For over twenty-five years, the Philip Aziz Centre (PAC) Visiting Hospice has served individuals of all ages who are living with HIV/AIDS. Our clients and their loved ones receive direct services, counselling, personal advocacy, social service coordination, volunteer visitation, as well as mental health and practical supports. Some clients are accompanied by volunteers to medical appointments and treatments; other clients have their grocery shopping or errands managed for them; and bedridden and dying clients may have a dedicated volunteer sit at their bedside, offering the precious gift of presence.
Although antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are enabling people to live longer, individuals with HIV/AIDS are still experiencing health complications. They not only have to manage the illness, but they are also dealing with the side effects of long-term medication on the body and aging with HIV/AIDS, including comorbidity, heightened isolation, stigma and reduced mobility.
Increasingly, our Client Services/Social Work professionals are responding to requests for additional supports for agency referrals, advocacy, and social connectivity to help alleviate isolation.
Our HIV/AIDS Support Groups provide professional and peer supports; as well as emotional, mental and practical care, while reducing social isolation and stigma. It is a safe place to find support, hope, friendship, and space to create new meaning in a life that has taken an unexpected turn. Our specially-trained volunteers visit and provide support weekly.
We also support youths who are HIV-positive, and have difficulty with medication adherence. Having a volunteer who can remind them and encourage them to take their medication is leading to improved compliance. As in past years, we offer opportunities for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS to enjoy therapeutic and recreational activity, while providing some Respite/Caregiver Relief for Parents.
PAC continuously updates education and training for the front-line community care professionals and volunteers who visit and support clients in the community, as well as for agency partners.
We have come a long way since the 1980s, but sometimes it takes a volunteer advocate/visit in a long-term facility to remind professional medical staff that it is “safe” to touch, hug, or offer some sign of comfort, to an individual with HIV/AIDS.
Testimonial from a client:
“I never thought that I’d fall so far, and lose so much (as a result of HIV/AIDS)…. When I was first introduced to the Philip Aziz Centre it was through the men’s group. We were a group of men with HIV, substance addictions, and other challenges, who met regularly to share food and to talk. By being part of this group, my life transformed in every way. Now, my volunteer meets me every week for three to three and a half hours, and we talk about everything under the sun. His visits make me want to be a better person. He helps me physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Testimonial from a client:
“All the volunteers that I have met have been so accommodating and helpful – and always with a cheery face and smile. I have been HIV/AIDS positive for 23 years, and would be unable to maintain any semblance of a normal life without the Philip Aziz volunteers. I cannot thank them enough for all that they have done for me. I would recommend them to anyone needing assistance with basic needs of life.”
Testimonial from an HIV-positive youth who benefited from PAC Recreational Program Funding:
“I want to say ‘thank you’ for helping me and my mom out. I was able to be part of my school basketball team because of all the support I received from PAC. My mom doesn't have a stable job, so it’s hard for her, with all the bills and everything. I finish exams soon, which makes me so happy. I am looking forward to university. I am who I because of the help we received. I appreciate it a lot!”
Testimonial from a volunteer about his client:
“He impacted my life at a deep level … where I have learned to be thankful of my own conditions and struggles with life. I really have nothing to complain about. I don’t ever feel sorry for myself anymore. His life has enhanced mine tremendously.”
Testimonial – from SickKids Hospital for our PAC Youth HIV Medication Adherence Initiative: “The crucial children’s health issues related to medication adherence for children with HIV can sometimes lead to children going into foster care if their parents are unable to administer medications well enough. In two situations, this was very likely but we were able to refer the families to the Philip Aziz Centre. With intensive support from the Philip Aziz Centre, the families developed understanding and skills to administer the medications. In this process, the children were able to remain with their parents and the parents also became more trusting and accepting. These children now have good immune systems, better current health, and bright futures.”