored on the organization’s server, which could only be accessed by specific workers through a password-protected system.

None of the information can be seen by any partners – not IBM, state or federal governments. It is further beefed up by a mobile device management (MDM), he said.

“For example, if any device is lost or has gone into someone else’s hands, what we can do through MDM is clean out the entire tablet and the data will not be acquired,” he said.

Dr. V Sam Prasad, India programme manager of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the app should not be dismissed because there was a privacy risk as it came with major benefits.

Several HIV-positive transgender people like Swati, a trans woman who contracted HIV after injecting drugs, felt the same.

“Even if it (personal data) is leaked, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ve faced unimaginable things. Nothing scares me, at least not such things,” said Swati, 25, after a follow-up meeting with her outreach worker at her one-room home.

“It is (eMpower) saving me. It is not an enemy.”

Always removes feminine design from sanitary towels to be inclusive of trans and non-binary people


Always sanitary towels with the female ‘Venus’ symbol on the wrapper (Twitter/@aitch_ell/@CjDoult)

The sanitary brand Always has removed the Venus female symbol (♀) from its packaging of sanitary towels to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary people who have periods.

It made the decision in response to questioning from two trans advocates, who pointed out that the company’s products were used by a range of different people, not just cis women.

Trans activists Ben Saunders and Melly Bloom tweeted Always in July to ask why the female symbols were necessary.

“Could someone from Always tell me why it is imperative to have the female symbol on their sanitary products?” Bloom wrote. “There are non-binary and trans folks who still need to use your products too you know!”

Several trans men and non-binary people have spoken of the gender dysphoria they feel when having to use sanitary towels with advertising and packaging that is stereotypically ‘female’.

Trans man Jamie Raines told PinkNews: “It can be quite hard to navigate having periods as a guy when everything to do with periods is aimed very much towards women and is very female-oriented.

“The first time [I had a period as a man], I was brought back to that very dysphoric feeling that I had years ago, and I just remember again being stuck on the toilet, crying, not knowing what to do. It shook me.”

In response to the concerns, Always announced that it will be removing the female signs from its packaging from December 2019, and aims to have the new packaging distributed everywhere by February 2020.

The customer care team tweeted: “We listened to you and our marketing team worked a solution. We are glad to inform you that as of December we will use a wrapper design without the feminine symbol.

“We are absolutely grateful for having people like you voicing their opinions. Thank you for contacting us, your comments help us improve everyday!”

In a statement to Metro, Always owner Procter & Gamble added: “For over 35 years Always has championed girls and women, and we will continue to do so.

“We’re also committed to diversity and inclusion, and after hearing from many people across genders and age groups, we realised that not everyone who has a period and needs to use a pad identifies as female.

“To ensure that anyone who needs to use a period product feels comfortable in doing so with Always, we updated our pad wrapper design.”

Company faces anti-trans backlash.

Although the move was widely praised by many in the LGBT+ community, it was, predictably, condemned by the ‘transphobic’ UK media.

The Daily Mailaccused company of “kowtowing” to the “transgender lobby” (which does not exist).

RT News declared that “menstrual health [is] under siege”, while The Sun directly called for a boycott in their article’s headline.


Feminist campaigner Julie Bindel told The Mail on Sunday: “Removing the female symbol from sanitary towel packaging is basically denying the existence of women.

“We’re now moving towards the total elimination of women’s biology. The women’s symbol has been used by feminists for decades. This is pure cowardice and virtue signalling from these big corporate brands who are capitulating to the trans agenda.”

But the trans advocacy group, Trans Actual, responded: “We’re quite frankly worried for the women whose sense of self is so fragile that the removal of a symbol from a packet of sanitary towels makes them feel ‘erased’.”

Trans Actual@TransActualUK

Well done to @Always for making sure your packaging is inclusive. We’ve read the Daily Mail article about it and we’re quite frankly worried for the women whose sense of self is so fragile that the removal of a symbol from a packet of sanitary towels makes them feel “erased”.

