The Positive Side

Summer 2015 

From the Front Lines: Well, Well, Well

Peter Carlyle-Gordge has the scoop on HIV wellness programs across Canada.


Taking your meds is only part of the equation when it comes to living well with HIV. Here we look briefly at some programs across the country that help you maintain the joy in living, share your wisdom, make new friends, keep your body moving and get your creative juices flowing.

African, Caribbean and Black Straight Men’s Group

In the Waterloo, Ontario region, more than half of the people who tested positive for HIV in the past five years were infected through heterosexual contact. Responding to the needs of this community, the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area (ACCKWA) is offering a space where black straight men with HIV can meet and talk with peers. The monthly men’s group offers a chance for participants to express their feelings and connect with others going through similar experiences.

For more info, contact Priscilla at or 519.570.3687, ext. 309

Yoga Classes for Men

Want to increase your flexibility? Circulation? Peace of mind? HIM (Health Initiative for Men) offers weekly drop-in yoga classes for men in Vancouver and Surrey, BC. “Positive guys, of course, are welcome,” says program manager Darren Usher. “Lots of positive guys enjoy our yoga classes but we don’t know exactly how many, as we never ask. The main feedback we get from them is that they love being in a group where their status is never an issue.”

The Vancouver location attracts between 30 and 40 guys per class. And the new Surrey classes are already drawing about 10 guys each week. Usher, who is also one of the program’s loyal yogis, gives his personal stamp of approval: “As I grow older, I feel that my flexibility, strength and balance are all very important, so I really like yoga because it gives me a bit of all three.”

Bring your own yoga mat and towel. Sessions are pay-what-you-can (most people give $5 to $10).

For more info, visit

Coffee Talk

Nine Circles Community Health Centre’s Coffee Talk in Winnipeg offers people a chance to socialize and learn more about all things HIV. The hour-long evening sessions, run by coordinators Rosa Colavito-Palao and Sandra Robinson, are for anyone with HIV—whether you’re a newbie or a veteran. “It’s a safe and confidential space where people can come and talk about anything from HIV meds and side effects to diet, disclosure and housing problems,” says Colavito-Palao. “Our aim is to break people’s isolation and provide good information. Sometimes we bring in outside experts to lead the discussion.”

To find out more, visit or call 204.940.6001

Circle of Courage

AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan’s Circle of Courage is a peer-led support group in Regina that focuses on the information and support needs of HIV-positive women with children and those who are considering pregnancy. Through education and by sharing personal experiences, the goal is for participants to become mentors to other HIV-positive women in similar situations. “Many of the women who participate in the Circle are Cree. We focus on activities that build strong social and cultural ties,” says coordinator Krista Shore. Last year participants made traditional ribbon skirts and shirts for ceremonial events. They have also shown interest in learning about drum making and drum ceremonies in the future.

For more info, visit or call 306.924.8420

Journée Liaisons positives

Journée is a pan-Quebecois gathering of women living with HIV. Each year the retreat takes place in a new location, with the objective of attracting new women and giving regulars an opportunity to get away and spread their wings.

The retreat takes place in a festive atmosphere, where participants receive meals, presents and door prizes. They can participate in organized activities—such as yoga, volleyball and personal growth workshops—and take sightseeing tours. A former Journée organizer notes that some women arrive with a big weight on their shoulders, but, she says, “I have never seen one woman leave with her back bent.”

The 24th Journée Liaisons positives will take place September 12, 2015, at Cap-St-Jacques, on the west tip of the Island of Montreal. This event is held in French.

For more info, contact Patricia Connoly at or 514.345.4931, ext. 5444

Stress Relief

As it goes without saying that living with HIV can be stressful, a free massage might be just what the doctor ordered. The AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia in Halifax offers a volunteer-run massage service that has been going strong for more than a decade. Close to 50 clients make regular use of it. “This has been one of our most successful programs,” says program coordinator Michelle Johnson. “It helps people relax and relieves stress as well as their physical aches and pains. Our massage therapist individualizes each treatment. She uses a variety of techniques and may use a heating pad or ice packs, if that’s indicated. And clients can choose the music that they want to listen to as they relax.”

To book a 60-minute massage, call 902.425.4882

Winnipegger Peter Carlyle-Gordge is a former writer for Macleans, Time Canada and The Financial Post. He has also written for most major newspapers and magazines in Canada. In the 1980s he was president of the Village Clinic (now Nine Circles Community Health Centre).