Barrie man destigmatizes HIV ahead of World AIDS Day

While the world has been learning about and fighting HIV/AIDS for four decades, damaging misinformation and isolating stigma persist.

Randy Davis tested positive for HIV seven years ago.

The Barrie man says that people's perceptions of the virus are a more significant challenge than the illness itself.

"The amount of stigma out there around people living with HIV preparing a meal for you, or touching you, is still astounding in this day in age," Davis tells CTV on the eve of World AIDS Day.

HIV is a blood-borne infection that can be transmitted sexually, via pregnancy or delivery and through sharing of needles. It cannot be passed through a massage, a handshake, saliva, or the air.

An HIV diagnosis can be managed with medical interventions.

Davis takes one pill daily. He is among those who are HIV-positive now considered undetectable.

"Folks who have access to equitable treatment and care are able to get the amount of the virus suppressed so low in your system that traditional blood work cannot detect it," Davis explains.

"When HIV is suppressed to those levels, it is untransmittable."

Davis believes helping people understand that undetectable means untransmittable is the cornerstone of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Putting treatment in reach is also critical.

Davis says he's lucky to access a daily drug that costs $1,500 a month in Ontario.

He also feels grateful he doesn't have to fear losing his job at the Gilbert Centre or being alienated from his family for sharing his diagnosis.

Davis met the man who'd become his husband just 13-months after he tested positive for HIV. At the onset of their relationship, Aaron Crowe understood Davis' illness, but not the pain the stigma from it caused.

"Seeing that first hand, how it affected him personally and the people around him, was really kind of eye-opening. And really realizing there's so much work to do," Crowe says.

Resource links:

Gilbert Centre
Government of Canada Health Services
Government of Canada HIV Prevention Services