Casey House opens worlds first HIV+ spa in Toronto

For two days this week, Torontonians are invited to enjoy a free massage or facial from a pop-up spa downtown..


For two days this week, Torontonians are invited to enjoy a free massage or facial from a pop-up spa downtown. The only catch: all of the people providing the treatments have HIV.

A recent study conducted by Casey House found that over half of Canadians would not share skin-to-skin contact with an HIV+ person, and that many believe this was a way to contract the disease. Thats why the Toronto-based HIV/AIDS treatment and care facility has opened Healing House, a two-day spa with 18 HIV+ healers running at 128 Peter on Friday (November 30) and Saturday (December 1).

The spa pop-up is part of Casey Houses annual #SmashTheStigma campaign, which aims to reduce stigmas around people diagnosed with HIV. Last year, they organized a pop-up restaurant, June’s Eatery, where all chefs were people living with HIV.

Its that stigma that stops people from getting tested, says Randy Davis, one of the healers at Healing House. Many people are afraid of having to live with that stigma.

Davis was diagnosed with HIV in 2015, and at first didnt want to tell his family and friends. I thought Id only have to tell anyone I was intimate with, he explained, but as time went on, his views about having the disease changed. Davis realized the more he disclosed his HIV diagnosis, the more he was helping to remove some of the stigma attached to it.

Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House, recalls public perception in the 1980s. No one would touch anyone with HIV, she says.

She hopes that even if people dont want a spa treatment, theyll still drop by Healing House to learn more about the disease. At the pop-up, there are visuals and statistics on the walls to help break down the myth and start a conversation.

The services on offer include a 10-minute hand massage, a 20-minute neck, shoulder and back massage as well as a 15-minute mini-facial. All treatments use organic massage oils and products from Torontos Province Apothecary.

Services are booked online on a first-come, first-served basis. Theyre all free but donations to Casey House are appreciated.

@michdas

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