For the first time in years, the City of Surrey has officially declared Dec. 1 “World AIDS Day” in Surrey.
The proclamation issued by Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke hits close to home for Surrey Pride president Martin Rooney.
He has lived with HIV since 1989. He was 29 at the time.
“In those days, it was a death sentence,” he said. “You’d walk down the street of Vancouver one day, and you’d see somebody and next that night, you’d hear they’re in the hospital in the following morning, you hear they’re dead.”
Rooney submitted the proclamation request to City Hall on behalf of those who lost their lives to the virus.
Within 48 hours, he said, the proclamation was given.
@brendalockebc thank you for proclaiming Dec 1 World AIDS Day in Surrey. Get Tested, Know Your Status. U=U @ohana_annie @DrJenMarchbank @elenoresturko @SurreyNowLeader @DouglasRTennant @CityofSurrey @uniti4all pic.twitter.com/eOPnxNs5lg
— Martin ROONEY (@MR1_) November 30, 2022
While this is not the first time the city has made this proclamation, it has not been done for many years, Rooney pointed out.
World AIDS Day is an international day of remembrance and awareness of HIV/AIDS that has happened every year on Dec. 1 since 1988. The day remembers those who lost their lives during the AIDS epidemic in the 1970s-1990s.
Rooney said the City of Surrey and Fraser Health need to do more to educate the public on HIV testing, adding the outlook today is drastically different for those who test positive.
“It is not a death sentence,” he said, adding with the right management and medication, HIV can become undetectable and those who have it can live a healthy life.
Even the terminology around HIV has changed over the years. Rooney now says he is “living with HIV” as opposed to “HIV positive.”
Rooney said those impacted the most are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. He encouraged people in those communities to get tested multiple times a year. Testing is available by visiting your local doctor or a health clinic.
Symptoms generally show up within the first two to four weeks after injection. Fraser Health states some common early symptoms are fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and swollen glands.
“There is no cure, but treatment can help you to stay healthy,” Fraser Health states on its website.
B.C.’s Minister of Health stated in a release on Thursday that not only does today mark World Aids Day, but it is also the start of Indigenous AIDS Awareness week.
“It is time to renew our collective and personal commitment to supporting British Columbians living with HIV/AIDS and ensuring that they get the comprehensive, compassionate and culturally safe care they deserve,” Dix stated in a release.
In 2020, the Government of B.C. estimated 7,560 British Columbians are living with HIV.