Monthly Archives: June 2015

Psychologist Bill Coleman PhD At VIDC

For our Hep C Support Group last Friday, June 26, we had Clinical Psychologist, Bill Coleman PhD, come and facilitate our meeting.

Dr. Coleman has been a counselor for 25 years and has been working extensively in a sexually transmitted clinic for over 10 years. His experience with individuals dealing with sexuality, addiction, and incarceration issues has made him a very valuable partner of VIDC. Every couple of months, Dr. Coleman would come facilitate one of our Hep C Support Group meetings and have a little bit of a group counseling session with us.

Last week the topic was values, or inner spirit as some might call it; or basically, who we are independent of our actions — because sometimes our actions are caused by our circumstances not really by who we truly are inside. Dr. Coleman broke down what our values are comprised of into three main components: how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we see the world.

It was a very informative and interactive meeting where attendees were able to express their thoughts and feelings about who they think they are.

To close the session, Dr. Coleman directed us to the Barrett Values Centre website where we could get a free personal values assessment. Some of us had our results printed and we were able to sit down and discuss with Dr. Coleman, over lunch, what the results meant and how we should use this information.

Defining who we are is a struggle everyone has to deal with, a struggle that becomes harder to overcome when disease/illness and life circumstances get in the way. Our goal last week was to remind everyone that our situations do not define who we are. As part of our commitment to holistic care, this was a necessary session to encourage our patients to not let the disease and the illness take over their lives.

We love having Dr. Coleman over not just for his insights, but also because he is a health care professional that is very dedicated to his clients. His office is less than a minute’s walk away from our clinic, and he provides affordable counseling for those who need it. Find out more about him and his practice on his website.

11th International Workshop on Co-Infection HIV and Hepatitis: Best Poster Presentation 2015

Congratulations are once again in order for Dr. Brian Conway and the VIDC Team!

Dr. Brian Conway MD FRCPC with a huge smile as he accepts the award for Best Poster Presentation 2015. Congratulations, Dr. Cownay!

At the 11th International Workshop on Co-Infection HIV and Hepatits in London last June 11-12, Dr. Conway was presented with the Best Poster Presentation 2015 Award. He presented a total of three (3) posters for the three abstracts submitted for the conference. The winning poster was for Correlates of successful HCV treatment in HIV co-infected vulnerable populations. 

abstract book cover
Reviews in Antiviral Therapy Infectious Diseases 6 2015 Abstract Book

Two of the abstracts — including the one with the winning poster — relates to VIDC’s work with the Downtown East Side community (Correlates of successful HCV treatment in HIV co-infected vulnerable populations and Cascade of Care of HIV/HCV Co-infected Patients on the Downtown East Side of Vancouver). The third is focused on treatments and medications concerning co-infected patients (Changes in antiretroviral therapy while on HCV treatment in HIV/HCV co-infected patients). These abstracts can be accessed through clicking on this link or the photo of the cover of the abstract book.

As a research and medical clinic, VIDC boasts of providing holistic care both directly and indirectly to the community. Through our community engagement initiatives such as VIDC Connect, HCV Treatment Support Group, DTES Pop-Up Clinics, etc., and the high standard of care we provide, VIDC is able to carry out its commitment to holistic care directly. Consequently, through the research work we do, we are impacting the community by creating spaces for dialogue within the academe and policy-making spheres informed by our direct involvement with the community.

The award-winning poster on display in one of our waiting areas.



Drug Interactions Cheat Sheets

Last Friday, June 19, we had one of our Lunch Talks at the clinic. Our very own Dr. Brian Conway gave a mini-lecture over lunch — sponsored by Merck — on drug interactions.

Bottom line: Be aware of what you’re taking!

The talk was very informative and quite extensive for the amount of time we had, and typing up all that information would be too much for a blog post! Fortunately, Dr. Conway gave us a shortcut to all that knowledge: The University of Liverpool’s Drug Interaction websites!

There’s the for HIV drugs and for HCV (Hep C) drugs.

