Who: Casey House, Canada’s only hospital for people living with HIV and AIDS, Bensimon Byrne and Narrative PR.
What: “Healing House,” a spa in Toronto where people can get a massage from one of 15 HIV+ “healers.”
Why: This is all about correcting misconceptions about HIV. Many Canadians say they are nervous about physical contact with an HIV+ person. The message of Healing House: relax, skin-to-skin contact is not only perfectly safe, touch is a powerful force for human comfort.
Got numbers? Yup… the second annual Casey House Smash Stigma study, conducted by Leger, found 88% of Canadians believe Canada is a compassionate country, but more than half wouldn’t want to touch someone with HIV. Further, 91% of Canadians believe it is human nature to need positive touch, but….only 38% said they’d be willing to share skin-to-skin touch with someone who was HIV+.
And we quote: “Compassion is something Canadians are known for, yet as a country we lack empathy for individuals living with HIV/AIDS… With the launch of Healing House, we’re going to lead by example and show the world how positive touch can be a form of healing for those who deal daily with misperceptions and the stigma of HIV/AIDS.”— Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House.
Smashing Stigma Part I: Casey House and Bensimon Byrne’s efforts to tackle unfounded fears about HIV started last year with “Break Bread Smash Stigma.” A pop-up restaurant staffed by HIV+ cooks that deflated myths about HIV and generated huge earned media for the cause. The creative community also loved the originality of the idea, giving it awards at major shows internationally and here at home.
BY DAVID BROWN