Archive for November, 2012

World AIDS Day 2012


In collaboration with Queer Partnership Collective (Erin Silver, Concordia) and AIDS ACTION NOW! the SéroSyndicat will host a participative presentation, workshop, and sashes/sign/banner crafting intervention that is free and open to the public. The event takes place Saturday, December 1, 2012 from 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm at the VAV Gallery (1395 René-Lévesque Ouest).

Alex McClelland (AIDS ACTION NOW!) will present the poster/VIRUS project, followed by presentations from Jessica MacCormack and Jordan Arseneault about their posters for the 2012 series. We are also happy to have artist Sarah Mangle to present her spoken piece “Deathlist” as part of the interactive programme. Members of the SéroSyndicat will facilitate a discussion for the creation of hand-made fabric sashes, placards, and/or banners to transmit messages that address HIV stigma and criminalization, which will then be worn by the group to the annual World AIDS Day vigil at the Parc de l’Espoir (Ste-Catherine Est & Panet) at 7:00 pm.

To mark World AIDS Day, Head & Hands will be outreaching at Vendôme metro on Friday evening to raise awareness of serophobia and stigma against those living with HIV.

Youth Voices: Claudia shares her experience as a sexual assault survivor


Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

“At the age of 17, I found myself at Head & Hands. I was there to get tested, standard procedure. It was six or so months after I had been sexually assaulted, in the midst of my “black out phase,” where I don’t remember thinking or speaking about my experiences.

I was flipping through some zines when I was finally called. The health worker and I chatted for a few minutes, then she began asking me questions: “When were you last tested?”– never have been. “Have you ever had unprotected sex?”– no. No, wait  – back up, hold on, fuck. I felt like someone had wrapped their hands around my lungs and my brain had just short-circuited. She looked concerned and leaned forward in her chair toward me. I tried starting the sentence from different angles, but it was no use. Finally, somewhat brokenly, it came out that the first time I had had sex was unprotected, except I was never given the choice whether to be safe or not. In fact, everything about it had felt unsafe.

I didn’t know what to expect from this stranger. After it happened, I didn’t go to the hospital to get a rape kit like you’re supposed to, nor had I reported my assault to the police. I didn’t know the words to explain what had happened to me. I had never had sex before, so what could I compare it to? I didn’t even consider taking the morning-after pill because, well, I just couldn’t think it through that far. I braced myself for a lecture on “responsibility.”

In that little living room at Head & Hands, I was not made to feel like an idiot, a liar, or a slut. She assured me she believed me, and that rape happens so much more often than I would think. During moments where I struggled with words, she was patient. When I had a question, she took her time to answer. She gently told me about the support services that Head & Hands could provide, just for my information, for when I felt ready, whenever that may be. I didn‘t feel like I was being lectured, or that I had to prove anything. Most importantly, I felt safe.”

– Claudia, 22

This piece was originally printed as part of Claudia’s feature on alternative and holistic healing from sexual assault on September 19th in The McGill Daily.

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Saying Thanks After 28 Years!


“28 years ago in the Head & Hands waiting room, I found out I was about to be a young mom. At the time I didn’t have any money for the $5 pregnancy test, and the nurse kindly told me to bring the money whenever I could.

As my firstborn grew, he showed brilliance and independence, but developed some self-destructive habits. As a teen he became chemically dependant and I needed outside support. When he became too old for Youth Protection and his habits were more than the family could endure, I was faced with the decision to ask him to leave home.

Through one social worker or another, he was introduced to Head & Hands. He spoke of people who helped him with various issues he faced, how they gave help but also treated him with dignity and respect, no matter how frazzled or desperate he was.

My son is now clean, and working as a chef. I am a single mother, working toward a career in Human Relations. Now it is time to give back, open my wallet and pay the $5 I have owed since 1984!”

Dana, NDG mother

Ask Anything: Squirt Versus Urine


When I masturbate with a showerhead, I squirt. Is that urine or real squirting? It’s never yellow.

Masturbation with a showerhead is a great thing, but in the case of your question it complicates my answer! I’m assuming that you’re masturbating with the water spray, which means there’s a lot of water involved, all around your body and possibly inside your vagina. This makes it harder to distinguish the color, consistency, and quantity of liquid that comes out of your body when you masturbate.

 What I can say is that typically people don’t (involuntarily) pee when they’re having sex alone or with somebody else. Here are some things to consider in your personal investigation of the ejaculate-versus-urine question: Often, before squirting you can feel a tingling sensation similar to what you feel when you’re about to pee…but you won’t pee. If you keep going beyond that tingling sensation and ejaculate, try to find a way to look at the liquid that comes out. That’s where the shower context makes it hard investigate. In any case, the ejaculate liquid shouldn’t smell like pee; it’s more likely to be fragrance free or to smell like your vaginal fluid when you’re aroused. As for consistency, it’s closer to water and vaginal fluid than male ejaculate; it’s more liquid. Finally, the color should be on the scale of clear to white rather than yellow like urine. Good luck with your investigation!

Vote for us and bring Street Work back to NDG!



Vote for Head & Hands and bring Street Work back to NDG! from Neal Rockwell on Vimeo.

Between December 3-12, vote for us once a day in the Aviva Community Fund’s online competition and we could win $87,000 to bring two Street Work back to NDG!

25% of NDG’s population is living below the poverty line, and many of its youth are falling through the social net and struggling to meet basic needs. Until government budget cuts stopped the program in August 2011, Head & Hands Street Workers went out into the community to connect with youth, provide a listening ear, and support them in identifying their own needs and taking steps towards filling them.

