AIDS lounge is a safe place to get support

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aids lounge, at New Westminster's Purpose Society (courtesy of NewsLeader)By Michael McQuillan, NewsLeader

People who are HIV and AIDS positive suffer higher stress than most people. They also face stigma because of their disease. Those are two of the reasons the Purpose Society in New Westminster is now home to a comfort zone lounge.

“We wanted clients and the people who support them to come down and feel completely at ease,” said Edoye Porbeni, the project co-ordinator for Positive Spaces with the Lower Mainland Purpose Society.

“By having a safe, quiet space, this is a space where people can regroup and share their experiences with people who have the same struggles,” she said.

The comfort zone lounge, located at the Purpose Society’s office in New Westminster, is one of three comfort lounges in the Fraser Health Region. The others are in Surrey and Abbotsford and they officially opened on World’s AIDS day, Dec. 1. It is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, part of Health Canada.

The room, with subdued lighting, comfortable furniture and a serene feel, has a variety of purposes. “It can be used for whatever they want. If they want it to be for a support group, this room is available. Sometimes people just want to come and talk about their everyday problems – some of them are mothers, some are fathers, some are looking for a job,” said Porbeni.

“It’s a sanctuary here, a haven for people. They feel at peace here,” she said.

With Vancouver recently hosting the World AIDS conference, there’s more awareness and understanding about the disease. As a result, the public has been very receptive to the project. “I don’t know if that would have been the case 10 years ago,” she said. “Now there seems to be less associating [AIDS/HIV] with one group. People are starting to understand it can infect anyone.”

The Purpose Society offers other services for people with AIDS. It offers counselling to make people aware of the risks involved in being infected by the disease. It also offers a service for those who have been infected, as well as people who support those who are AIDS/HIV positive.

There’s a food bank, education on alternative therapies, client lunches and assorted other support services.

For more information on the comfort lounge and other services offered by the Purpose Society, phone 604-526-2522 or go online to http://www.purposesociety.org.

source Neswleader