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March 7, 2012

For 30 years HIV/AIDS has been a local concern as well as an international epidemic. Since the early years, many women in our community have dedicated their professional lives to working with people living with, affected by and at risk for HIV. On International Women's Day, we are taking a moment to honour six women who have made significant contributions locally to the HIV movement.

Gloria Aykroyd MSW, RSW

Since 1991, Gloria Aykroyd has been the Program Coordinator and a social worker at Infectious Diseases Care Program (formerly known as HIV Care Program) in London.  Gloria is co-chair of the Ontario HIV Outpatient Clinic Directors and Coordinators Network, and in 2008 completed a 3-year term as the coordinator representative on the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) Board. Gloria has been an abstract reviewer for OHTN and formerly was the co-chair of OHTN’s Health Care Provider Network Advisory Committee.

Gloria has served on the Board of Directors for London Regional AIDS Hospice, more commonly known as John Gordon Home, and on the Diocese of Huron AIDS Education Committee. This committee formed Camp Wendake, a camp for persons living with HIV, their partners and loved ones at which Gloria was a cook for four years.

She is a member of numerous professional organizations and committees and is co-chair of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Ethics Education and Consultation Committee.
Gloria has worked for over 37 years as a social worker, including many years experience in child welfare and children's mental health. She also has a home-based private practice and wellness business.

Brenda Done

Brenda Done has worked in a variety of capacities at St. Joseph’s Health Care London since June 1979, including charge nurse in both the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit and adult Intensive Care Unit. She also spent time on the intravenous team honing her blood-taking expertise! For the past 20 years, Brenda has been the clinic nurse for the Infectious Diseases Care Program (IDCP), an outpatient facility providing care for those infected and affected with HIV/AIDS.

Brenda has had the privilege of serving on the board of directors for several AIDS related organizations including: Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), Canadian Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (CANAC), John Gordon Home and AIDS Committee of London (now RHAC).

Shannon Dougherty

Shannon Dougherty has a degree in Psychology/Women’s Studies from Glendon College at York University in Toronto.

A feminist activist and ardent supporter of social justice causes for over 25 years, Shannon has often been heard to say she would be ready to chain herself to the Peace Tower in Ottawa to fight for the rights of marginalized people anytime the needs arises.

She began working in the social services sector in 1994, firstly with street-involved youth and then made her way to AIDS Committee of London as a Women’s Support Worker. 
Shannon has been the Director of Client Services at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (formerly ACOL) since 2003. She oversees the agency’s client programs and services, including those designed to serve HIV+ women and women at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Jane Paisley-Canning

Jane Paisley-Canning has been a public health nurse at Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) since1998. She currently works in the Family Planning and Sexually Transmitted Infection clinics and is responsible for follow-up on reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
Jane has always enjoyed working one-on-one with clients and in 2001, after several years working in sexual health, she was fortunate to become involved in HIV follow-up, which she describes as being “very rewarding”.
She is one of two nurses responsible for newly diagnosed HIV case follow-up. They support clients associated with several facilities such as Elgin Middlesex Detention Center, My Sister’s Place, Women’s Community House, John Gordon Home, Children’s Aid Society, Center of Hope and Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. MLHU provides counselling, education and information, referral, assistance with partner notification, support and services for newly diagnosed clients and partners or family, as needed. They offer a variety of services including STI testing and treatment/referral, a sexual health promotion program and a needle exchange program.
Jane and her colleagues value collaboration with RHAC, Options Clinic and Infectious Disease Care Program through contact with counselling staff, referrals and the needle exchange program. 

Margaret Pelz MD, FRCPC (Psychiatry)

Margaret Pelz joined the HIV Care Programme (now Infectious Diseases Care Program (IDCP)) at St. Joseph’s Health Care in 1999. There she was mentored by Dr. Mark Halman and learned through her colleagues, Gloria Aykroyd and Brenda Done at IDCP as well as Shannon Dougherty at Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.

Margaret has worked with staff at RHAC since joining IDCP and in 2009, she moved her office space into RHAC at 186 King Street where she works closely with the Client Services team to manage the health of HIV+ clients.
Margaret’s professional interests lie with HIV and mood disorders, especially depression and bipolar disorder, co-infection with hepatitis C and triple diagnoses of HIV, severe psychiatric illness and substance use.

