HIV West Yellowhead was formed in the spring of 1988 and was officially called “AIDS: A Positive Coordinated Community Response Society of Jasper”. That name was a result of the diverse community representation on the newly formed board, including the following: Jasper Family and community Support Services, Seton General Hospital, the Jasper National Park Health Unit and Jasper Tourism and Commerce.
The main catalyst for the formation of the society was that a man affected by AIDS decided to return home to Jasper to live out his last days. This syndrome, although becoming common in larger centres, still carried with it a lot of fear and stigma. The main goal of the society at that time was to support people living with HIV and AIDS and to raise awareness about the virus.
In its early beginnings “AIDS Jasper” focused on prevention, education, and promoting positive healthy lifestyles to young people who come to live and work in Jasper during the summer and winter seasons. Early projects of the Society included the “Spread No Evil” workshop, distribution of safer sex packages to new staff, information displays, grocery bag stuffers, condom distribution in the bars, special theatre presentations, the development and distribution of the “Dare to Care” poster and presentations to the British Army (who used to train here every summer until 1995).
The name of the society was changed to “HIV West Yellowhead” in 2004 to better represent the expansion of services and programs to the communities of Hinton, Edson, and Whitecourt. Our current projects include a summer poster campaign in Jasper based on positive community norms to promote condom use within the young adult population in our community, called “Safe is Sexy“; developing a harm reduction and needle exchange and disposal program for the region; and a fall series of Lunch and Learn workshops where participants pack a lunch and expand their knowledge about HIV and other health concerns. We also now provide one on one through our Support and Outreach Worker based in Edson.