The Calgary HIV Social Society: Building Social Capital through Social Gatherings for Persons Living with HIV

Written by Scott Montgomery, Alberta CBR Collaborative Practicum Student.


The Calgary HIV Social Society (CHSS) and researchers from Mount Royal University are partnering on a project designed to address the concerns of many Calgarians living with HIV regarding a gap in the social supports available to them. For the project, co-researchers will facilitate social gatherings (BBQs, theatre, etc…) that focus on building connectedness and creating social capacity to reduce the burden of stigma and isolation faced by people and communities impacted by HIV.  Using a participatory action research approach, co-researchers hope to learn about HIV community-led initiatives while building infrastructure to support social resources for communities affected by HIV.

Through conversations with their peers, the founders of CHSS realized that while there are supportive peer groups in Calgary for people living with HIV, events and gatherings that focus specifically on fun activities and socializing are limited. Safe spaces for people living with HIV to gather and support each other through shared challenges relating to living with HIV are a crucial piece of the community’s support system. However, the disease and stigma are often the focus of conversation and discussion in these settings. CHSS wants to create a new type of safe space for HIV positive Calgarians, expanding the support system beyond the negative aspects of living with HIV.

Through social gatherings, CHSS hopes to empower people to be themselves and have fun in an environment welcoming to all Calgarians living with HIV, where they do not have to worry about disclosing. In the future, CHSS hopes to be able to provide mentorship programs for young people living with HIV, and expand their social gatherings to include retreats and team building activities.

CHSS social gatherings will begin in July. Later this year, focus group discussions will explore the experiences of the participants and co-researchers who participate in and facilitate the events.


 

“The Calgary HIV Social Society’s mission is to provide support through socialization, friendship, community, and resources to those living with HIV in a stigma free, non-judgmental, and inclusive environment.” – CHSS Mission Statement

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