programsPrograms & Services



Thursday, 30 May 2024 14:00

Rubén Ferrero

Ruben (He/Him) joined HEAL NS as the support coordinator in May 2024.

Originally from Argentina, he holds an M.D. and is a Child and Youth Psychiatrist, licensed in his home country and still working remotely there. Ruben moved to Halifax with his husband in 2021 looking for new cultural experiences.

Dedicated to minorities' mental health, he has experience in LGBTQ+ Mental Health research and has recently created a support group for Hispanic immigrants residing in Halifax. He works part-time as an assistant of people with mental and physical disabilities and teaches Psychiatry at his home city hospital.

He loves to meet people from different countries and cultures. In his free time, he likes running, trekking, and cooking for his hubby and friends.

Tuesday, 17 October 2023 12:28

Olivia Kerr

Olivia (They/Them) is a Health and Wellness Coordinator at ACNS.

Olivia is a non-binary, queer, and white person with a background in non-profits, community health initiatives, scientific research, and youth programming. They have a BSc from Dalhousie University where they studied Biochemistry and Neuroscience and obtained a certificate in Data Analytics. Olivia is passionate about building joyful and inclusive queer community and dismantling health inequities to create safer and more accessible care for Nova Scotians.

In their free time, Olivia loves to cook, enjoy the ocean and lakes around Nova Scotia, and cuddle their cats and dog.

Monday, 28 November 2022 12:10

HIV Self-Tests


HIV Self Test!

A new and easy way to get free, low barrier, and confidential access to HIV self-test kits at the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia (ACNS)!

ACNS is excited to be part of Community Link, the latest HIV self-testing project providing free HIV self-test kits to anyone in Nova Scotia and connecting them to the care they need.

We’re providing pickup and mailout options to make sure we get kits in the hands of everyone who needs them. When you’re ready to explore this exciting testing option, we’ll be right there with you!


What’s an HIV Self-Test?

The HIV self-test is fairly new in Canada, so it’s possible that you’ve never heard of it before now. We’re here to provide you with information to help you decide if this is right for you.

An HIV self-test is a test you do on your own that looks for HIV antibodies within minutes. The self-test needs 2-4 small drops of blood from pricking the top of your finger with a small needle. The self-test is not a confirmatory test. What this means is that it can’t fully confirm your positive or negative result. However, the self-test is 99% accurate in reading results!

The self-test is meant to be included as part of your regular HIV/STI testing, especially if there are long wait times to get an appointment, and empower more people to know their HIV status.

If you’d prefer to see a quick demonstration on how the self-test works before getting yours, please check out this video:


Get Your Kits from ACNS!

We think it’s great that you’re taking steps to take care of your health. We’re happy to provide a variety of options for you to get your free HIV self-test kits. You’re not alone. We’re here to support you every step of the way.

  1. Pickup: Call 782-774-8178 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to chat with one of our knowledgeable staff who are happy to answer questions you might have. They’ll work with you to find a time that’s best for you to come in and pick up your kits. You can ask for up to 5 kits with this option. We encourage sharing your kits with friends or sex partners!
    • We’re located at 5516 Spring Garden Road, Suite 200 in Halifax (Sport Nova Scotia building).
    • Let us know if you’d prefer to self-test on site. Our staff are trained to provide support, guidance and information before, during and after the self-testing process. We’re knowledgeable, happy to answer questions you might have, and most importantly, we care!
  1. Mailout: Please complete a quick and easy online mailout order form and we’ll gladly send 2 kits, along with a pre- and post-test information package so you’re supported, to you at no cost. We encourage people to still reach out to us if they need support, even if they’ve opted to go with the mailout option. You can complete the online mailout order form here: 
  2. Outreach: You might find us set up out in the community from time to time with a supply of kits to distribute. Follow our socials to find out where we might pop up!

For more information about the Community Link project or the HIV self-test, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 782-774-8178.


Info & Resources

Before testing, you can review the following:

HIV Basics

HIV Testing Information

How The Self-Test Works


After testing, you can review the following:

HIV Testing Follow-Up

Ways To Prevent HIV

PrEP In Nova Scotia

The Power of Undetectable


Thursday, 25 August 2022 11:19


COVID Vaccines & HIV

3rd Vaccine Shot for PLHAs in Nova Scotia 
In regards to people living with HIV, If you have a Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) of less than 200 you’re able to receive an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, and it is recommended that you do so.

From CATIE`s website (see for additional info)…

It is important to consider getting vaccinated if you have HIV. Many people with HIV have or are at an increased risk for developing the underlying conditions that increase their chances of developing COVID-19 or severe disease if they become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. These underlying conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, lung disease, obesity and so on. 

Experts consider COVID vaccines to be safe and effective for people with HIV. Clinical trials with the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines included a relatively small number of people with HIV, all of whom were taking ART and who were healthy and well. Further studies are needed to determine if the vaccine works as well for people with HIV as it does for the general population.

There is no information yet on how well the vaccine works in people living with HIV who have a compromised immune system. If you are not on treatment and have a very low CD4 count, discuss vaccination with your healthcare provider. Some experts recommend starting HIV treatment first to prevent HIV-related complications and to potentially improve vaccine effectiveness.


COVID Info  & Your HIV Meds

Look after yourself and plan…
We encourage our HIV+ members to make sure they have an adequate supply of their HIV medications and all other necessary medications. At this time prescriptions filled by the 6 North Pharmacy (Victoria General Hospital) are ONLY being mailed or couriered. We recommend arranging for refills 3-4 weeks before you are to run out.  Be sure to listen closely to the phone instructions when you call the pharmacy and to provide your complete mailing address when arranging refills. 