A boycott of Always is now being spread on Twitter, but it’s not clear if participants are planning on boycotting other brands like Bodyform and Carefree, which also do not include the female symbol on them.


Also, @Always hasn’t always had the venus symbol on its products – Yet amazingly it’s only now that a trans man requests @ProcterGamble remove the symbol from SOME of their products, that transphobes claim it’s “denying the existence of women” and threaten a boycott! 🙄🙄🙄

View image on Twitter


I’m wondering if the “gender critical” anti-trans lobbyists currently threatening to boycott @Always, will also be boycotting @bodyform and for not having the Venus symbol on their wrappers?

We see their complaints for what they are – blatant transphobia! 😞

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Miguel, also known as “the Lisbon Patient,” is the subject of an upcoming research paper.


By Trenton Straube

Miguel, nicknamed the Lisbon Patient, made international headlines earlier this year when he turned 100, making him the oldest known person living with the virus. His doctors recently reported that he “died peacefully” in his sleep, reports Canada’s CTV news.

The nickname derived from a case study about him soon to be published. As was reported in POZ regarding his centennial, Miguel was diagnosed with AIDS in 2004 when he went to the doctor for treatment of rare forms of colitis and lymphoma and a low CD4 count. He didn’t know he was living with HIV, and he and his doctors think he contracted HIV through heterosexual contact.

Below is a news report regarding Miguel turning 100.

After his HIV diagnosis, Miguel took his meds and soon maintained an undetectable viral load.

HIV specialist Giovanni Guaraldi, MD, said people need to know about Miguel’s story. “There (are) still a lot of people living with HIV that consider their disease something dreadful while actually,” he told CTV News, highlighting that despite having a chronic disease you can still “experience healthy aging.”

Surely, the world will be seeing more people with HIV reach 100 and beyond, thanks to improved treatment and longer life expectancy. Indeed, as of 2015, nearly half of people with diagnosed HIV in the United States are 50 or older.

POZ September 2019 cover


For more about that topic, read our recent cover story “Older & Wiser: How long-term survivors contribute to a better future for everyone.”And our latest POZ Focus, titled “Aging With HIV,” spotlights how long-term survivors persevere against the virus. To read the articles in the Focus click here.


Finally, you can check out information on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, marked each September 18, here.



Kids in hotels, separated families: The reality of being a homeless parent

CBC follows homeless mom as she navigates social supports, appeals rental eviction

Angeline Whitefish and her daughters were put up in a hotel by the Ministry of Social Services after Whitefish was evicted from her house. There used to be a family shelter in Saskatoon for women and children but it closed in May. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

Angeline Whitefish focused on the judge’s facial expressions and the tone of his voice as he reacted to the pleas of other desperate citizens.

She, like the strangers whose personal dramas she was watching unfold, had found herself among the daily stream of conflict and struggle that flowed through the Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench on Oct. 15, 2019.

Whitefish was worried other cases — the farming brothers fighting over their cattle brand, the couple fighting the bank over their second mortgage — would put the judge in a bad mood before it was her turn. She didn’t know where she would be sleeping that night if the judge ruled against her.

Whitefish was homeless. She had been living in a hotel for about two weeks with her two daughters, Paisley, 3, and Elle, 4, after she was evicted from her home after falling behind on rent.

“I’ve had numerous times I’ve went to sleep crying and feeling like I couldn’t help my kids because there was nowhere else for us to go,” Whitefish said on the fourth day at the hotel.

She’s one of 26 women in Saskatoon in the past six months who have found themselves living in hotels with their children. Workers from social support services say not all homeless parents get to stay with their children — that income support workers are suggesting they split up their families by putting their children in a crisis nursery while they stay in shelters or on somebody’s couch.

Whitefish said she put her daughters in the crisis nursery when she first became homeless, then a worker from the provincial income assistance program suggested she stay at a shelter. Later, the ministry paid for her to stay at a hotel.

