Tack­ling stigma is­sues through ed­u­ca­tion

CBU stu­dents part­ner with Ally Cen­tre to ed­u­cate pub­lic

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY DAVID JALA david.jala@cb­post.com

Christie Ra­gan is very fa­mil­iar with the dam­ag­ing ef­fects a stigma can have on a per­son.

Af­ter all, the third-year stu­dent in Cape Breton Univer­sity’s com­mu­nity stud­ies pro­gram is close to a young per­son who has been suf­fer­ing abuse and bul­ly­ing be­cause he is a mem­ber of the LBGT (les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, and trans­gen­der) com­mu­nity.

“He came out when he was 13 and since then there has been very lit­tle sup­port in the schools — there are kids his age and younger that have been thrown out of their homes and they have nowhere to go and com­mu­nity ser­vices can’t help them, cops can’t help them, they can’t go to Tran­si­tion House, there are no home­less shel­ters for kids, there’s noth­ing, there’s no sup­port here for them,” said Ra­gan, who is part of a group of CBU stu­dents that has part­nered with Syd­ney’s Ally Cen­tre for its com­mu­nity ac­tion project.

The group’s goal is to work with the cen­tre, for­merly known as the AIDS Coali­tion, in an ef­fort to help re­duce stigma is­sues for all vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

“We’re ba­si­cally say­ing ‘Hey, wake up, ev­ery­body, these are peo­ple, too, and they de­serve all the rights and re­spects that the all of us de­serve,’” said Ra­gan, a north­ern Bri­tish Columbia na­tive who now calls Glace Bay home.

The stu­dents have launched a so­cial me­dia cam­paign and will host an anti-stigma pub­lic talk on March 2 in the mul­ti­ver­sity room at Cape Breton Univer­sity. The dis­cus­sion be­gins at 2 p.m. and will be led by Ally Cen­tre ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Chris­tine Porter. Two other fea­tured speak­ers will be present at the talk that is open to the pub­lic.

Mean­while, the Ally Cen­tre is con­tin­u­ing to op­er­ate, but un­der the con­stant cloud of fu­ture fund­ing cuts. The cen­tre will lose sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing for its LBGTQ+ ini­tia­tives in De­cem­ber and its HIV ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives in March of 2018.

The cen­tre, which opened its doors in 1992, is ded­i­cated to pre­vent­ing the spread of HIV and other blood-borne pathogens, and to sup­port­ing those that have been in­fected or af­fected by HIV/AIDS.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRETON POST

Christie Ra­gan stands out­side the Ally Cen­tre in Syd­ney. Ra­gan is part of a group of Cape Breton Univer­sity stu­dents that has part­nered with the cen­tre to help fight the so­ci­etal stig­mas that haunt many mem­bers of vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

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