Our Stories

We exist to serve our clients and share their stories. Each of the individuals we meet through HIV Community link has a compelling story that deserves to be told, and we’d like to share a few. Our clients and volunteers are the people who make HIV Community Link possible and better every day.

Albert’s Story —  Darcy’s Story  —  Stephen’s Story  —   Liv’s Story

Stella’s Story  —  Cheryl’s Story   —    Ann’s Story  —   Gerald’s Story  —   Leah’s Story  —   Marie’s Story

Albert’s Story

“It feels really good to give back”

Albert was born in a family of six children. He lived in Montreal, completed a degree in Interior Design and studied at McGill and Concordia. He was 25 years old when he had some lymph nodes removed from his neck because the doctors thought he had cancer. As it turned out, Albert was HIV positive. It was the mid 80’s and his family was dealing with a lot at the time, so Albert decided not to tell his parents and siblings. “When I got my diagnosis after three months of waiting for the results, they put me in front of the camera, because they wanted to see people’s reaction to the news. I just wanted to know, so I agreed,” says Albert.

The fear that people would find out would follow Albert for decades. He started volunteering at an AIDS hospice in Montreal, which was opened by two women who offered their home for free, as there was no government support for people at that time. There were four people in the hospice, and Albert wanted to know more about HIV. “I thank my survival on those people. I saw them going through horrible treatments. I saw them as guinea pigs and I saw them getting ten times the amount of medication they are giving to people now,” he recalls.

During those years of fear and hiding his status, Albert fell in love. “My partner was and still is HIV negative. He knew about my status. I told him about three weeks into our relationship, and he told me he needed a couple of days to think. He came back and said ‘Let’s take it one day at a time,’’ Albert remembers, adding that they separated when he was 40 years old.

But he still didn’t disclose his HIV status to others. “I wouldn’t tell my dentist because I was in fear he wouldn’t see me anymore. One time, I had to see a doctor in Montreal and the doctor took sexual advantage of me. I think that was because I was HIV positive and I was in fear of not being able to get medical help. I’ve never talked about it. I never said anything, but I want to now. I think people should know that that we were not respected.”

Albert moved to Vancouver and later to Calgary. Ten years after his HIV diagnosis, he became ill with lymphoma. “That was kind of ironic. You think you have something, but you don’t, and then you actually do ten years later. The doctors explained that my immune system had to work extremely hard to keep me alive. Within three months of taking the medication, I was undetectable.”

Albert is now 56 and a talented artist. He started painting and drawing after he was diagnosed with cancer. The side effects from medication and a severe reaction to radiation left him dealing with long-term chronic pain and mobility issues, so painting is somewhat difficult and takes time. Albert donates art to charities and has donated beautiful pieces of art to Splash of Red, a fundraiser in support of HIV Community Link, for the last couple of years.

He takes care of his sick mom and volunteers in the Peer Support program at HIV Community Link as a Peer Navigator. ”I might struggle with health issues and chronic pain and stigma, but there are people out there struggling with drug addiction, abusive relationships and HIV. It was good to open my mind and not be judgmental. They are still people and they need help.”

Albert encourages everybody to support the work of HIV Community Link. “I’m grateful to be part of this organization. It feels really good to give back; I’m hoping I can reach somebody that needs help,”

Darcy’s Story

“Addiction can happen to anybody, and that’s why education is so important”

Darcy has been coming to the Medicine Hat Cares Centre for years. He is 52 years old and left home when he was 14. His parents were separated and he had a tough childhood, moving from one foster home to another until the age of 10. He was living with his mother in Vancouver when he met his wife. “Life became pretty good.” Darcy describes how he spent “the best years of his life” with her and their two children. They moved to Prince George in 1987 and it was there that he slowly got into using drugs. “I started to get into a little bit of trouble.” He was growing marijuana on the side to make some extra money, and through working for some drug dealers tried hard drugs for the first time.

A few years later, Darcy moved to Medicine Hat to be near his father whose health was deteriorating. He wanted his boys to know their grandfather and his wife found a good job, so the family ended up staying in Medicine Hat.

Darcy was working as a mechanic and running his own shop. One day he met a neighbour who was involved in dealing cocaine. Darcy had used cocaine in Prince George, so slipped into some old habits with the neighbour and started using again. Soon after he was also dealing drugs, in the beginning to help a friend out, but quickly progressing to supporting his cocaine habit. As Darcy went deeper and deeper into this business, he was eventually  arrested, and lost everything.