Basically, the site allows for public access of PDF charts detailing which drugs have interactions with each other and whether or not these interactions are negligible or deadly.  It has a very easy-to-understand scheme: interactions labeled in GREEN are drugs you can take together, YELLOW are drugs you want to take with caution, and RED labeled drug interactions are just NO. And for people interested in why the labels are colored as such, the site also has an area detailing the information behind the specific labels.

The sites are very informative and user-friendly. And also quite comprehensive — from Ibuprofen to Cocaine to other antivirals!

Here are some screenshots:

HIV Drug Interaction Screenshot
List of printable charts you can access through
Recreational Drugs and HIV Meds
An example of what a printable chart looks like. Labels are colored for easy scanning, and symbols are used to give more information about the specific interactions.
HCV Chart Example
An example from Different symbols, same color scheme — green, yellow, and red.

They also produced (free) apps!

These are available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Click on the photos below for the Apple App Store. Or search for HEP iChart and HIV iChart for the HCV and the HIV drug interactions app respectively.

Inside the HCV App

You start by selecting the HIV or HCV drug you’re interested in and then select the other drug (cough medicine, pain medication, recreational drugs, alcohol, etc.) you want to check and voila!

Just like the charts, if it's safe, the label is green.
Just like the charts, if it’s safe, the label is green.
Yellow if co-administration can be done with caution.
Yellow if co-administration should be done with caution.
Red if the interactions have adverse effects on the person.
Red if the interactions have adverse effects and co-administration should not be done.

This is an amazing resource for individuals living with HIV or HCV (Hep C), the health care professionals working with them, and family and community members that want to look out for them. A convenient cheat sheet in the palm of your hand — or on your wall if you choose to print the charts out.

HOWEVER, these apps and charts do not replace your doctor’s orders. Always run things by your doctor if you’re unsure of the medications you’re taking.


Ministerial Advisory Council on the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada

Congratulations to our President and Medical Director, Dr. Brian Conway, for being reappointed as the co-chair for the Ministerial Advisory Council on the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada (MAC-FI)!

Ministerial Advisory Council on the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada at their first meeting for the year last June 15, 2015.
mac fi 2
From left to right back row: Dr. Jacqueline Gahagan, Dr. Curtis Cooper, Ciro Panessa, Dr. Gerry Mugford, Kenneth Monteith (Co-Chair), Denise Thomas. Front Row: Dr. Brian Conway, Rodney Rousseau, and the Hon. Rona Ambrose.

“It is my great honor to be reappointed as Co-Chairman. With our expanded mandate dealing with HIV, hepatitis C, and related health factors, it is more important than ever to be able to advise the Minister of Health on issues that affect more and more Canadians. It will be a privilege to be able to continue to do so over the next three years. ” Dr. Brian Conway

You can read more about it (en français) from the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique blog here.

Community Spotlight: Suzan Krieger

The biggest lesson I learned is that for me to see treatment through, it requires a team that includes doctors, specialists, nurses, receptionists, cohorts, family and friends. And of course, a dog named Charlie.   – Suzan Krieger

cover96_thumbnailThis month’s Community Spotlight features one of VIDC’s beloved friends: Suzan Krieger. Specifically, it’s about her article on the May-June edition of Positive Living Magazine entitled Hepatitis and Depression: A Personal Take. 

Suzan is one of those courageous individuals who successfully overcame the disease and illness and wrote about it. Her article recounts her journey from when she was diagnosed to her full recovery.

Suzan’s journey is far from pleasant, her diagnosis came as a shock that led to depression, the treatment she first received felt like it would kill her before it cures her, and the medical community seemed absent in all of this. After enduring all that, she resigned to letting the virus stay and live with it.

Fortunately, that’s not where her story ends,

A few years later, I went to a workshop put on by Positive Living BC that featured Dr. Brian Conway, the medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre (VIDC) and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal honoree. At the close of the workshop, I spoke with Dr. Conway and explained how I had tried and felt I had lost on my treatment. He gave me his card and with a confident voice said, “I can help.”

Suzan met Dr. Conway and got introduced to VIDC and our commitment to holistic care.

