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The DUDES' Club

An innovative health service model for marginalised inner-city men living with or at risk of HIV infection in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - one of Canada's most impoverished neighbourhoods.

The impact

We have created a community of men who now have conversations about topics they never discussed before, such as past abuse and sexual issues.

VNHS staff members have noted distinct improvements in the behaviour and level of engagement of previously challenging patients.

DUDES' Club participants report that the programme has enhanced their overall health through improved health literacy, better lifestyle choices and a sense of cohesion with the broader community.

One Dude's story says it all: Soon after the DUDES' Club began, one Dude became very ill. He told us that in the past he would have just toughed it out. But thanks to what he learned about self-care management through the DUDES' Club, he decided to seek medical attention. He was hospitalised and treated for a massive infection in the intensive care unit, where he learned that if he had waited a few more hours to seek help he would have died. He says the teaching and support he received from the DUDES' Club kept him alive and helped him recover.

Richard Johnson, Vancouver Native Health Society:
“I had some apprehensions and fear that it wasn’t going to work.”

Doreen Littlejohn, Vancouver Native Health Society:
“People that live in this community are highly marginalised and engaging in healthcare has been a particular struggle.”

Richard:
“The thing of coming together isn’t really too easy for them to do this. Pretty much everybody or, for quite a few of them, it’s about survival and it’s about themselves.”

Doreen:

“And when people came in we took the time to get to know their names, get to know their histories, understand where they were from, what they wanted. So we worked in a very different way, which was fostering relationships and trust.”

Richard:
“And they feel a brotherhood, like it’s a family, and that makes me feel good.”

Doreen:
“Because as human beings we all need somebody to care for us. We need somebody to care about. Right there is the heart of what people need. They need a connection to others.”

Because as human beings we all need somebody to care for us. We need somebody to care about. Right there is the heart of what people need. They need a connection to others.

Doreen Littlejohn, Vancouver Native Health Society

And they feel a brotherhood, like it’s a family, and that makes me feel good

Richard Johnson, Vancouver Native Health Society

Key Facts

Project: 
The DUDES' Club

Run by:
Vancouver Native Health Society

Region:
Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, one of Canada's most impoverished neighborhoods

Population:
Marginalised inner-city men, mostly of Aboriginal ethnicity, living with or at risk of HIV infection

Challenges:
Stigma and discrimination; poor education; poverty and unstable housing; injection drug use; mental illness

Activities:
Bi-weekly group meetings focussing on peer-support-driven men's health education, traditional storytelling, and male-oriented recreation