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March 30, 2023
Following 16 years of dedicated service, Brian Lester is retiring as Executive Director of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC). As a friend of RHAC, we invite you to join us on the evening of March 30 at Civic Garden Complex (625 Springbank Drive, London, ON) virtually or in-person to celebrate Brian's legacy of leadership in our community:
- 4-5 PM: Virtual Reception (Online Only)
- 5-6 PM: Ceremony (Online and In-Person)
- 6-7 PM: Reception (In-Person Only)
If you are able to celebrate with us, please RSVP below by following the instructions in Step 1. Unable to join us? You can still participate by sharing your well wishes with Brian by following Steps 2 through 4.
STEP 1: RSVP
The celebration will take place in-person with virtual portions live-streamed. We ask that you please register to attend the virtual reception and/or ceremony (4-6 PM), or the in-person ceremony and/or reception (5-7 PM).
STEP 2: Sign the digital guestbook
Wish Brian well in his retirement by signing a virtual guestbook ahead of the event. The signed guestbook will be sent to Brian as a digital greeting card on March 30. Please sign the guestbook, before March 30: here.
STEP 3: Submit a word for Brian's retirement 'word cloud'
Submit 1 word or phrase you associate with Brian's leadership and legacy. Your submission will be part of a special 'word cloud' art piece gifted to Brian during the event. Please make your submission before March 14: here.
STEP 4: Share a photo
Do you have a photo of Brian from back-in-the-day that you would like to share with us? Photo submissions will be included in a public presentation at the event to celebrate Brian's longstanding history with RHAC! Send it to us before March 14 at: email@example.com.
March 1, 2023
In honour of Women’s History Month, RHAC celebrates the incredible contributions women have made to our history, and our future. As an organization, we are always honouring the history and current realties of the HIV/AIDS movement. Since the earliest days of the AIDS crisis, women have been at the centre of community responses to HIV/AIDS. Today, women continue to make HIV history as activists, organizers, scientists, health professionals, and more. This month is an opportunity to remember that women make history everyday as pioneers of movements and storytellers. Women are building better futures for all of us in no shortage of small, large, quiet, loud, and caring ways. Happy Women’s History Month!
February 27, 2023
A Final Executive Message from Brian Lester
With this being my final offering in our agency newsletter, I can’t help but reflect on the past 16 years with profound appreciation for how this experience impacted my professional and personal life. I came to the AIDS Committee of London, affectionately known as ACOL, in October 2006 and could never have imagined the journey ahead of me. At the time of joining this small but mighty social justice organization we had a staff of approximately 12 individuals. With this group of people, I found a team deeply committed to and courageously advancing social justice efforts for those living with and affected by HIV/HCV and related issues. Further, as a queer man entering this space, I remember thinking how affirming the environment left me feeling. I felt I was able to be my “whole self” in the space. While I felt mostly comfortable as a gay man in other work environments throughout my career, ACOL offered me the gift of a deeper sense of belonging. I hold immense gratitude for this gift!
Present-day RHAC has over 70 employees and a range of programs across three locations. Even with such growth, RHAC is still about people! Connecting to people, supporting people, and aligning with other people who are fighting for a better world for those impacted by the issues we exist to address. There are so many people who have touched my life in profound ways while doing this work. I know if I try to list you all, I will inadvertently miss someone. I simply want to offer my sincerest thank you to the many RHAC team members, community partners, supporters and volunteers, people living with HIV or HCV and those who are impacted by addiction. I have learned from you, grown from your wisdom, and laughed with you. I have also cried with you in the tragic loss and injustice associated with this work. I believe that throughout this journey, in service to the RHAC mission, we have truly actualized “The Courage to Do what Is Right." In this experience, I strived to serve the RHAC mission to the best of my ability. Throughout, I was surrounded by remarkable people that found their way to this organization!
I honour all the amazing people who have supported me throughout my RHAC journey - I will miss you.
February 24, 2023
On behalf of the Board of Directors, RHAC is thrilled to announce the appointment of Martin McIntosh as Executive Director of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) commencing March 27, 2023.
Since joining the Community Relations team in 2013, Martin has been a familiar face at RHAC for the past decade. Throughout his tenure, he has overseen many key functions at RHAC, including program development and evaluation; community development and outreach; fund development; community-based research collaborations; volunteer management; communications; staff/leadership development; and strategic planning. Along the way, he has developed authentic trust relationships within the organization and our local community, as well as the broader HIV/HCV sector while holding seats in service to people living with HIV at the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN), the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), and the AIDS Bereavement and Resiliency Program of Ontario (ABRPO).
