A visit to AIDS Vancouver Island’s Langford location invariably begins with a friendly sniff and a welcoming wag of the tail from Griffey, the unofficial four-legged greeter.
The staff are dedicated to maintaining a friendly, welcoming vibe at the clinic, said Hermione Jefferis, manager of health promotion and community development at AVI’s West Shore and Victoria locations. Tucked away in the corner of a nondescript mall on Jacklin Road,the clinic is approaching completion of its first year in operation. One element that stands out so far is the level of community support, Jefferis said.
Opening a clinic on the West Shore was made possible in part because the clinic’s doctor, Randal Mason, an additions specialist, wanted to move back to Langford, Jefferis explained.
“The first year has gone really well,” she said. “We are very grateful for the tremendous support from the community.”
“The West Shore is very different from Victoria,” Jefferis noted. “The people on the West Shore have fewer health care resources, but greater family support. We see that with the number of grandparents, for example, bringing in their grandchildren. Our philosophy is based on a harm reduction approach. We want to meet people and see where they’re at. They set goals and we support them.”
Carolyn Showler, the clinic nurse, provides Naloxone training, harm reduction supplies, help with health issues, Well Woman exams, vaccines and a number of other treatments. A support worker is on site during the clinic’s hours of operation to help with checking in and assistance with referrals and applications.
“We also have a social worker and a patient peer support group run by a patient who’s been trained as a patient peer educator,” Jefferis added. The group meets once a week in a casual talking circle, and bus tickets and snacks are available for participants. “We’re the only clinic of its kind in the West Shore area,” she noted. “Our goal is to continue to expand our services and address the growing need. We have more than 150 patients, and the way the West Shore is growing, that will only rise. Four out of five of our patients don’t have family doctors, so we’re doing our best to offer wraparound care.”
Some of the care offered at the clinic, which is open three days a week, includes treatment for substance use disorders, PRep, a new, emerging approach to HIV prevention, and hepatitis C testing and treatment. For more information, call 250-940-3605, or visit avi.org.