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Art With Heart Raises Vital Funds for Toronto’s Battle Against HIV

If you think that HIV/AIDS is a thing of the past, think again – more people than ever are living with the disease in Toronto. That’s why organizations like Casey House are critical. And it’s also why we hit Art With Heart last night, an art auction that raises vital funds for Casey House

Last night, we hit The Carlu for the Art With Heart reception and art auction to benefit Casey House.

Casey House is a specialty HIV/AIDS hospital in Toronto that offers community programs like home nursing care and outreach. Founded in 1988, it was the first freestanding HIV/AIDS facility in Canada.

And it’s just as important today as it was back then. 

In fact, more people than ever in Toronto are currently living with HIV. That’s why sustaining resources like Casey House is so important.

Sure, we could go on about all the fabulous details of the event, like the ample food stations, sculpted men on stage for the grand finale or, of course, the impressive art (which included works from the likes of Douglas Coupland, Shelley Adler and Ed Pien). But we decided to go straight to the source to remind you that HIV/AIDS is as real as ever – and why continued fundraising is so important.

We turned to Steven Endicott, the Casey House Chief Development Officer, for a little more insight… 

Patients Live Longer Lives but Infection Continues to Grow
“Thankfully, people are living longer with HIV. It’s not the death sentence it once was, thanks to advances in treatments. However, HIV remains a very difficult disease to live with, and we’re now learning that it can get even tougher as you age. There continue to be many new infections in our city, affecting a wider demographic scope than ever before. People from all communities are being infected, and people from all ages. So you add longer life expectancy to ongoing infections, and you’re going to have an increase in the size of the epidemic in our city.”

The Medical Advancements Don’t Mean HIV/AIDS is Over 
“When I tell people that I work at Casey House, I’m frequently shocked by people saying things like, ‘But isn’t HIV/AIDS over?’ People think that there’s a cure, or that the medications are so great now that it’s really just managed with a pill. And it’s true that for some, HIV is a manageable disease, if they’re lucky and they’re getting the treatment they need and their bodies don’t reject it. But there are lots of people – and we see hundreds of them at Casey House every year – who have a much more brutal time with HIV. Either they started treatment too late, or their bodies couldn’t take the medications, or they developed another health condition that interfered with their treatment. And really, who wants to roll the dice on that?” 

The Disease Doesn’t Faze Young People as Much as it Should
“When you lived through the devastation of the 80s and 90s, it’s hard to forget how serious HIV is. It’s hard to know what’s going on in young people’s heads these days, when they didn’t experience that generational trauma. But it’s important to realize that 1 in 120 adults in our city is HIV positive right now, and that means the possibility for transmission is very real, particularly if the person who is infected isn’t getting treatment. So testing continues to be so important, as well as education about the realities of how truly brutal the disease of HIV continues to be.”

HIV/AIDS is More than a Physical Disease
“Because HIV is so stigmatizing, it can mean that the people we treat are very isolated. And all this can come wrapped in other issues like mental health challenges, substance use, malnutrition…there really is a domino effect with this disease so one of the things Casey House is really good at is treating the whole person, taking a look at their needs in terms of things like stable housing and nutrition, because you can’t get well if you don’t have a bed or food to eat.”

“The other aspect is addressing that isolation – because having a sense of purpose and community is so vital to maintaining that will to live. So a lot of the work we do at Casey House extends well beyond the truly excellent clinical treatment that we provide.” 

Fundraising is as Important as Ever
“Art With Heart is Casey House’s biggest single fundraiser each year. It is a significant source of funding for our community program, which sends nurses into people’s homes to ensure that they’re getting their medication and that their health is stable – to avoid emergencies. And it also pays for nurses on the Sherbourne Health Bus who bring specialized HIV treatment to people who are marginalized and street-involved, who might not get HIV care otherwise.

Furthermore, it provides a lot of the supportive services we provide at Casey House, like social work and recreational and massage therapies, to address the pain and isolation that so many of our clients experience. Without fundraising events like these, Casey House simply couldn’t provide these very important services, and so we’re enormously grateful to the volunteers, sponsors and attendees who make Art With Heart possible.”

If you missed the event, the online catalogue remains live at www.artwithheart.ca for most of the year, so you can always visit, drool over what you missed, and plan to attend next year.   

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All images from The Casey House Facebook

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