From the Board

From the Board

Hello VPWAS members,

As another year is fully underway. I would first like to thank Craig Dales, Penny Bradford and TJ Furlani, for the consistent care they provide to us as members, -most especially to those who have recently joined VPWAS either through a recent diagnosis or as a newcomer to the province and country. For those who are new, whatever we can do to help you feel more welcome and part of this peer-led, community-based health initiative called VPWAS, now in our 31st year, we’re here for you. There is always a place for you at our kitchen-table. In particular, we would like to welcome Numa, one of our most recent peer volunteers. Numa, your dedication to VPWAS is an inspiration. Walking through the door (by foot or by keyboard) and seeing your warm, welcoming smile is motivation enough to stop by and say hello. 

Living with HIV has been, and for many continues to be, a life-defining experience. While the world reals from another year of this current pandemic, it may be heartening to know that many of us long-term survivors carry decades of memories, both painful and hopeful. We have learned hard won strategies for self and mutual care; as part of our own health and healing we continue to learn how to help one another. VPWAS provides members health system navigation and most importantly, a vital sense of belonging in an often disconnected world. As a community-team of newly diagnosed and longer-term survivors, we help one another claim our place in one of the world’s most influential movements in history, the HIV/AIDS movement. Along with all other social justice movements, we have come to learn that everyone has a story worth hearing, -when it feels safe and respectful enough to be shared. VPWAS is committed to safer, kinder and culturally informed community spaces. 

So here we are, once again, welcoming each other to another challenging year ahead. Despite past hurts and harms, together, we learn how to be more effective and loving when getting through whatever life throws our way. That’s what makes the work we do relevant. To the many past VPWAS volunteers and peer-leaders, we thank you for showing us how not only survive, but to make greater sense of our time on this earth. Please come by for a visit and update us on your journey. For us all, by sharing the wisdom of our experiences and fresh ideas, VPWAS has the potential to successfully adapt; by partnering with other peer-run organizations we can support each other while guiding the broader Island communities through health crises both here and on the horizon.  Yes, we need each other, but to do so we must first find one another. As my mentor Annie said to me back in the early 90’s, “The healthier your community support, the stronger your immune system.” 

By March we will be announcing our upcoming member events for 2023 and updating you on the fine work being done. Until then, know VPWAS values you and your ideas as we continue to figure out how to make our intersecting communities feel more connected and therefore more supported.

Finally, following in the footsteps of Piotr Burek, a champion for grass-roots rights, I unexpectedly find myself in the role as the new board chair. Piotr, we’re grateful and proud of you for all your accomplishments over the past 5 years, especially on behalf of many vulnerable-and-resilient community members. You’ve inspired me to rejoin the VPWAS team, a committed and talented board of peers who collectively, has over twenty decades of community organizational experience. We’re in good hands with Piotr; Charlene Anderson, Jonathan Degenhardt, Levi and Daniel Sands. 

Until the next time, as the Radical Faeries say, “Self-care is sexy!”

Birch (he/him/Fae)

VPWAS Board Chair

Birch is a queer cis white settler living on the unceded territories of Hul’qumi’num and SENĆOŦEN speaking peoples, including the Quw’utsun First Nation and Tsawout First Nation, also known as Salt Spring Island.

The VPWAS Board of Directors can be reached through

250.382.7927 or email

Vancouver Island PWA Society
205 – 1120 Yates Street
Victoria BC
V8V 3M9

Vancouver Island Persons Living With HIV/AIDS Society (VPWAS) 205 - 1120 Yates Street, Coast Salish Territories, Victoria, BC. V8V 3M9
Phone: 250.382.7927 | Fax: 250.382.3232 | Toll Free: 1.877.382.7927 | | | Login