Darcy spent five months in jail. When he was released and returned to his family, they had to downsize and move to a smaller house. “I slipped back into using and I served another two months in prison. During those months, my wife filed for a divorce, which really blew me off my feet. We were legally married for 23 years and were together for 27,” Darcy recalls his devastation.

Over time, Darcy moved forward from these experiences. He met another woman, returned to his work as a mechanic, and life was good. Darcy had two more kids. “The day my little girl was born was absolutely the best day of my life, I always wanted a daughter,” says Darcy.

But then, disaster struck again. Darcy had some serious injuries, and began taking medication to control his pain. His doctor prescribed OxyContin, a strong opioid, and he became dependent. As his tolerance increased, Darcy had difficulty controlling the pain. He describes: “One day, curiosity got the best of me because I was told injecting would help so much with pain,” he said, so he started injecting his pills. His dependence progressed, and he was going through many OxyContin pills each day. He started buying them off the street.

Then, he tried heroin, and his use drug use escalated more and more. “The addiction accelerated, and this went on for two or three years. Someone told me that there was a needle exchange here in Medicine Hat at the Cares Centre. And here I was, one of the first clients for the centre. They helped at Christmas time, all kind of resources in the community, and just to talk to the people here was important.”

Eventually, through conversation with the staff at the Medicine Hat Cares Centre, Darcy decided to reduce his drug use. He planned it for months, determined to access addiction treatment services. “At Christmas time last year, I decided that it was time for me to quit, and I did just that. December 27 was the last time when I ever touched a pill. I went to detox, and I am now on methadone as a replacement therapy.” Darcy, now separated from his wife, is trying to regain access to his children.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without this place, without the people at Medicine Hat Cares Centre who continue to listen to me and talk to me, and just be there for me, regardless. They were absolutely irreplaceable,” says Darcy. He is a strong believer in harm reduction, and believes that supervised consumption services save lives and keep people safe. “In this day and age, you have no idea what you are about to inject. Doesn’t matter how many times you had gotten the same thing from the same person. None of that matters. Drugs out there are so unsafe now.”

Darcy now regularly carries naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, and tries to convince people to learn how to use it. Naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. “Addiction can happen to anybody, and that’s why education is so important. I’ve lost more friends than I could keep count of. I was trained here at the centre on how to use naloxone. Even though I’ve saved 9 people’s lives, 2 of them twice, I wasn’t able to save one of my closest friends. But I will continue to help and educate people.”

Stephen’s Story

35 years ago, Stephen was one of the people sitting around a kitchen table discussing the possibility of creating an AIDS support group in Calgary. They named it AIDS Calgary, and it was the grassroots organization that would later become HIV Community Link. There were a few other people in that old, two-storey house in the Beltline: Bob Humphries, Damien Pepper, Jim Lang. AIDS was already affecting the gay communities in North America, with the ones in San Francisco and New York City being decimated. The virus had only recently been identified as being sexually-transmitted, after months of speculation. Calgary hadn’t had its first diagnosed case yet.

When AIDS Calgary moved into its first office, the organization was housed in two cramped rooms above what was then called ‘Dick’s’, a gay club in the old Model Milk building on 17th Avenue, with a bathhouse down in the basement. The offices themselves were either freezing cold or sweating hot, and the volunteers were constantly calling the bathhouse to please turn up the heat, or to please turn it down.

This small and mighty group of people set up a phone line and designed training manuals for volunteers. The office quickly filled up with safer sex pamphlets, condoms and lube. “My background was with Gay Lines, so I knew how to get a phone thing going and how to record the calls to keep track of them with log sheets. I remember getting the same calls over and over again: ‘Can I get it from sharing a coffee cup? Can I get it if someone coughs on me? Toilet seats?’ We would also get calls saying we should all die and bomb threats being called in. We didn’t publicize where the office was for the express purpose that we didn’t know if that was safe to do. It was highly controversial. How dare we have an AIDS organization in Calgary?” Stephen adds.

It took them years to find funders for the organization, but in the beginning they managed to do the important work with support from gay clubs and the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch. “Funding came from the community. The drag queens would put on shows to raise money for us, so would get a couple of hundred bucks. $200 kept our rent paid, so it was a real struggle for us for the first years until various things like United Way and government funding kicked in. Bob and Damien were putting their own money into it. They didn’t make a big deal about it, but I know Bob paid the rent sometimes, paid the phone bill sometimes, and they didn’t have a lot of money themselves.”  Not long after they started the organization, the AIDS crisis started affecting the gay community in Calgary. The group started losing friends to the epidemic. “Over the years, I lost maybe two or three friendship circles of people. It went quite quickly between diagnosis and death.

