Leading up to World AIDS Day, knitters in Simcoe-Muskoka have been hard at work knitting red scarves to spread awareness.
The effort is coordinated by The Gilbert Centre, a non profit that supports people in the LGBTQ+ community, and people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Red scarves which mirror the red ribbons of HIV awareness are knit by volunteers and hung on lamposts, alongside educational information, for anyone to take.
According to the centre, close to 70,000 Canadians are living with HIV. Kellie Leeder, Women’s Health Coordinator for the centre, says the most important message is that HIV is now highly treatable.
“Stigma can be very prominent in the community, so ‘U equals U’ is the message, that there’s zero chances [of transmission] if they adhere to their medication and take them on a regular basis,” says Leeder. “They can become undetectable, which means untransmittable, which is U equals U.”
Leeder says anyone who suspects they have HIV can order a free test kit from The Gilbert’s Centre’s website, which also provides other support services.
She says volunteers with several organizations have already created a few hundred scarves for the effort.
“Depending on your knitting skills or crocheting skills, someone could knit a scarf in a night, someone could knit a scarf in a couple of days, it’s a matter of how fast you want to knit and how much time you want to spend on it,” says Leeder. “I just want to say thank you to all our knitters.”
Barrie City Hall will hold a flag raising at noon on November 23rd with scarves hung around the downtown on the same day. Scarves will be hung up in Gravenhurst on November 30th, and in Bracebridge on December 1st, with the Bracebridge Falls lit up in red.
According to Leeder, scarves will also be donated to various homeless shelters and food banks throughout Simcoe Muskoka.
To learn more, contact The Gilbert Centre or go to: https://gilbertcentre.ca