Subscribe to our RSS feed

Popular News Stories

  • Fuck poz guys!
  • Tom Hanks in Philadelphia Changed my Life
  • Canadian AIDS Society’s AGM and PHA Forum in Ottawa: some scholarships for HIVers available
  • Semen goes viral – or does it?



Who is your AIDS Icon?

Monday, 08 September 2014 Written by // CATIE - HIV and Hep C Info Resource Categories // CATIE, Health, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

From CATIE’s The Positive Side, five people living with HIV pay tribute to the people who inspire them.

Who is your AIDS Icon?

Interviews by RonniLyn Pustil 

This article previously appeared in CATIE’s The Positive Side here

Une version française est disponible ici.

Louise Binder, 65

Toronto,  HIV+ since 1994

Brian Farlinger was a lawyer who worked for the Canadian Bankers Association before he was diagnosed with HIV. He became a leader in the early HIV activist community and was one of the founders of AIDS Action Now!, which did much of the groundbreaking work for treatment access in this country. He passed away in 1995.

There’s no question that Brian had a profound influence on me. He brought a unique integrity to the work he did. He clearly was not doing this work for himself; it was really selfless and he thought about it in terms of what would bring the best result for the most people. Brian came from a well-to-do family and could have done anything with the remaining years of his life; he didn’t have to take on AIDS activism but, at great personal cost, he did.

One thing that will always stand out in my mind: When the first protease inhibitor trials were coming to Canada, the drug companies were not prepared to give any compassionate access to the trial. Brian held out, saying, “you can’t bring these trials to this country unless you help out those who are really sick.” He withstood some criticism at the time for what he did, but ultimately the companies did allow compassionate access and this became the gateway for all the compassionate access programs that all the drug companies then put in place. That saved a lot of lives because protease inhibitors turned out to be so important to our treatment and survival.

Toward the end of his life Brian became blind with CMV and was very fragile, but he still travelled to conferences and speaking engagements, dragging an IV pole around with him. He gave this community everything he had. He sacrificed his own health and survival for the rest of us. And he was egalitarian—he didn’t make distinctions between different groups of people with this disease. It didn’t matter if you were a gay man or a woman or whoever you were, the important thing was your compassion and commitment to this cause.

Underneath Brian’s businesslike demeanor and reserve was a great humanitarian and a selfless, compassionate human being who would go to any lengths to help people in need. My admiration for him is profound.

Gogo Boukar, 46

Ottawa, HIV+ since 1997

My AIDS icon is a man called Jean Marie. I met him at the AIDS Committee of Ottawa when I was seeking support there. He was a handsome, elegant and alluring man. Jean Marie was proud of who he was and where he came from.

Jean Marie was a black HIV-­positive gay man who experienced three-­dimensional discrimination. Despite his situation, he never stopped fighting for his rights as a human being—he fought until his last breath. I consider him my icon because he showed me that no matter how much I can contribute, it will make a difference in someone’s life.

Jean Marie told me, “Don’t let my story be forgotten. You are a witness to how I was treated. Please tell the world what happened and that no one deserves to be discriminated against that way.” He said that no one should have to suffer the way he did and that I have to remember that, so his pain wouldn’t be in vain. From that day, I said to myself that Jean Marie’s voice would be heard through mine until my last breath.

Jean Marie’s personality and his experience shape the way I advocate and stand up for people who are voiceless. He made me believe in my strength. If the work that I do won’t ease people’s pain and make their lives a little better, I have to stop and ask myself what I should do to make it right.

I am deeply sorry that I didn’t have enough resources to help Jean Marie. I am sorry that I did not have more courage to fight hard for him. I am sorry that I didn’t scream on the top of Parliament Hill so the decision-makers would listen. I am sorry that he had to endure all of those injustices. I am sorry that nobody cared enough for him because of what he represented. I am sorry that I didn’t have the power to make decisions about health equity for all people, no matter where they come from or what their social status, gender or sexual orientation.

Although Jean Marie is not here today, he is remembered all the time because his legacy is the work that I and so many others are doing today.

Deborah Norris, 55

Edmonton,  HIV+ since 1991

There is one group of people that stands out in my mind as my icons in the HIV movement: Living Positive’s Edmonton Persons Living with HIV Society. It was my lifeline when I was diagnosed.

