History of AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan
Up until the 1980s, HIV infections and AIDS were relatively obscure. Then in the early 1980s, as the death toll mounted, organized efforts began to combat the problem in North America. In Canada, action groups formed to advocate for people who contracted this disease.
Aids Programs South Saskatchewan (APSS) was the eventual result of Nils Clausson and several concerned citizens forming a peer support group for HIV. At that time support consisted of an AIDS Hotline and a safe sex education program for gay men.
Significant events included:
• 1985: Nils Clausson and several concerned citizens formed a peer support group for HIV. AIDS Regina began to lobby the provincial government for funding. Fundraising events to support the peer support groups and public education began.
• 1986: AIDS Regina was incorporated on January 27. The organization issued its first newsletter in June 1986. The group eventually evolved into the organization AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan.
• 1987: A series of meetings and discussions were held with government officials, healthcare workers and aids service organizations to determine how to address this health problem including anonymous testing and mandatory tracing of sexual partners as a means of reduction in the spread of HIV.
A meeting of Western AIDS Service Organizations was held in Regina with representatives from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The meetings received extensive media coverage.
In August, AIDS Regina’s first storefront office opened. Regina IDS Advisory Committee was created by the City of Regina Health Department with representatives from such stakeholders as the public and separate schools, the Red Cross, The Plains Health Centre and the Social Services Department.
In late 1987 Rawdon Bieber, a social worker, became AIDS Regina’s Social Services Director (a volunteer position). Rawdon was instrumental in creating the Jerome Nagel Health Care Fund and the Ric Ranger Emergency Living Fund. Today the fund is called the Ric Ranger/Jerome Nagel Wellness Fund to honour the work of Ric and Jerome to ensure that those living with HIV and AIDS are able to live as long and healthy lives as possible.
• 1990: Brian Finch, a person living with HIV, was hired full-time and became the second full-time employee of AIDS Regina, to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS were directly involved in the delivery of services to people affected and infected.
AIDS Regina was supported by the arts community to help educate the public about HIV/AIDS and stopping the spread of the virus. AIDS Regina produced As Is, Williams Hoffman’s award-winning play about AIDS, at the Venue. Douglas Hicton’s production was seen by 480. In addition, AIDS Regina presented Harvey Firestein’s On Tidy Endings and Christopher Durang’s Seeking Wild, at the U of R Arena Theatre were presented by AIDS Regina.
AIDS Regina hosted an exhibition of eleven AIDS memorial quilts. They also presented Guy Michaud’s Ryan’s Hope, a play about a teenager confronting AIDS in his family.
• 1991: Victor Bumbalo’s play Adam and the Experts was produced as part of our continuing public education/awareness initiative through theatre.
• 1992: Colin Thomas’s play Flesh and Blood was produced at Globe Theatre, with support from the Globe.
• 1993: Oscar Wilde & Company was established by Nils Clausson and Guy Michaud as a theatre company that would “give a voice to those in our society – gays, people with AIDS, street youth – who were either marginalized or found others speaking for them.” Guy Michaud’s play Promises was produced as a part of AIDS Awareness Week in October and then on World AIDS Day, December 1 at the Schumiatcher Theatre in the MacKenzie Art Gallery. This was the last play produced by AIDS Regina.
• 1996: The Board of Directors of AIDS Regina established an advisory committee from the Gay & Lesbian Community of Regina to ensure that the needs of the GLBT community were being addressed.
• December 1: A World AIDS Day commemoration at the MacKenzie Art Gallery featured a display of memorial quilts, music by the Regina Symphony Chamber Players, and the first public performance of the Prairie Pride Chorus.
• 1998 – October: L.I.F.E. Little Improves for Education This popular theatre troupe was born with volunteers from AIDS Regina under the direction of Mirtha Rivera, to provide year round educational sessions to the GLBT community, schools, Ranch Erhlo and the community at large. The educational sessions were based on true to life situations and questions about HIV/AIDS prevention, boundaries, safer sex, and safe needle disposal.
The group continued until jobs and life got in the way! The group had a 14 year old and an eighty- something-young nun. The group was very diverse in every aspect: orientation, race, religion, etc. which was the most valuable asset because it made it easy to relate to diverse audiences.
• 2000: The first annual Saskatchewan Healthcare Excellence Awards (SHEA) were held. The SHEA began to address issues of discrimination and disrespect that individuals infected with HIV and AIDS were facing in the healthcare system. Miss B Haven, and the Gay & Lesbian Community of Regina hosted the First Annual World
AIDS Day Benefit on the last Friday of November, to raise money to provide direct support to individuals infected with HIV or AIDS.
• 2010: marked the 25th anniversary of APSS as the organization continues to provide programs to all persons in Southern Saskatchewan.
APSS serves the larger community of Regina and Southern Saskatchewan in all HIV-related matters. APSS is a registered non-profit charity and is funded in part by the Regina Qu'Appelle Health District, Saskatchewan Health, United Way and the Government of Canada, as well as corporate sponsorships and donations. Our sponsors can be found here.
Though APSS was originally established in 1985 as a support agency for gay men in Regina it has over the years grown into a multi-program, multi-staff organization with the goal of reducing HIV/HCV infection and providing excellent care to individuals who are HIV+.
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