Our Street Workers supported youth with the basics like finding emergency food and shelter, accompanying someone to an abortion, getting tested for STIs, and other urgent needs.  They also worked with youth to find long-term solutions like finding an apartment, getting into pre-employability programs, leaving abusive relationships, finding support with addiction, etc. – always at youth’s own pace and on their own terms.

Street Workers reached youth who might otherwise never have walked through the doors of Head & Hands or of other service organizations. They also did HIV and Hep C prevention by distributing clean needles, crack pipes and condoms to youth, and talking about safer drug use and safer sex. The loss of Street Work left NDG without any clean drug gear distribution program, and hundreds of young users without easy access to clean materials and support.

Vote every day!  Tell your friends!  Bring back this essential service!!

How to vote:

  1. Register on the Aviva Community Fund’s website (you can connect via email or Facebook, it takes just a few seconds.)
  2. Go to our Aviva page and VOTE FOR US!!!
  3. Vote for us everyday between December 3 and 12!!!
  4. If you’d like us to send you daily email reminders about the competition (it’s so easy to forget!), email: .

Resources to help us win votes:

Resources are available in French here.

Our main strategy:

  • Get in touch with “boosters,” – aka people you know who could reach out to a big audience such as local celebs, Facebook and Twitter personalities, etc. – and ask them to promote our campaign!

Other ideas on how to help us win daily votes:

  • Send an email to your networks and encourage people to vote DAILY! Use this email template!
  • Are you a student or a teacher? Make an announcement in your class, set up a voting booth on your campus, and/or get permission to put up posters and flyers in your school’s computer lab!
  • Make an announcement in a staff meeting and get your coworkers to vote for us daily!
  • Do you have any relevant media contacts? Send them this press release!
  • Will you be attending or organizing a related event next week? Hand out flyers, make an announcement for Head & Hands and/or set up a voting booth!

Hot social media tips:

  • Send a chat message to your online Facebook friends who have more than 1000 friends and ask them to promote our campaign!
  • Use this image as your profile picture.
  • Like and comment on every Facebook post you see about our campaign! Complement any incomplete post with the missing information, e.g. the link to vote, let people know they can email for daily email reminders, etc.
  • Invite your friends to this Facebook event. If you want to invite all your friends at once, let us know – we have a little trick for you!
  • Share our “Why I’m voting for Street Work” daily photo-testimonials.
  • Use these hash tags when tweeting about us: #cdnndg #rockaviva
  • Got any social-media-savvy-friends? Pick their brains and share their secrets with us!

Hot messaging tips:

  • Stay positive (e.g. We’re so close! Competition is tight but we can do it!)
  • Share updates on where we are in the competition (e.g. We’re only blank# votes away from the top 10!)
  • Share our strategy with the world (e.g. Know anyone who has a big network? Ask them to promote Head & Hands’ online campaign to save Street Work in NDG!)

Much love,
The Head & Hands team.

Volunteer Opportunity: Front Desk


We are looking for committed, open-minded and enthusiastic volunteers whose actions, mindset, and temperament parallel the non-judgmental, anti-oppressive, and empowering fundamentals of Head & Hands.

These volunteers will replace at the front desk (approximately one to three shifts per month), which involves directing clients to the appropriate Head & Hands service, providing referrals and information about other Montréal organizations, and acting as first responder to clients in need of support.

Training will include a variety of workshops aimed at introducing you to Head & Hands’ diverse clientele and different approaches to meet their needs.

Ideal applicants will meet the following criteria:

  • Age 17 years or older
  • Able to commit to 12 months of volunteering
  • Able to commit to 5 to 20 hours a month of volunteering
  • Monday-Friday daytime or evening availability
  • Fluency in English and spoken French
  • Available for training sessions at the following dates in 2013:
Monday 21 January, 6:00 - 9:00 pmWednesday 23 January, 6:00 - 9:00 pmSaturday 26 January, 12:00 - 4:00 pm
Monday 28 January, 6:00 - 9:00 pmWednesday 30 January, 6:00 - 9:00 pmSaturday 2 February, 12:00 - 4:00 pm
Monday 4 February, 6:00 - 9:00 pmWednesday 6 February, 6:00 - 9:00 pmSaturday 9 February, 12:00 - 4:00 pm

If you meet the above criteria and are interested in being part of our team, please complete the volunteer application form and send to Hannah at by 5 December 2012.

If you have any questions please feel free to email, or call at (514) 481-0277!

Ask Anything: When to get tested?


Do you have to get tested after every time you have sex? If not, how often?

I wouldn’t recommend getting tested after every time you have sex. First off, for some people or at certain times in a person’s life, this would mean getting tested many times a week…which could be time consuming! Secondly, and most importantly, there is a technical aspect related to getting accurate test results.

A lot of STIs have what’s called a “window period”. This relates to the amount of time between the transmission of the STI (when someone is infected) and when a medical test would be able to detect the STI. To state it simply, the window period is the time where an STI is alive in your body, is totally contagious, but is still undetectable by a test.  For example, Chlamydia’s window period is 3 to 10 days, but HIV’s window period is 3 to 6 months. This means that if you’ve had sex and are worried about having contracted HIV, you have to wait 3 to 6 months to get accurate test results (in most cases, the test will be accurate after 3 months but to be sure, it’s important to get tested after 6 months as well).

So in general, when you are sexually active, you should get tested for STIs every 6 months even if you use protection – that way, you cover all the window periods of the different tests. People sometimes choose to get tested every year, or even less often, if they have one partner and they’ve agreed on a monogamous relationship.

You can also download are bilingual STIgma Zine to get more information on different STIs, safer sex and communication with partners about these things!