“It is an honour to be transitioning to the role of Executive Director at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. The staff, volunteers and service users of this incredible organization have given me so much over the past decade,” says Martin. “What brought me to RHAC in 2013 was my lived and living experiences, which are directly linked to the mission we serve. What I have found is an amazing sense of direction and belonging within an organization that strongly aligns with my personal values as envisioned by our value statement: The courage to do what is right. I look forward to serving the organization and our community with passion and dedication.”
RHAC has seen incredible growth and many successes in delivering our mission to positively impact the lives of individuals and diverse communities living with, at-risk for, or affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C (HCV). Through this appointment, our Board believes that Martin’s extensive leadership experience at RHAC and his commitment to our guiding principles and values will position him for success in contributing positively to organizational health and community impact.
Read the full announcement from Board Chair Chris Moss here.
February 22, 2023
London, ON - In February, RHAC staff and clients participated in #HIVIsNotACrime: a special info session with Ryan Peck, Executive Director of HALCO (HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario), to learn more about the ongoing criminalization of HIV and the fight to change the law. Currently, HIV non-disclosure is a legal risk for criminalization in Canada. Non-disclosure can lead to an aggravated sexual assault charge, the most severe of assault charges in Canada, leading to jailtime and sex offender registration for life. No other medical condition has been criminalized in this way.
Over the past two decades, there have been almost 200 HIV-related criminal convictions in Canada, including convictions where there has been no HIV transmission. Canada’s long history of criminalizing PLHIV is rooted in stigma and outdated science. Research from the global community shows that criminalization is discriminatory, contributes to the stigmatization of PLHIV, and deters people from seeking out HIV testing and treatment, making HIV criminalization both a public health issue and a human rights violation.
People living with HIV (PLHIV) are not criminals. It’s time for HIV laws to catch up with science. HIV criminalization stops people from getting tested. It stops people from disclosing their status. It perpetuates institutional stigma. We cannot end the HIV epidemic without decriminalization.
Learn more with CANFAR at canfar.com/story/lovein-stigmaout-2023/. You can also visit HALCO at halco.org and HIV Legal Network at HIVlegalnetwork.ca.
February 17, 2023
London, ON - Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC), along with partners London Intercommunity Health Centre (LIHC) and Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU), is pleased to announce the construction at 446 York Street is near completion and scheduled to open the week of February 27th to March 1st .
The Ontario Ministry of Health approved up to $1.795 million in capital funding for the approximate $2.2 million dollar project with RHAC securing the balance of the required investment. As a result of a tender released in March 2022, Bronnenco Construction LTD was the company selected for the retrofit project which commenced May of 2022.
“The project to renovate the space at 446 York Street and create a permanent supervised consumption and treatment site comes at a critical time for our community,” says Dr. Alex Summers, Medical Officer of Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “The consumption and treatment model that has been the backbone of Carepoint has a proven history of saving lives and linking people to the supports they need.”
Like many cities and towns across Canada, London continues to be faced with a challenging opioid and overdose crisis, which has worsened because of increasing issues associated with the emergence of a more toxic and deadly street drug supply. The Carepoint program has seen the demand for its services continue throughout the pandemic. The program is a vital lifesaving service and wraparound support for many of London’s most marginalized citizens and remains a criticalpart of the care continuum in our community.
“We have been very eager for the construction work to be completed so we can provide this vital life-saving service in a well-designed and welcoming space as we continue to respond to London’s opioid /overdose crisis” says Sonja Burke, Director of Harm Reduction Services at RHAC.
Carepoint has been operating out of a temporary trailer on the property front at 446 York since end of June 2022. This transition has helped to orient service users to the intended long-term location of the program which has continued to run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., seven days a week, including statutory holidays.
"Establishing a permanent Consumption and Treatment Service site is a testament to what is possible when we come together to support the needs of our most marginalized community members,” says Scott Courtice, Executive Director of the InterCommunity Health Centre. "The new facility will continue to save lives and will enhance our ability to support Londoners with wrap around medical and social services."
Interested in a tour? Contact Sonja Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org
February 16, 2023
London, ON - In partnership with Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, a new initiative is putting a smile on clients’ faces. The Community Service Learning (CSL) program offers supervised fourth-year dentistry students the opportunity to serve the unmet oral health needs of under-served community members, including RHAC clients. The program covers basic dental services at no charge to participants. These basic services include restorations, and targeted treatments to address infections and relieve pain.
Due to stigma, discrimination and other barriers, it can be difficult for clients experiencing homelessness and/or living with HIV to access the care they require. In collaboration with Schulich, the service hosted individual dental screenings to identify community members who would benefit from basic dental services and ran its first clinic on February 17, serving 12 clients!