It wasn’t unusual to attend two or three funerals or memorials in a month, and it got to the point that those were social times. It’s like you don’t see your family except at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs, and it was kind of the same thing. They were sad, but they were more celebrations of life. I look back and think of the people I have lost and were close to me, and I still have dreams about some of them and they are still with me in some way,” Stephen says.

Jim, Damien and Bob passed away, and Stephen is grateful for the time they had together. “Jim was quite a character; he was born about 30 years too late. He was Roman Catholic, but he incorporated Native spirituality, Radical Faeries, Pagan, and meditation into it all. He often carried an eagle feather with him. Jim would have fit right in with the hippy movement of the 1960’s. He was also involved in the Faithful Companions of Jesus, the Sacred Heart Convent on 18th Avenue. Jim used to work reception for them and they got to know him quite well and absolutely adored him. So when he died, the bishop wouldn’t hold a mass for him because he was gay, so the sisters held one for him. One of them, Sister Una Conran, who was very involved with AIDS Calgary and was close to Jim, got up during the service. Sister Una quoted Jim as saying that if St. Peter wouldn’t let any of us through the main Pearly Gates, all we had to do was come around back and Jim would open those gates right up!

Stephen was politically active and, at that time, his main focus was to get sexual orientation included in human rights legislation in the province. There was a lot of discrimination in regards to housing and employment. There was just nowhere you could go to get any sort of justice if you were discriminated against.

“..who amongst us could have known the fight would go on  for 35 years?”

Stephen believes those early days made a definite impact on the community, saved lives and offered critical support to those affected. He later worked for AIDS Calgary as the Coordinator of Volunteer Services in 1990-1991, when the AIDS Quilt was being displayed in Calgary, a memorial to and celebration of the lives of people lost to the AIDS pandemic. “It doesn’t seem like 35 years since we were sitting around that kitchen table on 12th Ave at Bob and Damien’s house drinking far too much coffee and smoking too many cigarettes and trying to hammer out what this organization would be like. Who amongst us could have known the fight would go on for 35 years?  Bob, Damien, Jim and the others never lived to see what AIDS Calgary became, but I like to think they know.”

Liv’s Story

“Shift has been one of the best experiences of getting support”

Liv has three daughters. The youngest is 4 years old and the oldest is 11. Liv loves taking care of her children and has always considered them the most important thing in the world. She describes how she knew she was transgender, but put off her gender transition to support her children. “I was mid-transitioning when my partner of three months got pregnant. I chose the kid, I was 21. I’ve tried telling myself I’m a dude but it didn’t work, so I started my transition again 4 years ago.” Liv believes she is now a much happier parent. “I remember when I told my daughters. I was never particularly masculine, I was trying to hide my femininity, but my kids could definitely tell, and they were not surprised when I told them. They were happy for me. It’s been four years since then, and the only reason my ex has gotten used to calling me Liv and using she/her pronouns is because my kids yell at her every time she does otherwise”.

Liv had struggled with depression since high school. “I heard this band, Against Me. They had an album on the radio called Transgender Dysphoria Blues. I knew I was trans, but had never heard the term “gender dysphoria” before, so I decided to research it a little bit, and after that I told myself, ‘Oh my God, that is so totally me, so I need to go and see a psychologist or a psychiatrist to either find a way that I can shut this down and stay in my relationship, or see what I can do to transition’,” she remembers. Liv talks about how important it was for her to get support through her transition, and is happy for her “small victories” in the last couple of years: when she took her partner to court to split custody, and the judge didn’t know who the biological mother was, or when she realized that most women in the housing program she is in did not know she was transgender.

Before her transition, Liv went from job to job just to make money for her family, but now is thinking of going back to school to become a social worker. “I take care of my kids from 7am to 7pm, and a graveyard shift is scary for me as a visible trans woman. I want to volunteer for the Distress Centre and apply to school.”

Liv is happy where she is now, but her life was different two years ago when she met someone online and they started dating. It was fun in the beginning, she says. They drank a lot and went dancing all the time, and then after a month, that person proposed to her. Liv’s kids were in California with their biological mother, so Liv felt lonely. When she lost her job her new partner suggested she could make money as a sex worker. “I had always wanted to do modelling and they convinced me that this wasn’t going to be that much different. It was a night of a lot of drinking when I decided to post an ad. The money was good. I didn’t really realize I was actually trafficked; I was giving a lot of my money to this partner, which made it even more difficult to pay my child support. My partner starting drinking more and more, because they had more money from me.”

