VANCOUVER — Special to The Globe and Mail
One afternoon last week, CDs, clothes, tools – as well as sex and drugs – were for sale on the sidewalks of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, the pungent scent of marijuana hanging in the air and stench of urine wafting out of alleys.
Outreach nurse Jacey Larochelle strolled through the crowd looking for one of her 27 clients who are HIV-positive. Many of them are “polydrug” users with mental health issues and several are in the “survival sex trade” making as little a “$5 for a blow job,” she says. They can earn a bit more if they don’t insist on condom use.
Larochelle connects her clients with social workers and support staff, who can help with housing, transportation and financial problems, and direct them to addiction treatment programs that dispense methadone at neighbourhood pharmacies.
But her prime objective is to get her clients onto antiretroviral therapy. The potent medications, if taken once a day, can stop HIV’s assault on the immune system that eventually leads to AIDS, which is deadly. And they can prevent virus from spreading to their sex partners. Continue reading . . .