The Ministry of Social Services denied it is advocating for families to be separated and stressed that “there is no gap in service,” adding that anyone who needs help should come to the ministry.

Crisis nursery says system separates families

Dionne Miazdyck-Shield is the executive director of the Saskatoon Society for the Protection of Children, which runs the crisis nursery.

She has noticed an increase in the number of parents bringing their children to the nursery because they are homeless — about 20 families in the past couple of months.

In mid-October, almost all of the crisis nursery’s beds were full with children whose parents are homeless. Almost all had been evicted for falling behind on their rent.

Miazdyck-Shield said they usually don’t get to stay in hotels with their children.

“It’s hard because you know the kids don’t want to leave their parents. You know, they don’t want to be here,” she said.

Angeline Whitefish had her daughters’ clothing in black-plastic garbage bags at a hotel after she was evicted from her rental property. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)


She and workers for other social services say the closure of Mumford House, a 36-bed shelter for women and children, is a major contributor to the number of women seeking shelter.

Children cannot stay at short-term emergency shelters like the Lighthouse. The YWCA shelter for women is consistently full.

Miazdyck-Shield said many families simply cannot afford to pay their rent with the amount they receive through social assistance. A single parent with two children, she said, would be getting about $2,000 a month including social assistance and the child tax benefit, plus money to put toward utilities.

‘We are promoting families being split up’: Housing worker

The crisis nursery is not a shelter and not funded as one. Miazdyck-Shield said she is worried about the lack of family shelter beds.

“I’m hoping that the government will step up and ensure that families are safe and together during periods of homelessness,” said Miazdyck-Shield.

Shaun Dyck, the executive director of the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership, said he knows of four families in the past couple of weeks who have been split up because the parents had to stay in a shelter while the children were in the crisis nursery.

“We are promoting families being split up during a crisis,” Dyck said. “That’s hardly a state of empathy.”

The Ministry of Social Services denies this. It said it housed 26 women with children in hotels the past six months, and helped 24 of them to find long-term accommodation.

It said the average length of their stay is three to four days. Hotel stays are paid for when other emergency shelter services are not available or considered unsuitable, it said.

Ministry says it’s not advocating for family separation

Jeff Redekop is the director of Income Assistance Service Delivery at the ministry.

Asked when it would be considered suitable for a parent to have to stay in a shelter while their child was in the crisis nursery, he said that would be a choice for the parent and not the Income Assistance worker.

“We would work with that individual or family to determine the best option for them and if that was a shelter we would refer the individual there, if it was a hotel stay, for example a mother with a child, that’s where we would refer them,” said Redekop.

“We would not advocate separating children from their families. Help is available through the ministry and I want that to be clear.”

Redekop said there are currently no efforts underway within the ministry to establish a family shelter in Saskatoon.

“If the community developed that kind of resource I’m sure the ministry would make referrals to that organization,” he said, adding that the income support program could contribute to the cost.

Angeline Whitefish took the housing corporation that evicted her to court. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

Whitefish stayed at Mumford House about 10 years ago while she was homeless with two of her older children. The centre had more of a family environment.

Her children had toys to play with there and she didn’t have to worry about them being too loud.

When Whitefish was faced with being split up from her children, by staying in a shelter while they went to the crisis nursery, she contacted her First Nation for support.

She said the Big River First Nation paid for her to stay in a hotel for five days.

When the money from the band ran out, the Ministry of Social Services agreed to pay for her accommodation in a hotel near the Saskatoon airport. She said she was told on the fourth day she would be checked out the following morning.

Ultimately, the ministry extended her stay until Tuesday.

In the meantime, Whitefish was waiting to take the housing company that evicted her to court.

Whitefish had a payment plan with Camponi Housing at the time of her eviction, set up through the Office of Residential Tenancies, to allow her to pay her arrears in smaller increments after she got behind on her rent.

Camponi is a non-profit affordable housing corporation. Whitefish sent a cheque for $400 on the day the payment was due — Sept. 20, but the company decided that was too late. It cashed the cheque but did not reverse the eviction, which is legal.

