"Sometimes I would use that as an opportunity to come out about my status and talk about how essentially normal and in a lot of ways boring my life can be, living with HIV, in terms of managing it as a health condition." Simons says her ideal outcome from the pop-up restaurant would be a dramatic change in public awareness.She hopes that "if we were to run our stigma survey again in the next few months or years, the results will be much more favourable." Mikiki says the experience of serving and preparing food allows people with HIV the opportunity to show the general public what living with the virus actually means.
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"For the clients that Casey House serves, that stigma is very real on a very daily basis." At the restaurant, the chefs wear aprons emblazoned with myth-busting slogans like "Kiss the HIV cook," and "I got HIV from pasta, said no one ever." Matt Basile, chef at Toronto's Fidel Gastro, came on board to train the cooks and help them develop the menu.
The experience level in the kitchen ranges "from the good to the bad to the ugly," says Guy Bethell, one of the chefs on the crew, who has been living with HIV for 30 years. But everybody had something to bring to the table, and Matt was able to pull threads from all of us." June's quickly sold out its two-night run and organizers hope to hold similar events in the future.
Medical advancements related to HIV have changed dramatically in the last 30 years: once a terminal illness, it can now be treated with a combination of medications.
But Simons says in many ways, public perception is stuck in the 1980s.
TORONTO -- While working as a sexual health educator in Calgary several years ago, artist and activist Mikiki would often gently correct clients who said they had never met a gay person.
Actually, you probably have but just didn't know it, Mikiki would explain.
About 583,000 Gays are HIV positive in the United States; One in 20 MSM are living with HIV in UK.