Ann Favel was blindsided the day she was pulled from her jail cell and told that she had HIV.
The diagnosis came after a regular medical check-up conducted a few weeks earlier.
“They came and got me from my cell and took me to a little room, and disclosed to me that I was HIV positive,” said Favel. “And then they put me back into my cell.”
In and out of prison for years, she thought her diagnosis was a death sentence.
“I didn’t know that much about HIV at the time,” said Favel, who nearly a decade later now works as a volunteer with HIV Edmonton. “All I heard about it was, if you get it you’re going to die.”
‘All I heard about it was, if you get it, you’re going to die.’
– Ann Favel
After they told her, she fell deeper into her addiction, and gave up any hope of finding sobriety or stability in her life.
She simply assumed there were no treatment options.
“They didn’t try to educate me about it or anything,” Favel recalled in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Friday, World AIDS Day. “They just put me back into my cell, and I was in there by myself to dwell on it.
“It just threw me deeper into it, because I didn’t care. You know, I’m going to die anyways.”
‘They just put me back into my cell and I was in there by myself to dwell on it.”
Favel’s final incarceration was in 2011. She had been convicted repeatedly for drug trafficking, something she said she did to feed her own addiction.
She credits Edmonton’s Drug Treatment Court Service, a rehabilitative court program intended to help addicts, with giving her a chance at a better life.
After going through the program, Favel got clean and started making changes.
“I was going to see my HIV doctor in handcuffs all the time, and I didn’t get treatment until 2011, just because of the lifestyle I was living,” said Favel, 51.
“By going through drug treatment court, they put me on the right path. They got me the help that I needed.
“That was the first place that gave me back my voice.”
After she got sober, Favel started seeing her family again, after 13 years of estrangement.
She found a supportive family doctor who put her on daily medication and encouraged her to lean on the staff at HIV Edmonton.
“It took me a while to go there,” she said. “And then when I did, I just fell in love with them, and they became my family.”
‘Very chaotic lives’
Favel’s story is not uncommon, said Laura Keegan, director of…