Whitefish was given 10 days to get out.

An appeal was filed and a hearing date was set at the Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench on Oct. 15, the same day she had to be out of the hotel.

Whitefish’s niece wasn’t available to babysit, so she arrived in court with her two girls, who wore puffy pink jackets and ponytails in their hair. A worker for the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre was by their sides.

The courtroom is a quiet place. Whitefish did her best to keep her girls from shuffling and whispering, but after a while she took them out into the hall.

Finally, it was Whitefish’s turn to come before the judge.

Paisley, 3, was excited to be home. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)


She approached the podium where the lawyers usually stand, looking small in the vast courtroom of varnished wood panels. The judge sat above her and strangers watch from behind. She was nervous, but her voice didn’t shake.

Whitefish told the judge about her situation. Justice Brian Scherman described it as “unique” and questioned the legality of the eviction.

“I don’t think your client is entitled to exercise that writ of possession,” Scherman said to Camponi’s lawyer.

Scherman suggested it would be reasonable for Camponi to return the keys to Whitefish without being ordered to, “because I think your client acted prematurely.”

Whitefish left the courthouse on a high.

A chance to speak up

“A lot of Indigenous people are afraid to speak up and to come to court and go to the extreme to appeal,” said Whitefish.

She spoke about growing up in foster care and not being allowed to speak up about anything.

“I’m pretty happy about being able to come out and speak for myself.”

The company had agreed to return her keys by the next afternoon.

Toby Esterby, executive director of Camponi Housing and Sasknative Rentals Inc., said the company is going to try to find a way to verify when someone has sent a cheque, as Whitefish did.

Angeline Whitefish is happy her daughter Elle, left, will be able to celebrate her fifth birthday at home after winning her keys back from the housing corporation. She was evicted in September. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)


“As you can well imagine we get told that an awful lot and it often proves untrue,” said Esterby.

“So if we rely on that as a business our arrears … you know, it would be detrimental to our organization.”

Housing company says eviction was difficult decision

Esterby said the company has made sure Whitefish’s belongings were safe and it has now connected her with other services that will help her avoid getting behind on her rent again. He said there were other reasons behind her eviction which he cannot discuss publicly.

Asked why Camponi waited until after the appeal was heard to allow Whitefish to return, he said the judge’s input had provided “context.”

He said the decision to evict Whitefish was not a mistake and that the corporation did its “absolute best” for Whitefish.

“We have to do what’s right for the sustainability of the organization. The need in the city of Saskatoon is extensive,” he said.

“It’s a hard decision to make but we know that there’s a family waiting in line that that really needs a home.”

He said a credit has been applied to her ledger.

“It’s a bit of a conflicted way to look at it but, you could look at this as the instigating factor that has positioned this woman in a little bit better place,” Esterby said. “Now she has a little bit of an umbrella of supports around her.”

On Oct. 17 Whitefish was home, preparing to take her daughters to the library.

The word “HOME” was written on the splashback above the stovetop in her kitchen.

There was one reason, in particular, Whitefish was excited to be home.

“It’s Elle’s birthday on Oct. 30 so she’s quite excited to be home,” said Whitefish.

“We’re going to have a birthday party like we usually do with her friends over, a costume birthday.”

Author: Alicia Bridges


Gay Couple Adopts Baby Living With HIV Rejected by 10 Families



This is what a family should be.

How can we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?

Unilad, a British news and entertainment site brings us the story of Olivia, who in 2014 was an underweight 28-day-old infant who was born with HIV and looking for a home. Because of her health needs, she had been rejected by 10 prospective families.

That’s when Damian Pighin and Ariel Vijarra of Santa Fe, Argentina, met her.

Pighin and Vijarra were the first gay couple to get married in Santa Fe and had been looking to expand their family by adopting for three years when they met Olivia. They told local news outlets that they instantly fell in love with her.

Get ready for your heart to grow three sizes.

