On behalf of the Board and staff of Realize, I wish you the very best for a New Year full of promise. We hope you find some peace and joy in the days ahead, and throughout the year to come.
As you know, we’ve been celebrating a major milestone at Realize in 2023 – our 25th Anniversary as an organization. In “people years” 25 isn’t very old, but in the world of HIV and episodic disabilities, it’s been a quarter century of tumultuous change. Some of that change has been lifesaving (medical breakthroughs) but as is often the case, social change and health systems don’t always keep up with science. It’s been our work at Realize to push for advancements in these areas!
You can read a 25 year timeline of our accomplishments as the Realize community in our most recent Annual Report.
Building from our roots as the Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation, today Realize is forging new paths on HIV and aging, optimal health and wellness for people living with HIV, and social inclusion and employment for people living with episodic disabilities. This mission is more important than ever.
To paraphrase a community member from a recent event, “it’s not good enough to react to what’s happening now for people living with HIV and other episodic disabilities. We need to anticipate what’s going to happen – aging, comorbidities, ongoing and renewed stigma, and what kind of supports will be needed and who is falling through the cracks. This is what Realize does.”
I’m happy to say that we are ready for the challenge. Our Realize team is expanding. We have strong alliances and a growing number of people, organizations, and businesses engaging in work we are leading or co-leading. We see concepts we have helped pioneer being reflected back in our interactions with policymakers and program decision-makers.
We owe that strength and success to you and others like you who have dug in to create change over the last two and half decades. Thank you!
We can’t do it without you. As strong as we are, and as successful as we’ve been in securing funding for core areas of this pioneering work – over time – there are critically important pieces of work that our community and our team do off the “sides of their desks” because they need to be done, whether or not there is money for it.
For example, Realize is one of the four founding agencies of The International Coalition of Older People with HIV (iCOPe HIV). iCOPeHIV is a recently established network of people and organizations committed to improving care, optimizing quality of life, and fostering empowerment among aging and older (age 65+) people living with HIV around the world. Its founding member organizations include the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG), the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP) in the US, Realize, and UTOPIA_BXL in Belgium. Since it’s inception, over 120 organizations representing every region of the world have signed on – reflecting the fact that the HIV community, globally, is grappling with what it means to get older with HIV.
Another example of work Realize has undertaken because it needs to be done, without direct funding, is our exploration of the intersections of HIV, disability, sexual orientation and identity, gender, race, and age, and what that all means when it comes to care and support across Canada. This is far too big a mission for us to do alone, but Realize plays a critical, catalytic role in helping these conversations take place!
We can only do this with the support of our extraordinary Realize community!
I know not everyone is able to support us financially, but if you are, please consider making a donation to help keep this work moving forward in 2024.
A donation of $50 $75 or $100 today will help Realize to:
- Enable the international movement of older adults living with HIV,
- Bring together diverse communities working on disability and HIV on issues of shared concern in Canada,
- Make sure that all our communications and processes are accessible to the widest possible audience
- Tackle ageism and ableism in Canada’s HIV and STBBI (sexually transmitted and blood-borne illnesses) response,
- Meaningfully engage people living with HIV and other episodic disabilities in every aspect of our work from governance and policy and program development to program implementation. (Sadly, too often, funder rules shortchange how we can compensate the extraordinary contributions to our work of people who’s lived experience we need to understand to be effective, and
- Ensure that episodic disability is recognized in the upcoming Canada Disability Benefit.
Whatever you’re able to give, either financially or in the actions you take to affect change, please know that you are a valued member of the Realize community.
Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!
Thank you for your support.