We’ve written about this commitment a couple of times in this blog (here and here), and yet Suzan’s description of the help she received at VIDC deserves its own post.

The VIDC uses open discussion about feelings—treating one with respect and dignity and providing stellar medical care in as comfortable a surrounding as possible. The team’s approach can be thought of as holistic medicine (a form of healing that considers the whole person)—body, mind, spirit, and emotions—in the quest for optimal health and wellness.

It’s one thing for a medical clinic to describe what it aims to do, it’s a whole other thing if an individual who receive that care describes it. Suzan outlines in her piece what role Dr. Conway played in her treatment. Dr-Brian-Conway-Vancouver-VIDC-226x300

Dr. Conway helped me find Dr. Patricia Howitt, who is now my primary physician ... [Dr.Conway] met with me and explained my new treatment and, week by week, he kept my spirits up and encouraged me that this treatment—this time—would work.

Our HCV Clinical Research Nurse, Shawn Sharma RN also got a special mention,

Shawn at STRUT 2015 [Photo Credit: Brad McIntyre]
Shawn Sharma, a registered nurse, set up a conference call with Gilead and my healthcare insurance company, clearing the way for treatment with the new drug, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and ribavirin. The cost of the combination treatment is around $93,000 per year. Sharma also started me on a vitamin program and made himself available to me throughout the three-month treatment program.

However, VIDC isn’t just a two-man team, and Suzan saw that in action too.

The VIDC did everything from blood testing to ultrasound scans. ... VIDC’s waiting room is a wonderful, chaotic haven filled with patients waiting for their turn to be cared for. The staff provides TV, coffee, snacks, information, and support for the waiting room folk.

The reason we keep emphasizing the need and the importance of a holistic approach is precisely because of people like Suzan. Individuals who stuck with us and give us that pat on the shoulder and says “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.” Awards, acclaims, and recognition from anywhere can never compare to a simple heartfelt thank you from people whose lives you’ve touched and changed.

Volunteer;Recognition;June;10;2015;Vollies;All;Stars;Sports;Edition;Vancouver;Rowing;Club;Stanley;Park;Positive;Living;BC; Suzan Kreiger
Looking at her today, you would never have guessed how harsh her treatment journey has been!

Suzan, thank you for letting VIDC be a part of your journey and for being such a great example to others!

If you want to read Suzan’s full article (WHY WOULDN’T YOU?) click here!


As promised, here are the photos and updates from when VIDC went out to STRUT our stuff down Sunset Beach last June 6 in support of Foundation of Hope’s (FOH) fundraising efforts for LGBTQ+ Refugees. It was a surreal experience to be part of this momentous event! The energy and the support from everyone who came out was simply overwhelming; although we don’t all fully understand the struggles of being an LGBTQ+ refugee, we all understood the importance of STRUT for them.

Only three of those feet belong to females, VIDC males represent!
Only three of those feet belong to females, VIDC males represent!

We got a good taste of the pain and the struggle of walking (even standing!) in heels! We got a full dose of what STRUT was all about — enduring a bit of pain to get an extremely minuscule glimpse of what LGBTQ+ refugees have to suffer.

That mile was the

L      O      N      G      E      S      T          M      I      L      E

our team has ever walked, especially since it was a first (walking in heels for THAT long) for a lot of us.  The blisters and muscle pain we’re still feeling is a constant reminder of the privilege we have in a world that’s just all kinds of unfair.

VIDC is no stranger to working with marginalized, oppressed, and at-risk individuals, and still STRUT was quite surreal for us. It’s one thing to work closely with someone, it’s another to physically get a (very very small) taste of what they’re going through.


VIDC would very much like to thank Foundation of Hope for organizing this event and for giving us the privilege to be a part of it. We partnered with FOH and attended the event to engage the community and provide financial support to the cause; and yet it seems as though we got so much more than what we gave.

Don’t get the wrong idea though! It was a very meaningful event, but it was also FUN!

Check these photos out for proof!

