Healthy Living in the North

HIV/AIDS awareness through the arts: An IMAGINE grant project in action

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. After seeing the amazing entries in the art and slogan contest that formed part of the Learning HIV/AIDS Awareness through the Arts / Multicultural Festival, I can’t argue with that!

To get people talking about HIV/AIDS, the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society came up with a unique, three-part project that was supported by an IMAGINE grant. The project included:

  1. An art / slogan contest for HIV/AIDS awareness.
  2. A series of monthly, free workshops on a variety of art topics where participants could get HIV/AIDS information as well as art supplies.
  3. An art gala and multicultural festival to bring the community together and to display the many messages and creations that were submitted.

Throughout the project, the organizers shared information about HIV/AIDS, testing locations, and community resources.

Why an art-based project?

“Art in its many forms – paintings, music, dance, and more – has always been a means for people of all backgrounds to gather and break down barriers and inhibitions,” shared Patricia Kolida, project organizer. “This project has given the opportunity for HIV/AIDS awareness and cultural inclusiveness for the whole community.”

I could tell you all about the entries, the creative slogans, and the powerful messages, but that would miss the point entirely, wouldn’t it? So, without further ado, here are a few of my favourite submissions:

Colourful poster reading: HIV comes in many colours. Be HIV aware.

Poster with drawing of light bulb reads: Bring HIV to light. Don't be in dark.

Flowers growing out of pot with text reading: Bring AIDS awareness to life and save a life. Be safe.

Poster with text: Respect, love, peace, courage

First Nations art

Poster with text: "HIV awareness. Please protect yourself ... talk to someone!

Poster with red ribbon and text: "Be HIV aware. Get tested."

Colourful poster with text: "Beware of HIV. It affects everyone. Don't discriminate. Be part of solution, not the discrimination.

How did it go?

According to Patricia, “It was a joy to see our clients within the community engage in the many HIV/AIDS awareness art workshops to produce their messages of HIV/AIDS awareness. The clients felt proud of their accomplishments, which were on display at our art gala. The evening was rich with multicultural entertainment showcasing traditional and modern performances. Speeches were given with message that HIV/AIDS affects all cultures, races, ages, and genders.”

What creative ideas do you have to promote healthy outcomes in your community? Apply for an IMAGINE grant today!

IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. At the time of this story’s publication, the deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is March 31, 2017.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)


Tales from the Man Cave: Guys have breasts too

Male breast cancer awareness

Male breast cancer awareness: Guys have breasts too.

Breast cancer affects men in many ways. We are exposed to it as our wives, sisters, mothers, female relatives or female friends develop it. As this happens, many men support breast cancer awareness in a variety of ways. This awareness helps us express our sympathy and support both emotionally and financially through the various community avenues that have grown around breast cancer and by being there emotionally for them. It is, however, unlikely that most men would consider that they themselves could develop the disease.

As rare as it is, breast cancer in males is a reality. In some ways, it’s a more deadly reality as men ignore symptoms until it’s too late.

Generally, males are protected from breast cancer by male hormones but still about 1% of all breast cancers are in males and although it usually shows up in the sixth and seventh decades of life it can develop at any age.

What are male breast cancer symptoms?

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation outlines these signs:

  • Lumps/ thickeningof the skin in the breast area.
  • Nipple changes or discharge from the nipple.
  • Redness of the skin or nipple.
  • Skin changes.
  • Dimpling or puckering.
  • Swelling or pain in the breast area or under the arm.

Lumps and bumps, discomfort and pain that should not be there, anywhere in the body – get it checked out. Don’t leave it till it really is a serious problem. A little embarrassment at the doctor’s office is better than being told it’s too late for treatment.

Like every other form of disease, we men tend to procrastinate a little too much when it comes to going to the doctor. “It will be ok. It will go away…. Won’t it?” No it won’t.

So although very rare, I want to raise awareness of this to drive home an important message:

Please look after yourself.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Happy MOvember from Dr. Bowering


Check out our new MANual – a men’s health survival guide!! Visit to see it today!

It’s that time of year again, when men grow the Mo to support awareness of men’s health and to help raise money for prostate cancer research. What started out as a grassroots movement has now become one of the most iconic health promotion campaigns in the world. Raising awareness about prostate cancer and engaging men in their own health is incredibly important – and Northern Health is playing its part. Northern Health’s men’s health program has been working with our community partners over the last 16 months to raise awareness about all men’s health issues by:

  • Presenting to over 70 community groups on men’s health across the region.
  • Providing health screenings to over 800 northerners across our region for blood pressure, sugars, and cholesterol.
  • Developing promotional materials to reach men, including our men’s health website, radio and social media campaigns.