Liv described how she found herself trapped in sex work and an abusive relationship. “Every client I ever had, there never really was any joy to it, and then they started getting aggressive.” Liv recounted how she was assaulted many times by her clients and friends of her partner, and how she felt alone. “I was reaching out for help from friends and family, but my family won’t have anything to do with me because I did sex work. Most of my friends didn’t talk to me anymore.”

After eight months of sex work, Liv had a very traumatizing experience with a client, and realized she needed to get out. Luckily, Liv was still in touch with her father, who had previously worked at HIV Community Link. The next morning, Liv got in touch with Shift and asked a friend to help her move out. “It was extreme desperation that drew me to here and got me out of that house. The Shift worker came with me and advocated for me at Alberta Works and she spoke to Mary Dover House, so I could get into their housing program. Shift helped me turn my life around. The only reason I eat is because I get food from the Food Bank on Tuesdays here, otherwise I would have nothing. It’s hugely helpful. It’s been really nice to be able to come here, relate with the other clients and always have somebody to talk to. It’s been one of the best experiences of getting support in my life. If I hadn’t come here, I would probably still be in that house doing sex work, getting abused.”

After getting her life back, Liv started to think more about the lack of understanding for trans people. She would like to be able to help other women like her. “We are just as much people as anybody else, and we have feelings. Everybody has their own story and the best thing you can do if you are not sure about something, as with anything, is just ask. I want the world to understand that we are just people. Share that you know a trans person and stand up for that person.”

I Am Stella

A story of resilience in the face of domestic abuse and HIV stigma

Stella is an African woman who immigrated to Canada early this year as an asylum seeker. The 48-year-old woman landed in Calgary on March 23, 2017, coming from Uganda. Soon after, Stella found a community of support through HIV Community Link. Here, she got involved with Drumbeat, our program supporting people from African Communities, and with the HIV Support Services team.

Stella was born and raised in Uganda, and in her early years lived a relatively average life. She got married young and happily raised two daughters. On November 29, 2000, her life changed significantly. She recounts vivid memories of how she learned of her HIV diagnosis on that day: “I went to the hospital not suspecting I’d leave with an HIV diagnosis. I had had a cough for 6 months. They called me the next day saying the doctor had to see me. There was a 15-minute walk from my home to the hospital, but it took me an hour to get there. He said: ‘I have bad news.’ That was all I heard from what the doctor told me that day.” well-spoken Stella says other family members with similar symptoms had died before her diagnosis. They were also married and their partners didn’t want to reveal the cause, but Stella believes they died of AIDS-related illnesses.

After finding out she was HIV positive, she went home and refused to accept it. “I was in denial; I didn’t know anything about HIV and I had all these questions about how my husband and children would take it,” says Stella. After four months, she realized she needed to deal with it. The hardest thing for her was telling her husband. “He was furious; he started to call me names and turned against me. He blamed my family and blamed me,” she remembers. Stella’s husband left her and moved to the family farm. “I had to keep quiet because of the stigma and because my husband had warned me not to tell anybody. I still have this question: who is responsible? Up to today, I haven’t had a conversation about HIV with my husband,” Stella says.

And there she was. Alone. With no money for medication or help to look after her children, her health rapidly got worse. Seeing her desperation, her sister offered to help, and supported Stella to access treatment for her HIV.

With access to medical treatment, Stella regained her strength and went back to her job in hospitality. After some time of feeling strong and healthy she stopped taking the treatment, thinking she was strong enough and didn’t need the medication anymore. But she soon found herself in the hospital again, this time diagnosed with cancer. Once again, her family came together to support her. Her brother-in-law, an influential government leader in Uganda, convinced her husband to come back home and avoid family shame. Stella remembers that moment with mixed feelings. “I was week, sad; I was planning my funeral really. I went through radiation and all. But the family supported me; cancer was better news than HIV for most of the people around me. There was a lot of stigma surrounding HIV.” Asked if she remembers how stigma feels like, Stella talks about the incredible pain she felt when her husband abandoned her sick, with an HIV diagnosis she didn’t know how to cope with. “I’m back from that pain, I’m on treatment now, I am back to my normal weight, I’m smiling; I’m Stella,” she adds.

