Casey House, Canada’s first and only stand-alone hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS, is taking a bold step forward in their ongoing effort to eradicate HIV/AIDS by igniting a conversation around the stigma that people living with HIV/AIDS experience.
The new campaign, Break Bread Smash Stigma, comes with the launch of a state-of-the-art facility, a study revealing shocking statistics around Canadians’ perceptions of people living with HIV/AIDs, and Canada’s first-ever HIV+ eatery. Toronto-based creative agency Bensimon Byrne created the campaign with PR support from its sister company, Narrative.
“Casey House is more than a place that saves lives, we are a place that shines understanding through compassion, and empower our clients to get better,” said Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House. “We make our clients’ humanity more visible than their disease.”
June’s HIV+ Eatery
Despite the fact that HIV cannot be transmitted through food preparation or sharing of food, according to the Smash Stigma survey, only half of Canadians would knowingly share food with or eat food prepared by someone who is HIV positive.
This misconception inspired Casey House to open the world’s first pop-up restaurant run by HIV positive chefs. June’s, named after Casey House’s founder and prolific Canadian activist June Callwood, will pop up in Toronto from November 7-8 in collaboration with Chef Matt Basile, of Toronto-based restaurant Fidel Gastro. Chef Basile will work with 14 HIV positive individuals-turned-cooks to develop the menu, train, and cook for patrons when the restaurant opens.
“The stigma around HIV and AIDS is still very real, isolating many patients across the city, the country and the globe,” said Kenneth Poon, Casey House client. “I stand proud to be part of this powerful group of 14 HIV positive chefs to boldly break barriers and end the isolation that I have felt and others continue to feel. Through the compassionate care that I received at Casey House, I made it through those darkest days and I am here today, helping others who are living with HIV/AIDS.”
“Our HIV+ chefs, who come from all walks of life, bravely came forward to show they have nothing to be ashamed of, and more importantly cook a meal for hundreds of people in Toronto who have nothing to fear from them,” said Joseph Bonnici, ECD/Partner, Bensimon Byrne. “To see their bravery was the most rewarding part of this entire initiative.”
Tickets for the pop-up restaurant were available though www.juneseatery.ca. They sold out quickly and there was a huge demand for more.
“The response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive,” adds Bonnici. “Even in one of the most diverse cities in the world, there are people who really do not like the idea of HIV positive chefs cooking for the public. What we found was that when ignorance and blame showed up online, there was a community quick to explain, educate and drown out the negative voices. It really has shown the best of human nature.”
June’s was created in partnership with Canada’s largest independent agency, Bensimon Byrne and is presented by RBC.