Lyn Pitman

Lyn Pitman’s involvement in HIV work began at AIDS Committee of London (ACOL) in 1989.  In 1994, Lyn moved on to work at London Intercommunity Health Centre (LIHC), as the Coordinator of its Anonymous HIV Testing Clinic, known to many as “The Options Clinic”.   She values the strong relationship built over the years with RHAC and continues to support the partnership between LIHC and RHAC by providing several anonymous HIV testing clinics each year in the six counties served by Regional HIV/AIDS Connection.

Outside of work, Lyn spends time with her partner Bob and their daughter Zai, who was ACOL’s first baby, welcomed and celebrated by both staff and clients 20 years ago!

March 6, 2012

Open to: Service providers, students and clients who have an interest in learning about hep C and the services available in London for people living with hepatitis C.

FREE - Lunch will be provided R.S.V.P.

R.S.V.P. Contact: Sarah Wood at or Richard MacDonagh at or by calling either at 519-434-1601

Event poster

There are new and exciting services in London for people living with, affected by and at risk for hepatitis C:

•hep C testing


•social support

•support with basic needs and addictions

The information fair is a chance for you to:

•see what agencies are providing direct hep C services and learn how to refer clients to these services

•meet and make connections with the workers who are providing direct services to people living with hep C

•find out all of the services that are available to people living with hep C

•get information and resources on hep C to bring back to your agencies

January 31, 2012

All Staff and Board of RHAC Sign The Ontario Accord on January 19, 2012.

Regional HIV/AIDS Connection is committed to adhering to the principles of The Ontario Accord because the greater involvement and meaningful engagment of people living with HIV/AIDS (GIPA/MIPA) must be at the center of our work if we are to effectively deliver on our mission of addressing the challenges associated with HIV/AIDS.

The staff and board of Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) commenced 2012 by coming together for a day to learn, explore and further develop our understanding and application of GIPA/MIPA (Greater/Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PHA)) within our organization. We took this opportunity to re-state our commitment to this philosophy of service delivery and share ways in which GIPA can engage PHAs and serve the organization’s mission.  GIPA is about human rights, inclusion, self determination and dignity of the full human being and RHAC deeply embraces these concepts as we strive to deliver on our mission.

At our first annual GIPA ceremony on January 19, each staff and board member signed the accord to demonstrate Regional HIV/AIDS Connection’s commitment to advancing GIPA. We will hold a ceremony on an annual basis to recognize our progress and renew our commitment to this integral element of the HIV/AIDS movement.

GIPA is, and will continue to be, in the forefront of our work. If you are living with HIV, we invite you to get involved with RHAC in ways that bring meaning to you as an individual. To those living with HIV who currently help bring GIPA to life at RHAC each day—we sincerely thank you! 

January 13, 2012

Free, anonymous HIV testing clinic this Friday, January 13 at Central Community Health Centre in St. Thomas, 359 Talbot Street from 2-4 p.m.. No health card or appointment required - just walk in! Pre and post test counselling provided. Test results for you in about 20 minutes.

January 4, 2012

Regional HIV/AIDS Connection is committed to becoming fully compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As of January 1, 2012 RHAC officially adopted its Customer Service Standards for persons with disabilities document. Read about our accessibility feedback process and download our accessibility feedback form and send it back to us.

January 4, 2012

On Wednesday, April 25, 2012 Regional HIV/AIDS Connection will be holding its first ever A Taste For Life event in Stratford as well as in London! We have signed six Stratford restaurants to participate: Bijou Restaurant, Fosters Inn, Molly Blooms Irish Pub, The Annex Room, Evergreen Terrace and The Sun Room.

Mark your calendars for April 25 when you'll have the chance to enjoy good food for a good cause!

Visit and select Stratford to see more details.

December 9, 2011

Join us and participate in a fruitful discussion around a screening of the video "The Woman I Have Become"and the topic "Creating Personal Support Networks".

WHEN: Friday, December 9 from 9:30-4:00

WHERE: Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, 186 King Street, London

Refreshments and transportation will be provided.

