Pubdate: Wed, 15 Aug 2007
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Victoria News
Author: David Desmaris


Serious debate about negative behaviours of a few Victoria needle 
exchange clients has cast AIDS Vancouver Island in a 
less-than-favourable light of late.

While the majority of registered clients come and go with little 
impact on the neighbourhood, a small percentage, as discussed in 
police media releases, "inhabits between the Cormorant area and 
StreetLink area."?

While these issues are ongoing with the community and AVI working to 
resolve them with good neightour agreement, I stand back, a client of 
AVI, not the needle exchange, and a volunteer for 12 years and look 
at the immense work AVI has done on Vancouver Island since 1986. 
Prevention, education, harm-reduction, advocacy, men's wellness, 
women's wellness and, yes, the needle exchange, are but a few of the 
departments within AVI that run the programs you see in the community.

I sit back and read articles so rife with anger over an opinion one 
way or the other. Anger for and against the needle exchange, pro and con.

I too was angry at one time, but through growth and volunteering, I 
am beyond anger for and more resolute on not judging people for whom 
they may be or what they do.

Clearly, while issues may arise, I've watched them handled by people 
who care and don't just jump and react. I learned more about humanity 
by my early morning street clean ups than in any other period in my 
life. While thrown the odd curve, for six years, "the kids" (my term, 
'cause hey, all the folks are someone's kids) have treated me 
respectfully, shared tears at 6 a.m. and hugs at noon. Some too have 
passed away.

"My being, my soul has not only been nurtured by everyone at AVI for 
12 years but filled now to the brim with a remarkable world that some 
would rather sweep under the carpet."

What I know about AVI, not as a volunteer but as a client too, is the 
desks are worn, the shelving in the offices is not fancy, the pay is 
somewhat less working at a non-profit, and every staff member that 
I've come to know is committed to the clients of the agency - of any 
of its programs, from Victoria to Port Hardy - first and foremost.

After 12 years, I don't think AVI could be any more transparent than 
it is being currently.

In closing, I'm committed to volunteer at AVI as AVI does on its 
clients' behalf. An injunction against any department of AVI would be 
detrimental to the good work done by the needle exchange itself, open 
since 1988, that I cringe thinking of different outcomes.

David Desmaris

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