And most recently, we have developed a men’s health MANual, which provides health information for men of all ages about nutrition, active living, and health screenings at the various life stages. It’s a man maintenance guide for health – take a look and share it with the men in your family today!

Men in northern B.C. aren’t living as long as men in other parts of the province. MOvember reminds us that we need to work as a region-wide community to get men to live the best quality of life they can for themselves and their family. I want to invite all of you to check out the MANual and let us know what you think. ALso, stay tuned over the next couple days when we’ll be starting our Month of MAN promotion campaign at – we’ll have weekly contests and quizzes over the next month and you could win some great prizes!

Happy Mo growin’! Share your story with us! Are you growing a Mo?

Dr. David Bowering

About Dr. David Bowering

Dr. David Bowering is Northern Health’s Chief Medical Officer. In November 2010, he released the report “Where are the Men? Chief Medical Health Officer’s report on the Wellbeing of Men and Boys in Northern BC” and has been heavily involved with the men’s health program since then. To stay active, Dr. Bowering walks or bikes to work, walks his dog daily, boycotts elevators, hikes or cross-country skis most weekends and plays with his grandchildren.


Combating the fear, shock and stigma around HIV/AIDS

Be a warrior against HIV

Playing cards developed by the STOP HIV/AIDS program for the campaign.

I first learned about AIDS when I worked as a newspaper reporter in Vancouver in the mid-1980s. AIDS Vancouver, one of the first AIDS support organizations in Canada, was in its infancy, and little was known about this mystery disease other than it only seemed to affect gay men who were dying of a strange form of pneumonia in various North American cities.

When it became known that AIDS was actually a global epidemic that also affected heterosexual men and women, people everywhere reacted with fear, shock and stigma.

Fast forward to October 2011, when I was hired by Northern Health to work as a communications officer on the provincially-funded STOP HIV/AIDS pilot project. Things haven’t changed much since the 1980s. Mention HIV/AIDS now and many people still react with fear, shock and stigma — mainly because they’re woefully uneducated on all things related to HIV/AIDS.

What has changed is that HIV is now considered a manageable chronic disease — it’s no longer an automatic death sentence. That’s where Northern Health’s STOP HIV/AIDS pilot project comes in. The project has been operating since 2010 and on May 29, 2012, we launched the education/awareness component of the project. As communications lead, I’ve had the opportunity to work with talented consultants, dedicated community partners and Northern Health staff on this education/awareness campaign. We’re giving northerners the facts about HIV. We’re telling them that HIV affects everyone: all genders, all ages, all races. We’re encouraging people to take an HIV test and, if necessary, seek treatment to control the disease which will allow them to lead longer, healthier lives.

Our aggressive campaign, running in communities across northern B.C., features newspaper, radio, TV and billboard ads; a new website,; and catchy drink coasters, posters and other promo items all encouraging people to take an HIV test. We also created the very powerful video posted below.

It’s been a real team effort — and a very emotional one. It’s been heartbreaking to hear people living with HIV describe how they were diagnosed with the virus and, in some cases, shunned by their families and friends.

On the flip side, it’s been truly inspiring to work with people who’ve bravely allowed their photos and words to be used in our very public campaign. Their courage has enabled us to begin breaking down barriers about HIV in the north, and getting people talking about how to combat its spread. As the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network points out, “Reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS is key to both stopping the spread of the epidemic and improving the quality of life of people living with the disease.”

I’m not sure how many people we’ll actually reach with our STOP HIV/AIDS campaign. Some people say that our year-long education/awareness campaign will reach a saturation point, with our HIV/AIDS messages eventually ignored. I respond that behaviour change can take years to occur. The fact that we’re still fighting stigma about HIV more than 25 years after AIDS first appeared tells me that we still have much work to do. But I’m optimistic that if we and others persist with our education efforts that, perhaps one day, the stigma around HIV can be eliminated — along with the disease itself. For more information, visit

Joanne MacDonald

About Joanne MacDonald

Joanne MacDonald is a communications consultant for Northern Health. Prior to joining Northern Health, Joanne worked in the journalism and communications fields in the lower mainland, Whitehorse and Ottawa. She keeps active by taking Zumba and spinning classes.