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Dr. Peter Foundation -

A Message from Dr. Carol Murphy, Founding Physician of Spectrum Health and Director of the Board of the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation

World AIDS Day at the Dr. Peter Centre

Remembering those who have passed and supporting those with HIV to live life with dignity

November 29, 2014

Dear Friends,

As we approach World AIDS Day on December 1, I write to remind you of the importance of supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our community who depend on HIV/AIDS care.

Many of you may remember the recent announcement that the AIDS ward at St. Paul's Hospital would be closing. The reason given for this sudden and surprising decision was that this dedicated AIDS ward was not necessary anymore; that HIV and AIDS were no longer the medical or social challenge that they had previously been.

This was a surprising and worrisome message. Incredible progress has been made in the last 20 years in the fight against AIDS, but we all know there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. Thousands of people in our own community are infected with HIV. Many are well, but many have insurmountable medical and social needs. To these people, "The End of AIDS" is not a reality.

A typical scenario in my own practice would go something like this: A young gay man who is HIV+ comes to see me to renew his prescription for his antivirals. He takes one pill a day, he is healthy, he has a job, he has a life partner, he may even have children. He has a normal life expectancy and he is gratefully aware that 20 years ago, he, like Dr Peter Jepson-Young, would have died of this virus. This patient exemplifies the phenomenal progress that has been made in the battle against HIV. That is the "End of AIDS" part of the story.

My next patient who walks through my door tells a very different story. He is also HIV+ but there the similarity ends. This patient is poorly dressed, not too clean, he is thin, depressed, hopeless and alone. He became positive through sharing needles. He has suffered from drug addiction and depression for many years, he lives in a SRO hotel, his welfare money often goes to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes instead of food and shelter. He has no contact with his family; he has no real friends. He could be my child or brother or yours. He is a member of our own community, he is one of us, he needs the kind of help and support that you and I will likely never need, although you never know. He is sad and hopeless. He makes me feel sad and hopeless.

What can I, as a general physician, do for this patient? Actually, very little. I sit and look at this man and I know his needs are absolutely beyond my scope. Fortunately, there is one place in our community where this man will get the kind of continuous care and support he needs. So I tell him about the Dr. Peter Centre. I tell him to walk over and speak to them. There, I know, he will be welcomed and cared for.

Because of your generous donations, he will be fed nutritious food seven days a week. He will be able to shower and wash his clothes, he will find joy in art therapy classes, he will feel like he has people - nurses, care aides, counsellors and cooks - who care about him. He will not be rejected because of his addiction and mental health problems. He will be made to feel his life can be better, that he is worth the effort, and that he can help others as well as be helped. All of that will happen at the Dr. Peter Centre.

There are a vast number of resources that play very important roles in helping our lost, disenfranchised and very sick patients. But there is only one Dr. Peter Centre. There is only one true "home" for these patients who have so many unmet needs.

We in Canada operate on the assumption that every member of our society deserves as much medical and social support as we have available. This wonderful social policy has a living voice at the Dr. Peter Centre. Seven days a week, Dr. Peter Centre participants get treatment, nutritious meals and a place to spend time with people who care. This continuity of care exists because you have generously supported the Dr. Peter Centre.

Please continue to give.

Thank you,

Dr. Carol Murphy


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