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Casey House Spa aims to break the stigma that leaves people with HIV feeling untouchable


Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press

Posted Friday, November 30, 2018 12:35 PM EST

Last update Friday, November 30, 2018 12:36 AM EST

TORONTO – Randy Davis remembers having attended a social function shortly after being diagnosed with HIV and observing how the hostess greeted a succession of guests, giving each one a warm hug. But when his turn came, the woman's hand rose and suggested that she did not approach because she was cold.

"His excuse not to embrace me was to protect me from the cold," said Davis, who was open about his state of HIV. "However, throughout the night, they continue hugging other people."

It was a lesson, as if Davis needed one, of the persistence of the stigmatization of those with HIV-AIDS, based on the fears of many people who, in some way, # Infect through the simple act of playing.

And it is that he thinks Casey House, an autonomous Toronto hospital against AIDS, hopes to help dissipate with a pop-up spa that offers free massages to the general public provided by seropositive volunteers That they train in the healing art.

The Healing House, which runs on Fridays and Saturdays (World AIDS Day) in a separate location in downtown Toronto, aims to involve citizens in discussions about the myth that shake hands with someone, Touching your naked arm or changing a hug are potential means for capturing the virus.

Along with that, the spa is a reminder of the need and the power of touch.

"It really creates connections between a human being and another, and ensures that we are not alone," said Joanne Simons, general director of Casey House, founded in 1988 to assist the sick.

"It is the warmth of the skin of someone in the skin that makes us feel comfortable and consoled, safe, confident and loved," he said. "Without this, it's a very lonely world, I imagine."

However, people with HIV often deny this experience, which was verified in a survey by Leger conducted by Casey House, who found that while 91 percent of Canadians believe that their human nature wants to feel the touch , only 38 percent of respondents said they would be willing to share skin-to-skin contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus.

While Americans are more likely to touch someone with HIV / AIDS (41%), more than a quarter of respondents in a US poll separately believe they could get HIV through the skin-to-skin interaction, compared to a fifth of Canadians.

"This is really difficult for the human spirit, and we know that touch is so important," Simons said. "So this was really the urge to have a public conversation about HIV to try to challenge the thinking and behavior of people."

For this reason, Casey House recruited Melissa Doldron, the registered masseuse of the Toronto Blue Jays, to teach 15 volunteers the benefits of therapeutics.

Doldron said that members of the public can opt for a 10-minute hand and a forearm massage or sign up for a chair massage, which includes manipulation of the tension release of the # 39; back, neck, shoulders and scalp.

Massage has numerous benefits throughout the body, stimulating vascular, lymphatic, and neurological systems, as well as providing stress relief and promoting relaxation, he said.

"So, the massage helps both physiologically and psychologically. For all those who are suffering from the illness, the benefits are twice."

Davis, who works as a sexual health coordinator for men at the Gilbert Barrie Center, Ont., Where she lives with her husband, believes that touch is essential for everyone, HIV-positive or not.

"I remember when I was diagnosed for the first time, the first thing that came to my mind, and I was single at the time, was that I would be alone for the rest of my life and that nobody ever loves it anymore, much less they touch me or embrace me, "said Davis, who offered to be one of the healers in the Casey House event.

"When I released my status, many people close to me were warm and cared for, but known, medical professionals and people who did not know me well showed obvious symptoms of discomfort and apologized for not touching me."

Almost 40 years after the start of the ever-deadly AIDS epidemic, the fear that someone can infect themselves simply through informal touches still lasts. However, for many people, current antiviral medications can reduce HIV to the body at undetectable levels, so it is highly unlikely that they can transmit the virus to another person, even through sex.

Davis, who started taking antivirals shortly after being diagnosed in early 2015, believes that HIV is a chronic disease that is easy for him to administer. "I have a pill a day and that's it".

Your hope for the pop-up spa is that people will not only come for a massage, but also to meet people who live with HIV "so they can feel comfortable and realize that, you know what, we are not a risk to anyone. "

"This is great for me. It is not the virus we have to fight, it is the stigma that must be fought."

Surveys of 1,581 Canadians and 1,501 Americans were recently made with Leger's online panel, LegerWeb. The probability samples of the same size would give an error margin about more-less than 2.5 percent, 19 times out of 20.

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