Those individuals living with HIV/AIDS have a new home where they can gather, comfort one another and lead the fight against the preventable illness.
The AIDS Committee of Ottawa cut the ribbon on its new location on Feb. 9, opening a new chapter in the organization’s long history of advocacy and outreach.
Located at 19 Main St., almost adjacent to the Rideau Canal, the two-storey, 650-square-metre centre has actually been in operation since December, replacing the previous downtown location. The Feb. 9 open house gave politicians a chance to tour the space and learn more about the services available within.
The AIDS committee has signed a five-year lease on the building.
For Khaled Salam, executive director of committee, the journey to finding a new space was “a long and arduous road that unfolded over two years, with a few hurdles along the way.”
“As an organization, we have finally found a space that our community can be proud of and call their own,” said Salam.
“(This) space that will allow us to enhance our currently existing services and programs, and expand and grow as an organization through community engagement and community development,” Salam said “Having our own two-level building with our own lot, as opposed to previously being in a multi-tenant situation on the seventh floor of a downtown building, gives us a lot of creative freedom, opportunities, and tremendous programming potential.”
This fall will mark the 30th year of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, and the organization’s board of directors are currently crafting a five-year strategic plan. The new space will impact what direction the committee plans to take, and what its priorities will be during that time, said Salam.
The space features a supportive, welcoming living room on the ground floor “that feels like home,” said Salam, while the second floor space will allow the organization to expand its administrative capacities.
“I’m excited about the road ahead for our organization, and I passionately feel that the best is yet to come for ACO. Stay tuned, folks,” Salam told the assembled crowd.
The open house coincided with the launch of Snowblower2015, ACO’s annual gay men’s health and wellness festival. Gay, bisexual and transsexual men make up 50 per cent of those afflicted with HIV/AIDS, and the new centre will serve as a nerve centre for the week-long event.
Learn more about the programs and services offered by ACO by visiting aco-cso.ca.