As the years passed, Stella recognized the importance of her HIV treatment in maintaining her health, and she began to thrive. She became a support person for other people living with HIV in her community. “I decided to give back to my community, especially to the women. Maybe somebody out there is like me; has a husband who is completely in denial and they are fighting it all alone,” she explains, adding that helping others was the therapy that had helped her to keep going.  For the next 15 year, Stella offered support to women in her community; she helped in any way she could, from lending a compassionate ear to driving them to the hospital. There were many women who couldn’t afford treatment or didn’t know anything about HIV.

line-01Then, last November, Stella’s life turned upside down. She made the shocking discovery that her husband had another wife, whom he had hidden from her. Stella recounts how after confronting her husband about this second wife she endured months of physical abuse and threats. “My journey is a bit sad,” says Stella. “I left my home behind, after I found out my husband had another wife. Within a month, things changed dramatically. We fought. He chased me out of my house. I couldn’t see my children. He was trying to get rid of me because we were sharing some property.” Her husband started beating her constantly. One night, close to New Year’s, the abuse escalated and she decided she had to run. “I lost my front tooth that night. My sister came and took me to the hospital. He found me there too, and threatened me not to tell anybody about the beatings. My sister convinced me to leave, she was afraid I was going to die.”

My sister helped me escape. I ran through Kenya and came here,” the well-spoken woman continues.

Stella spoke of the support she received from the women’s organizations that she had worked with. They helped her to come to Canada, leaving behind her two daughters who are enrolled in university in Uganda. Once here, she built another network of support in which HIV Community Link plays an important role. “Since I came to HIV Community Link, my life has changed. I’ve gone through counselling, I have food, information, I come to trainings and I feel supported,” she explains. Stella says she wants to continue giving back and help others in her situation, so when the opportunity came about to be a Peer Mentor for the HIV Community Link Peer Support program, she decided to get involved. “Sharing my experience has helped me to keep going. Here in Canada, I feel accepted. I can reject the HIV stigma because I am stronger. I am Stella.”

Come to our Community Voices event on November 30 and listen to Stella’s story in person. Tickets available at commmunityvoices2017.eventbrite.ca

Cheryl’s Story

The first thing you realize when you talk to Cheryl is that she adores her kids. “I was born here in Calgary and raised here, been here all my life. I have three wonderful kids, but I am not allowed to see them. The court feels that, because I am a transgender woman, it would cause psychological damage to them,” Cheryl tells me with a soft and sad voice. She is tall and timid, and really happy she has a safe place to come to almost every day.

Cheryl has been a Shift client for almost three years. “I had a severe depression and I ended up being suicidal. After my third attempt, they put me in the hospital and I was there for four months. When I got out, I had nothing; my breastplates were gone, my belongings were gone, everything was gone; so I got out of the hospital and I was living on the street. To be precise, I was living in my van and I was working the stroll in Forest Lawn,” says Cheryl. It was then that somebody gave her a card for Shift.

The first time Cheryl came out as a transgender woman, living her life as a female was 15 years ago. She was taking hormones and getting ready for surgery, when she hooked up with a woman she met at a party. A couple of weeks later, the woman showed up at Cheryl’s door, informing her that she was pregnant. Recognizing she was about to become a parent, Cheryl realized that she had to choose between either pursue her dream as a woman or being part of her child’s life. “I wasn’t allowed both, so I picked my child,” says Cheryl. She had to put everything on hold. Years later, in consultation with her psychiatrist, she decided to continue her pursuit of her real identity and re-embarked on her journey of transition into life as a woman.

Twelve years had passed with her playing the role of being a man. And the transition hasn’t been easy. “Being a transgender woman, I don’t fit in with the, I guess you want to call them the ‘straight crowd’ and I don’t fit in with the gay, lesbian or bisexual crowd, so kind of just hover in the centre.”, which is why the safe and nonjudgemental support of the Shift program means so much to her.

When Cheryl got the Shift card, she needed a couple of weeks to get in touch with the agency. “The support counsellor here was very understanding and she didn’t condemn me or anything for what I was doing. I told her I had no money so I’m doing what I have to do to at least eat. Next thing I knew, there was a lady from the Canadian Mental Health Association that came in, and the Shift counsellor asked me if I would please talk to her. So I sat down and we talked, and all of a sudden I had a place to live. When I moved in, I owned nothing. The only thing I had was two short dresses. That was all I owned, and I talked with the Shift counsellor some more and next thing I know she called an agency; they show up and I got all of these clothes, and I just felt wonderful that I had someone there that actually cared,” adds Cheryl.