The cost of this one-time course of dental treatment is covered thanks to a Strategic Priority Funds (SPF) grant from Western University. Working with Schulich, the program hosted dental screenings to identify community members who would benefit from basic dental services.
Thank you to Dr. Abbas Jessani and Schulich Dentistry students for collaborating with RHAC to provide clients with the care they deserve. RHAC and Schulich will be hosting its next dental clinic for clients on March 23, with each session
January 6, 2023
London, ON - In January, the long-awaited Community & Services Hub officially opened its doors at 602 Queens Avenue. The program is a proud partnership between London Cares Homeless Response Services, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC), the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (St Joe’s Café) and the Thames Valley Family Health Team (TVFHT). In a supportive environment and based on the core values of dignity, hospitality, inclusion, community, social justice, persistence and hope, these agencies are coming together to develop a hub to co-create community and address housing, health care needs, and link to support and social services.
The Hub provides supports and services to people experiencing homelessness and other barriers to wellness. The Hub is now open Monday to Friday (9:30am-12:30pm and 1:30-4:30pm), providing a place to belong for those seeking community and free supportive services, such as:
- Laundry facilities (including necessary supplies)
- Shower facilities (including towels and toiletries)
- Basic clothing (socks, underwear, warm clothing)
- Service referrals for housing, healthcare and wellness needs;
- Warm meals, and more.
This collaboration will provide long-standing core programs and services, and additional collaborative supports to meet the complex needs of many who will access the Hub.
The former church at Queens Avenue and Adelaide Streets had $3-million worth of renovations to house the new facility including a new kitchen, eating area, an elevator for accessibility, and a renovated communal meeting space. With a goal to strengthen wrap around supports for those accessing the Hub, the main floor offers office/meeting and clinic spaces that will be available to other values aligned community service providers.
“The focus of this facility is really about offering dignity, a sense of community and hope to London’s homeless population,” says Anne Armstrong, Executive Director of London Cares. “To address the homeless population, we need to help in a dignified manner. We may not eliminate homelessness, but to give someone the services they need to get out of poverty, will make a world of a difference to that individual.”
“We view the collaborative vision of our Community Hub as an important part of the “Whole of Community Response” which has become an imperative for diverse sectors within London in the effort to address the current challenges in our community,” says Brian Lester, Executive Director of the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. “With our collective expertise and dynamic partnership, we look forward to opening our doors as we respond to the complex and intersecting issues that contribute to London’s homelessness and health crisis.”
In the media:
November 26, 2022
Red Scarf is bringing community back together—and back in time—to the disco era with live tributes to ABBA and the Bee Gees!
Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) is proud to present our 5th annual Red Scarf concert supported by Bronnenco Construction Ltd. Every year, Red Scarf raises real awareness about HIV/AIDS to end stigma and support people living with, at risk for and affected by HIV. This year, we’re excited to announce Red Scarf Rewind featuring ABBAMANIA in support of RHAC’s client programs and services.
What: Red Scarf Rewind in support of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection
Who: ABBAMANIA and Night Fever in tribute to ABBA and The Bee Gees
Where: London Music Hall (185 Queens Avenue, London, ON)
When: Saturday, November 26 at 7PM
Tickets: $39.55 (plus fees) at LondonMusicHall.com
ABBAMANIA is an acclaimed tribute to one of the biggest pop bands in history, performing ABBA's greatest hits with authentic costumes, choreography and big studio sound. ABBAMANIA has performed internationally, and twice for the cast of Mamma Mia! The show also features Night Fever with all the high harmonies and stage presence of the Bee Gees. Don't miss two incredible shows on one stage for one night only!
Get tickets now in support of RHAC at LondonMusicHall.com
Thank you to this year's Red Scarf sponsors:
Bronnenco Construction Ltd., Compudata, Toyota Manufacturing Canada Inc., Cornerstone Architecture, Harrison Pensa Lawyers, sagecomm, 97.5 Virgin Radio, and NewsTalk 1290 CJBK.
November 3, 2022
Given the increasing cost of groceries, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection's John Gordon Home (JGH) program is struggling to provide many basic items for our residents and those who reach out to us for assistance.
JGH would be grateful to receive donations of any of the following:
- Grocery store gift cards
- Personal hygiene products
- Bottled water/Juice boxes
- Granola Bars
- Warm clothes (socks/mittens/hats)
- Adult-size track pants
Please call ahead at 519-433-3951 to arrange a drop-off of donated items from the list above at 596 Pall Mall St.
John Gordon Home (JGH) is a program of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. JGH, or 'the Home with a Heart,' supports people living with HIV/AIDS and HCV (Hepatitis C) who have immediate healthcare needs to realize positive health and wellness outcome through the provision of: Transitional care, respite care, and end of life care. Learn more here.