Sheryl Ubelacker, Canadian Press
Posted on Friday, November 30, 2018 12:35 PM EST
Last Updated on Friday, 30 November 2018 12:36 PM EST
TORONTO – Randy Davis recalls that he attended a social function shortly after being diagnosed with the HIV virus and watched the host welcomed the sequence of guests and gave them a warm hug. But when he came to the line, the woman's hand went and suggested that it did not come too close because it had a cold.
"Their excuse not to embrace me was to protect me from cold," said Davis, who was open about his HIV status. "But overnight, they still embrace other people."
This was a lesson that Davis needs, about the constant stigmatization of people with HIV-Aids, based on the fear of many people that with a simple act of contact somehow they are endangered by the infection.
And this is a belief that Casey House, an independent hospital for HIV-AIDS patients in Toronto, hopes to help eliminate a pop-up spa that offers a mass-free massage offered by volunteers infected with HIV to provide training about healing art.
The Health House, which runs on Friday and Saturday (World AIDS Day) in a separate location in downtown Toronto, is intended to attract the public into the debate about myth, that the trembling of someone's hand, touching their bare arm or replacing the potential means of catching the virus.
In addition, the health resort has pointed to the need and the power of touch.
"It truly creates connections between one person and the other and ensures that we do not feel alone," said Joanne Simons, director of Casey House, which was founded in 1988 to care for those with a disease.
"It's the heat of unclean skin on the skin, making us feel comfortable and comfortable, and safe, and safe and loving," she said. "Without it, this is a very lonely world, I can imagine."
But people with HIV often denied this experience – the fact that Casey House found in Leger's study that found that while 91 percent of Canadians think it's human to want a touch, only 38 percent of respondents would be willing to share skin contact with the skin with anyone diagnosed with the virus.
While Americans are somewhat more prepared to touch someone with HIV AIDS (41 percent), more than a quarter of those surveyed in a separate US study believe that they could contract HIV through skin-to-skin interaction compared to one-fifth of Canadians.
"It's really hard for the human spirit – and we know that touch is so important," Simons said. "It was really an incentive to publicly talk about HIV in order to try to challenge people's thinking and behavior."
To this end, Casey House recruited Melissa Doldron, a registered massage therapist for Toronto Blue Jays, to teach 15 students who were positive for HIV.
Doldron said that people can opt for a 10-minute massage of hands and forearms or apply for massage of chairs, which involves manipulation of the back, neck, shoulder and scalp that causes tension.
The massage has many benefits throughout the body, promotes vascular, lymphatic and neurological systems, and provides relief for stress and encourages relaxation, she said.
"Thus, the massage helps physiologically and psychologically. For everyone who deals with the disease, the benefits are twofold."
Davis, who works as a male sexual health coordinator at the Gilbert Center in Barrie, Ont., Where he lives with his husband, believes that the touch is essential for everyone, whether HIV positive or not.
"I remember when I was diagnosed for the first time, the first thing that came into my head – and I was single at the time – was that I would stay for the rest of my life and that nobody would ever love me, let alone touch me or to hug, "said Davis, who volunteered to present himself as a doctor at the Casey House event.
"When I disclosed my status, many people were close to me, warm and caring, but the acquaintances, health workers and people who did not know me well showed obvious signs of discomfort and said they did not touch me."
Almost 40 years after the onset of a one-time deadly AIDS epidemic, there is still fear that someone can only get infected with a casual touch. However, for many people today's antiviral medicines can reduce HIV in the body to indefinable levels, making it very unlikely that the virus can be transmitted to another person, even through sex.
Davis, who started taking antiviral treatment shortly after the diagnosis in early 2015, believes that HIV is a chronic disease that can be easily managed for him. "I take a tablet a day and that's it."
His hope for a pop-up spa is that people will come not just for massage, but also for getting to know people living with HIV – "so they can feel comfortable and realize that you know what we are not a risk of anyone."
"It's a big deal for me, it's not a virus we need to fight, it's a stigma that needs to be fought."
The reviews of 1,581 Canadians and 1,501 Americans were recently carried out using the Leger Web Leger Web Panel. Probability patterns of the same size would lead to a mistake of about plus-minus 2.5 percent, 19 times from the 20's.
You can book massage meetings by visiting: www.smashstigma.ca.