CANFAR expands its social network to go further in raising awareness and preventing HIV in Canada among at-risk youth ages 15-29…
By Guillaume S. Togay L. de Varennes
The year 2022 has just begun, but it already has an added advantage in the fight against the HIV pandemic. With the support of ViiV Healthcare Canada, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) Legacy 2.0 Group recently opened a new chapter in Ottawa to further amplify its impact on Canadian youth.
Established in 2011, Legacy (now Legacy 2.0 as of 2019) is a social network across Canada bringing together supporters and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. It is uniquely focused on supporting fundraising and initiatives dedicated to national HIV awareness and prevention among at-risk youth ages 15-29.
Legacy’s vision aligns well with ViiV’s commitments to ending the HIV pandemic. Marvelous Muchenje, ViiV Healthcare’s community relations manager working with Legacy 2.0, is excited about the idea of future network expansion. “The Legacy 2.0 project has grown stronger over the years, and we hope to soon have a chapter in every province in Canada,” she says.
The strategy behind the Legacy 2.0 mission offers a promising long-term response to help end the HIV pandemic, one that is more grounded in reality than previously thought. In its 2020 surveillance report, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that about 25 per cent of new HIV cases were in the 15-29 age group, regardless of gender, making the age group one of the highest-risk groups for HIV infection. Ignoring this fact can be a double-edged sword, with disastrous short- and long-term effects, which Legacy 2.0 tends to counteract.
The opening of strategic chapters across Canada, such as the most recent one in Ottawa, allows Legacy 2.0 to develop HIV prevention programs more relevant to younger generations. Each local program is able to maximize funding for research, education and social programs specifically dedicated to this goal. Their latest initiative – Sexfluent.ca, a youth-led online platform dedicated to HIV prevention and youth empowerment – illustrates this approach.
These chapters also play another important role, says David Tremblay, co-chair of Legacy 2.0. “It’s crucial for the Legacy 2.0 network – as well as the new Ottawa chapter – to share CANFAR’s mission and news across the country, and raise awareness of the Sexfluent platform.”
Across Canada, excellent initiatives are being developed to improve access to treatment and tailor delivery to specific communities. In the longer term, and because programming is not a “one size fits all” idiom, the support provided by Legacy 2.0 is critical to keeping the risk of HIV infection at bay in the future. This is the second aspect of the above issue. The idea of reaching 15- to 29-year-olds also aims to address the root of the problem. Raising awareness among today’s younger generation will likely impact their future needs for health care, access to treatment, and facilitation of medical linkage across the country. The healthcare system will be better prepared to meet future demands and thus, indirectly, help improve the quality of life of people living with HIV.
In addition, Legacy 2.0 responds to a new challenge raised by the change in communication behaviour among younger generations. The widespread use of social media and connected platforms to inform themselves and interact with their peers has disrupted the traditional channels used by initiatives targeting this demographic. The future effectiveness of campaigns and projects will depend heavily on mastering new communication tools and strategies capable of reaching and capturing the attention of this already over-solicited age group. And that takes a tight-knit network that is alert but also responsive to changing trends within its target population.
The new Ottawa chapter is another promising step towards better including youth in the HIV equation. But, more importantly, it is tangible evidence that local support remains a key component in addressing the HIV pandemic at the national level. As Daniel Reyes Cocka, co-chair of the Ottawa chapter of Legacy 2.0, concludes, “This is something that has been incredibly important to me. Alongside my husband, I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing team in Canadian cities as we bring chapters to life from coast to coast.”
MAKE A DONATION OR BECOME A NEW MEMBER OF LEGACY 2.0:
CANFAR welcomes new Legacy 2.0 members on an ongoing basis as well as donations throughout the year. Legacy 2.0 Membership offers some exclusive benefits in return for support or a donation. Visit canfar.com/events/legacy-2-0/.