Pay attention to reliable sources of info about the pandemic - like this Nova Scotia Government website and protect yourself: masking, physically isolating yourself and regular hand-washing are "your friends"! Taking your HIV medications daily is always important - and especially so at this time!

Stay tuned for more info and stay well! 

Chris Aucoin,
Executive Director


Friday, 17 June 2022 08:49

Hanley Smith

Hanley (They/Them) is a Health and Wellness Coordinator at ACNS, and our lead for 2-Spirit, Trans and Non-Binary programs at ACNS.

Hanley is a non-binary activist and community leader in Nova Scotia’s queer community. They have developed and implemented queer youth programs, and done award winning work caring for trans* youth throughout their many years of volunteer service. Hanley is also a musician and has worked to ensure the success of disabled artists as they are one themselves. 

Hanley is a big fan of dungeons & dragons with a dice collection the size of a watermelon. They are very excited to do the work that they care about most, protecting and caring for trans* people.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022 11:59

Jordan Parker

Jordan Parker (He/Him) is the Fund Development & Communications Manager at ACNS. He has a Masters in Investigative Journalism from the University of King's College, and an Advanced Diploma in PR from NSCC Ivany campus.

A freelance journalist and owner of arts and entertainment firm Parker PR, Jordan is an award-winning writer and communicator. He works part-time doing event planning, and has worked on events including the Halifax Comedy Festival and the Halifax Buskers. He has a passion for non-profit and helping the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

He's a huge movie fan and owns 2,500 DVDs and BluRays. During the NHL season, you can usually catch Jordan rooting on his Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2022 17:31

Cole Hardiman

Cole (He/Him) has joined ACNS as the Fund Development & Marketing Intern for the summer.

He is a current student at Saint Mary’s University. He will be going into his third year of studies next year and expects to graduate in 2025 with an undergraduate degree in Commerce.

Cole loves to stay active by playing sports such as Hockey and Baseball, and explores nature during walks and hikes.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 07:25

HIV is Different Now

HIV prevention, testing and treatment have all changed so much. 

Are you up to date?


Here's a few key things about what HIV means right now!

1 5Facts WebPage
For 2021 AIDS Awareness Week ACNS invited some community members
to demonstrate the HIV self test. Chris Cohcrane (aka Elle Noir),
and MLA Lisa Lachance stepped up! Check out their videos.
FACT #1 
There's no shame in looking after your health.  Getting an HIV test is a key part of that and recommended for everyone.  That test can now be done by you in your own home. 
ACNS has a limited supply of free HIV self-tests.  Phone 902-403-7841 to find out more.  You can also access 1-3 free HIV self-tests by being part of the "I'm Ready" study.  You can also order you own from the manufacturer and have it shipped to your door.
For anyone who has not ever had an HIV test it is recommended that you get one.  For those who are sexually active - even if only involved with one long-term partner, OR if you inject drugs - getting tested for HIV once per year is recommended. 
If you have more partners within any 12 month-month period testing more frequently should be considered.  One test per 5 partners with whom you've had anal or vaginal sex is one guide to consider.  Testing more often than every 3 months is likely of little benefit.
NOTE:  There is a time-lag between when you might have been infected with HIV, and when the test can confirm that you are HIV+.  This is called a "window period", and reflects a limitation of the testing technology currently available.  The window period for HIV screening tests used in Nova Scotia can exceed one to three months in some individuals. However, in the majority of people these tests can detect HIV within one month of infection.  So, if you have had a potential HIV exposure, get tested after at least 3 weeks (the soonest you might know), and again after 3 months (to be sure).
2 5Facts WebPage
FACT #2  
It's estimated that 13% of Canadians who are HIV+ are unaware of that fact.  Regular testing is crucial if we are to end new infections, and have the best health outcomes for those already living with HIV. 
Today's treatments for HIV work very well with minimal side effects.  If diagnosed early, the typical prognosis is that, about six months after you start HIV treastment, your infection will be fully controlled and your HIV viral will be "undetectable".  So long as you keep taking your medication to control it, you should have minimal health impacts from HIV.
3 5Facts WebPage
FACT #3  
If your HIV is fully controlled - and your HIV viral load reaches and remains stable at "undetectable" for at least six months - from that point forward it is impossible to pass on HIV to your sexual partner(s).  An undetectable HIV viral load means your HIV is also "untrasmittable".  This is often abbreviated as "Undetectable HIV = Untransmittable HIV" or U=U.
Click here for more about U=U.
4 5Facts WebPage
FACT #4 
Research in the US tells us that those who are undiagnosed (15% of those liviing with HIV in the US) account for 38% of new HIV transmissions there;  those diagnosed but untreated (23% of those liviing with HIV) account for 43%;  and those in treatement but not virally suppressed (not undetectable - 11% of those liviing with HIV) account for 20% of new HIV transmissions.  People who were virally suppressed accounted for 0% of new HIV transmissions (U=U). 
We don't have the data in Canada to assess these same impacts directly. However, in Canada, access to treatment is considerably better than in the US, so we have:
- fewer people not on treatment at all: 23% of those liviing with HIV in the US vs 15%  in Canada
- far fewer people on treatment but NOT fully suppressed: 11% of those liviing with HIV (US) vs just 6% in Canada
Those in the US who are diagnosed but not on treatment, OR not virally suppressed, (combined making 34% of those with HIV there) account for 63% of new transmissions in the US.  The percentage of people in Canada who fit into those categories is far less than that of the US.  So, we expect their impact on HIV transmissions is proportionally less as well, which means the proportion from those who are undiagnosed is also proportionaly much higher in Canada than 38%.    
5 5Facts WebPage
FACT #5  
Taken as directed, one pill containing emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (aka Truvada and it's approved generic equivalents) for oral Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 99%.   Click here for more details about PrEP. 
For more information about U=U click here.
For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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