Kevin Hampson/Daily Herald-Tribune Jonathan Fortune, team lead at HIV North, presents Gordon Pellerin with a 30 Years of Service Award in a ceremony in the Muskoseepi Park Amphitheatre before the annual AIDS Walk for Life on Sunday in Grande Prairie.
HIV North presented one of its co-founders with an award for 30 Years of Service on Sunday before the annual AIDS Walk for Life.
Gordon Pellerin said he felt compelled to help start the organization – founded in November 1987 – because he had friends and roommates who were HIV positive.
“At that point I’d lost a lot of friends to AIDS – not in Grande Prairie, but I was living in Edmonton and Calgary, as well – so it had a personal effect on me.”
HIV North’s mission is “to lead Alberta’s North in the fight against HIV through education, innovation, advocacy, and collaboration,” the website says.
Pellerin, a past-president of the HIV North board, has remained with the organization for three decades. He noted how the AIDS struggle has changed since the group’s inception; HIV infection rates are still increasing, but AIDS is now a manageable disease, he said.
“That doesn’t mean it’s a good place to be, by any means, but it’s certainly much more manageable. People aren’t dying from AIDS, or complications from AIDS, anymore so much.” HIV North’s focus has changed in response.
“We’ve moved from being a response to AIDS, to where now AIDS has become a manageable condition. Our focus is still HIV education and prevention, but we’ve moved a long ways into harm reduction strategies currently with the opioid crisis. We also deal with a lot of complications in society, such as needs for housing.”
They’ve also evolved from a local organization into a regional one.
“When we originally founded as the South Peace AIDS council, our focus was the south Peace, Grande Prairie. We now cover a region that extends from Fort McMurray and that whole Wood Buffalo region to the B.C. border.”
Author: Kevin Hampson