“I honestly don’t know. If it wasn’t for that lady from Shift walking up to me and giving me that card, I don’t know what would have happened to me. Honestly it’s been nothing but support and they help me with even the littlest things, like in wintertime when you don’t have a jacket. When I don’t have anything to eat, they give me food, and the nicest thing about all of it is they don’t condemn me. I tell them that sometimes money is so tight, I have to go back out and work, and they don’t condemn me for it, they just tell me “you have to be safe,” says the tall woman with the softest voice. She adds that it’s wonderful to have an organization that supports her.

Cheryl doesn’t hesitate when asked if she has a message for the other transgender people out there. “Don’t give up, don’t give up, as hard as it is, as lonely as it is, you can come to a place like Shift and you have someone that will stand beside you and will help you and me.”

Leah’s Story

Leah has been volunteering with HIV Community Link for over a year. She is 33 years old and she is a registered nurse. “I took a special interest in sexual health. I was pointed towards HIV Community Link and I thought I would enjoy it, and I have. I have worked in sexual transmitted infections in Sydney, Australia, and was a part of a research study on rapid testing. HIV has its share of stigma and I wanted to continue my work to break down the stigma. Having given a few HIV diagnoses myself, I felt really moved by doing this work,” says Leah describing her connection with the cause.

“I really enjoy working with the organization. I’ve made some good connections with the staff there, I feel recognized as a volunteer, and it’s definitely something I want to continue doing. I would strongly encourage people to volunteer with agencies that they feel are doing something good. It brings a lot of positivity in my life, I’ve met really wonderful people and it’s been a lovely experience. It’s nice to just give back when you know you can.”

Ann’s Story

Ann found out she was HIV positive in 2011. It took years to figure out what was wrong, because she wasn’t considered to be in a high risk group. A couple of months later, she came to HIV Community Link. “When I got here I was treated very well, there was not judgement, no stigma”, says Ann. Before living on the street, Ann had worked in an office for years. ”I was on the street from 2004 to 2008. I can understand now how it happens. It’s very easy. They say one paycheck away is what a lot of people are at right now from living on the street,” says Ann, who is happy she doesn’t have to be worried about her basic needs anymore. She adds that HIV Community Link helped her with her Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and housing applications. But the most important part, she says, is “coming and meeting people, people that you didn’t have to be afraid to say you are HIV positive. I use the many services offered at HIV Community Link for people living with HIV including counselling, massage, acupuncture, food hampers, Friday lunches, laundry machines and attending conferences. This helps people to live with their condition and cope with it,” shares Ann, adding that it’s really important to educate health professionals so everybody gets tested, not just those who are considered to be at a greater risk. “HIV is everyone’s disease. Please help in the education, research, and prevention of HIV,” Ann concludes.

Gerald’s Story

Gerald has been actively volunteering with our organization for over three years, helping out in several capacities. He is always looking for ways to get involved and help our organization. Gerald frequently supports at our Volunteer Activity Nights, has been a great contribution to our annual AIDS Walk, casinos and our annual Splash of Red event.

He is a cherished friend in our office with staff and clients. “I just like to step in whenever and wherever I am needed. I just like to help out as it does also give me a better understanding and workable knowledge of helping other people that need support”, says Gerald. Thank you, Gerald!

Marie’s Story

Marie is enrolled in Business Administration. She has been working in the sex industry for three years. “I started doing sex work when I was 18. It’s completely my choice. It’s your body, you should be able to do what you want with it, and you should have the choice to be who you want to be,” shares Marie, adding that she found out about Shift when she first started working with an escort agency. She says it felt really good to receive non-judgmental support from Shift. “I get to discuss safety measures; I get to be up-to-date on different health things, on contraception and STIs. Shift really helps me think clearly, makes sure I make good choices and that I keep my wellbeing. It’s good to be able to talk to someone about the things I’m going through and have someone understand”. Marie wants to start her own escort agency and mentor other women who are starting sex work. She thinks that agencies like HIV Community Link and programs like Shift should be a “requirement” so that the community can support the safety and inclusion of sex workers. “I feel like they do such a big I want to say benefit, to people in the sex industry because the chance to really go over things and get a neutral point of view helps so much”.

Find Us In

Calgary: 110 – 1603 10 Ave SW, T3C 0J7 |
(403) 508-2500 or 1 (877) 440-2437 (toll free)
Medicine Hat: 641 4th Street SE Medicine Hat|
(403) 527-5882 or 1 (877) 440-2437 (toll free)
Brooks: PO Box 331, T1R 1B4  | (403) 376-6020

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