Colorful doesn't even begin to describe STRUT!
Colorful doesn’t even begin to describe STRUT!
We were told to wear
We were told to wear “whatever we would define as heels” — clearly, we were outdone.
Yes, those are heels too!
… and outwitted. (Yes, those look like the most comfortable pair of “heels” ever!)
Definitely the cutest STRUTer that day!
Definitely the cutest STRUTer that day!
Kárà-Kátà Afrobeat Group got things started with very groovy and contagious music.
Kárà-Kátà Afrobeat Group got things started with very groovy and contagious music.
VIDC Team at our booth BEFORE the walk -- we didn't really know what to expect yet.
VIDC Team at our booth BEFORE the walk — we didn’t really know what to expect yet.

We definitely got more than what we gave, thank you to everyone that came out and supported STRUT!

Click here for more photos — including a video of our HCV Nurse, Shawn, taking his first steps in heels!

You can also read more about STRUT here from The Georgia Straight.

VIDC At Williams Lake

On June 1st the VIDC team, headed by Dr. Alexandra King and our HCV Nurse, Shawn Sharma, went up to Williams Lake to hold a Hepatitis C clinic for the community.  Dr. King has been regularly holding clinics in the community for awhile now, and when she became part of VIDC, VIDC had the privilege to be part of this community initiative!

Williams Lake family physician Dr. Jolien Steyl along with Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre clinical research nurse Shawn Sharma and internal medicine specialist Dr. Alexandra King will be offering a Hepatitis C clinic monthly in Williams Lake. [Image Credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski Photo]
As reported in the Williams Lake Tribune article, the VIDC team will be visiting the community every month — and a few days ago, we brought great news! Along with Dr. King, Shawn, and our FibroScan® machine, our team brought something extra on this trip: a month’s worth of HEP C medication.

The biggest hurdle to getting started on HCV Treatment is getting access to the treatment, and at VIDC we help patients with the necessary paperwork to get them through that hurdle. That one month’s worth of medication for one patient is a great milestone for VIDC’s partnership with Williams Lake. Slowly but surely we are setting things in place to make treatment more accessible to the community.

In the coming months, VIDC is also planning to extend our reach to the neighboring communities. We are looking forward to holding pop-up clinics and HCV/HIV testing fairs in the neighboring communities in the very near future.

Why We Have A Support Group At Our Clinic

Illness Quote
Huth, Edward J. Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease through the Ages. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians, 2006. Print.1

After ignoring Eric Cassell’s lack of gender sensitivity in his language (we’ll let it slide as it was written in the 1970s), his statement actually resonates very well with the VIDC mission. Our holistic approach to healthcare understands this difference and, as such, addresses both the illness and the disease.

Initiatives like our DTES Pop-Up Clinics and VIDC Connect stem from this and seek to engage the community through awareness building and information dissemination. And we don’t stop there! We directly engage with our patients through our Hepatitis C (HCV) Support Group.

Every Friday from 10AM to 12PM we have breakfast, a discussion group, and lunch for patients who deal or have dealt with Hepatitis C (HCV). Our discussions are led by our HCV Nurse, Shawn, who prepares a presentation on anything and everything that’s related to dealing with Hep C — healthy living, coping with the illness, GMOs, new treatments, drug interactions, etc.

Yes, we made it easy to invite people who would benefit from the group -- we have our own business cards!
Yes, we made it easy to invite people who would benefit from the group — we have our own business cards!

It’s a discussion group meant to inform, educate, and provide social support for patients dealing with the illness and disease brought about by the Hep C Virus. Sometimes attendees just sit and listen to Shawn, sometimes they have very lively discussions on how they feel about healthy food options, and other times they have very heartfelt discussions on what it feels like to live with Hep C. Whatever the case is, it’s always a space where people can feel safe, cared for, and listened to.

Following Eric Cassell’s quote, there is a huge difference between the illness and the disease caused by HCV. The medication can only deal with the disease, and that’s why we have the Hep C Support Group to help patients tackle the illness.

As Dr. Brian Conway MD, FRCPC would often remind us,

A person’s well-being is like a four-legged chair and physical health is just one of the legs. If we want to ensure someone is fully healthy, we need to address all four aspects of his/her person — and social health is one of them. [Paraphrased]