Call Mercy Nleya at 519-434-1601 for more information or email


9:30 - 10:00 am Breakfast and registration

10:00 - 10:15 am Welcome, introduction and housekeeping

10:15 - 10:30 am Words into Deeds PHA engagement project
Provincial Black PHA Advisory Body

10:30 - 11:30 am The Woman I Have Become (video)

11:30 - 11:45 am Break

11:45 am - 12:25 pm  Discussion about the video

12:25 - 1:00 pm Lunch

1:00 - 1:45 pm  Accountability: Our Responsbility

1:45 - 2:00 pm Break   

2:00 - 3:30 pm  Creating personal support networks

3:30 - 3:45 pm Evaluation, check-out and wrap-up

November 28, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011- “Getting to Zero”

The first World AIDS Day (WAD) happened 23 years ago on December 1st to raise awareness of what became, and arguably still remains, the most stigmatized virus on our planet. Stigma is defined as “a connotation of disgrace associated with certain things”. Stigma continues to impact millions of people around the world, and stigma is intrinsically linked to the reason approximately 60 million people have contracted the virus.

Since the first diagnoses in 1981 UNAIDS reports that HIV/AIDS has killed approximately 30 million people worldwide. This staggering number falls just short of the total population of Canada. One can only speculate the lives that may have been spared had stigma not impeded the response needed to stem the tide of infections and subsequent deaths.

According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 34 million people living with HIV. During 2010 some 2.7 million people became newly infected with the virus, including an estimated 390,000 children. Despite a significant decline in the estimated number of AIDS-related deaths over the last five years, in 2010 there were still an estimated 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths.

In the 1980s, HIV, the virus known to cause AIDS, initiated its assault on gay men and Haitians and moved into other populations such as injection drug users and members of Aboriginal community. While many dismissed AIDS as a mostly "gay disease", the insidious virus began to take hold across sub-Saharan Africa in what became a well-publicized pandemic of enormous proportion. Suddenly AIDS was black, straight and someplace else! While many political leaders wouldn’t acknowledge emergence of the virus in the early days, activists and humanitarians around the world launched fervent efforts to bring about a response commensurate with rising infection rates and the mounting death toll.
World AIDS Day was launched to increase awareness, fight pervasive stigma and, in part, to raise funds. Today WAD continues to be an important annual marker of the work done within this movement. It is also a day to take time to remember those we have lost, honour those living with HIV/AIDS and celebrate all that has been accomplished in the movement. WAD is also important to help remind people that HIV/AIDS has not gone away and that there are many things still to be done in HIV/AIDS work.

Because of the development and improvement of life saving medications over the past 15 years the situation with HIV/AIDS has improved for millions living with the virus. This “optimism” has inspired the new WAD campaign entitled “Getting to Zero”. The theme will be used until 2015 and echoes the UNAIDS vision of achieving “Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths.” It’s an ambitious vision and one that Regional HIV/AIDS Connection fully endorses.

However in order to realize such an ambitious vision it will require a critical mass shift in how we think about HIV/AIDS. The fact is more and more people are living with HIV each day. These same people are often living in fear from stigma imposed on them by society. Together we can get to the root of HIV/AIDS discrimination - stigma. Those of us in this movement call upon society to examine attitudes, beliefs and biases about HIV/AIDS. It is time to abandon stigmatizing thoughts about the virus and those living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

People who work daily in AIDS service organizations know that not only “certain kinds of people” get HIV/AIDS. There are certain kinds of risk factors related to acquiring HIV, but we refute that people living with HIV/AIDS should be categorized as innocent victims and those who deserve the virus. We encourage you to take some time to learn about HIV risk at and ask yourself, “Could it ever happen to me?”

Check your HIV/AIDS bias and get stigma to zero!

November 1, 2011

The holiday season will soon be upon us, which means that the Annual Holiday Client Dinner is coming up! Clients of RHAC are invited to attend the Annual Client Holiday Dinner, to be held on December 12th at the Byron Community Church (336 Glenrose Dr., Byron). The festivities start at 5:00 pm, with dinner at 6:00 and Santa Claus arriving at 7:30.

There will be a traditional holiday dinner, raffles, door prizes and gift bags. Transportation is available, but you will need to RSVP.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Rob Newman or check out the poster!

October 28, 2011

The Grand Bend Area Community Health Center is hosting a Well Women's Health Day on November 22nd at 7 pm. The event will feature RHAC's Bonnie Baynham presenting on Women's Sexual Health, as well as presentations from Mickey Gurbin on Women and Anxiety and a presentation called Health by Chocolate! from Miranda Burgess. Additionally, breast and pap exams will be available to women without a health care provider on site from 9 am - 4 pm that day.  

The Grand Bend Area Community Health Centre is located at 69 Main St. E., Grand Bend. For more information on the event, check out this poster or contact Bonnie Baynham.