“As soon as I saw her, I felt that she was part of my life,” Vijarra reportedly said. “The connection was immediate. We held her in our arms, gave her the bottle and she looked at us with her eyes open without crying.”


Olivia might not have cried, but I definitely am!

As soon as the couple took her home, Olivia started to respond to her HIV treatment, gained weight, and after a couple years, the family got the absolutely amazing news that the virus was no longer detectable in her blood. In addition to being unable to spread the HIV, Olivia doesn’t have to worry about further damage to her immune system.

A year after Olivia joined their clan, Pighin and Vijarra adopted another baby girl, Victoria. Olivia will turn five later this month (we stan a Scorpio queen), while Victoria turned five in February.

Things aren’t always happy here in the age of Trump, but families like this prove that there are good people in the world making it a better place.


Author: Ariel Vijarra , MEY RUDE


Changing the world of work for employees living with HIV


A POWERFUL new Charter Mark to increase UK employers’ commitments to becoming HIV friendly has been launched at Sunderland.

The Positive Allies Charter Mark which organisations and employers can volunteer to sign up to and show they are ‘HIV friendly’ towards their staff and volunteers, is the first of its kind in the UK.

Its key aim is to demonstrate organisations’ commitment to ensuring people living with HIV, as either staff or volunteers, are safe and that key staff undertake training, review policies and consider practices and resources, which demonstrate equality and openness about HIV.

The concept behind Positive Allies was the result of a research project undertaken by Drew Dalton in 2015 called ‘Silent Scream?’, which highlighted what life is like in the UK for people living with HIV and the barriers they faced. It found that those with HIV were still facing stigma within their working environments despite the introduction of the workplace Equality Act (2010).

Drew, Programme leader in Social Sciences at the University, says: “Whilst the Equalities Act added further protections to those living with HIV, many employers are unaware that HIV is included within this legislation. Our Charter Mark is an opportunity for employers, big or small, or whether they have paid staff or volunteers, to sign up to Positive Allies.

“By everyone signing up to it, we can ensure that workplaces become better places for people living with HIV and to tackle some of the stigma that people continue to face today. Positive Allies a very straight forward undertaking for any company to do, but it’s another step towards making life better for those with HIV.”

The Charter Mark provides a free online training course for key staff and volunteers and an HIV Staff/volunteer policy for organisations to tailor around their current policies.

Drew explained: “There are two levels to the adopting the charter, and attaining either of these levels allows employers to advertise to others that they are making a conscious effort to improve the ethos of their organisation, and more importantly to reduce stigma.”



Positive Allies is maintained by the University of Sunderland and an adjudicating panel, to award the Charter Mark, is made up of a range of industry experts and of people living with HIV. Once gained, organisations can use the Positive Allies logo on their websites, letterheads and social media channels.

Vice Chancellor Shirley Atkinson has welcomed the innovative project, commenting: “We fully support Drew’s excellent work on Positive Allies, which reflects the importance our University places on creating a diverse and inclusive culture, where all members of our University community are valued for their contribution and individuality.

“We believe this Charter Mark will help meet the needs and expectations of the modern working environment and importantly remove barriers of discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation for people living with HIV within organisations.”

Justine Gillespie, Human Resources manager at the University of Sunderland, said “We were delighted to support Drew with his project and used it as an opportunity to become an HIV friendly employer. With his advice we developed our HIV/AIDS staff policy, which we launched last year, and also invited Drew to carry out a number of training sessions for staff and students. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive and so would encourage any employer to sign up to the principles of the Charter Mark.”

The Positive Allies Charter Mark was officially launched at Canary Wharf, at the University of Sunderland in London’s campus. The keynote speech was given by Roland Chesters – a recognised disability and inclusion expert; coach, consultant, workshop leader and motivational speaker. Roland is about to publish a book: ‘Ripples from the Edge of Life’, which documents the stories of 14 people with HIV and AIDS and the impact on their lives.

To find out more about the Positive Allies Charter Mark, and how to sign up, go to:


Twitter: @PositiveAllies