To help us spread messages of support from our family to yours, we recently connected with Christian Hui, CANFAR National Ambassador, and asked him to share his experience living through the pandemic.
How has COVID-19 impacted harm reduction efforts? Might this have an impact on the rates of new HIV infections?
COVID-19 has impacted harm reduction in many ways. Workers feel like they have not been able to meet the needs of people who use drugs adequately. A lot of organizations had to adjust their services due to the public health recommendations so there’s been quite a lot of variation in terms of how programming and services can be delivered. I think a lot of peer workers, because some of them are immunocompromised, have been either redeployed or they can’t actually do the outreach work. What I hear is peer workers want to stay engaged, yet sometimes, they have not been able to or they don’t get the same type of interaction with people who use drugs as they wish. This is unfortunate because for harm reduction workers and people who use drugs, that brief interaction means so much.
I heard from one organization in an area that has a consumption treatment site, they had two satellite sites closed down during COVID-19, so services are much more reduced. Due to the difficulty in accessing services, some of the people who use drugs are reusing syringes even though syringes are supposed to be one-use only. So, that can potentially place someone at risk of HIV and Hepatitis C and do harm to their veins.
What’s it like living as a single gay male during the pandemic?
I think the only thing that is a bit different during this time is that most people are not likely to want to meet because of social distancing and I think the queer community as a whole has been respecting that. When I go on apps, I am noticing that gay men are going a little stir crazy so hopefully this pandemic won’t go on for too long. I thank people for doing their part to help flatten the curve.
What has your experience been like since the COVID-19 pandemic as an Asian person living with HIV?
I think COVID-19 has brought up a lot of reflections for me as someone who’s Asian. Of course, there was fear or stigma towards Asians or Chinese people at first. But I think through time, that may have lessened. Yet as a person living with HIV, when I first heard of coronavirus, I felt like I didn’t have a very good feeling about this for some reason, and I actually really wanted to wear a mask myself. There’s so much that we don’t know about this virus—partly, we don’t have adequate testing, so we can’t test everyone and know who may have been impacted.
What’s the first thing you are going to do once the quarantine has been lifted?
I want to hug someone!