I will never forget walking into one of their Monday night support groups in 1992 and being overwhelmed by the joy and fun and compassion in the room. For the first time since being diagnosed, I felt like I was going to be OK. Sure, there were people there who were very sick, and there were limited treatment options—we only had AZT back then. But in spite of the fact that many people—our friends—were dying, we were there for each other. And not willing to give up.

There were activists like Dana King, one of the founders of Living Positive, who died in 1992; Ken Ward, who fights to this day for the care and support of Aboriginal people with HIV; Wayne, Maggie, Jim, Sherry, Chance, Cornie—the list is long—all people who showed me that it is possible to live with this disease and that if I fought for my life, I’d be OK. They taught me to question everything and to stand up for myself. They were, and are, HIV warriors. They fought—and some continue to fight—against the stigma and discrimination that continues to be leveled at people living with HIV.

I am fortunate to have had such strong mentors in my life and I credit them for my being alive today. I carry on their example by continuing to educate people about HIV and reduce stigma by speaking out. Their legacies live on.

Bruno L., 31

Montreal,  HIV+ since 2002

It may not be very original, but my AIDS icons are Bernard Hirschel and the Swiss Federal AIDS Commission, which took a position in 2008 about the minimal risk of HIV transmission associated with an undetectable viral load.

Before 2008, I was afraid of starting antiretroviral therapy for various reasons: the cost, the fear of forgetting to take my meds, side effects, long-term problems related to travelling. Hirschel’s announcement transformed my relationship not only with the medication (by helping me see it as a positive part of my life) but also with my body. Finally there was room to think of something other than the virus.

If I had the chance to meet him, I would want to thank him. I would say: Thanks to your research, I now have greater control over my life. Mainly, I feel that this knowledge allows me to reverse the power relationship and vulnerability I feel when disclosing to an HIV-negative partner. If I am rejected because of another’s ignorance or fear, I can tell myself that I’m not the one who missed out. On the contrary, my self-knowledge allows me to experience relationships that are ultimately far more satisfying.

Sandy Lambert, 54

Vancouver,  HIV+ since 1998

My AIDS heroes are the warriors who have gone before us and the warriors on the ground who are now doing the work. The warriors who have left us, who died of AIDS and have gone into the spirit world, are the ones we can’t forget. They are the ones who came before us and they had struggles like we do. When I have meetings, I usually invite them in to give me some guidance.

The warriors on the ground are all across Canada. They are living with HIV and doing very difficult, groundbreaking work—in education, HIV awareness, being the guinea pigs, trying out new drugs, fighting stigma and discrimination. Many of the warriors come from remote communities and are still dealing with that stigma.

All of the warriors have affected me. In the Aboriginal community, we’re family. If I’m in Vancouver and another warrior is in Iqaluit, we still support each other, even if we’re strangers.

I am one of the warriors.

Arts and Entertainment Section

Activism Section

  • How can we kick neuropathy into the glossies?

    How can we kick neuropathy into the glossies?

    Dave R: Despite between a quarter and a third of people living with HIV ending up with neuropathy, it still draws blank stares from most people When will neuropathy become sexy enough to hit the headlines?
  • Bedding Andrew

    Bedding Andrew

    Bob Leahy in an extended conversation with Toronto neg guy Andrew Morrison-Gurza about life with a disability, sex on wheels, his film “Bedding Andrew” and what he shares with people living with HIV
  • A bridge to nowhere

    A bridge to nowhere

    Michael Yoder on the Denver Principles and how people living with HIV are doing in relation to GIPA/MIPA and their “nothing about us without us” sentiments.

Current Affairs Section

Events Section

  • Rob Ford comes in last

    Rob Ford comes in last

    In a exclusive, Bob Leahy reports on the pig race that saw Rob Ford come in last this past weekend – right in his own rural community – not once but twice. A sign of things to come, he hopes.
  • The Crescent continues

    The Crescent continues

    What do you do when you’re an AIDS Service Organization and your funding isn’t renewed. You carry on! Here’s more of our continued coverage of how an organization like the UK’s The Crescent is doing just that. Iain Murtagh reports.
  • Throwing cold water on things

    Throwing cold water on things

    Ken Monteith comments on the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the lessons we can learn from it about fundraising for HIV-related causes.

Features and Interviews Section

  • What it means to be undetectable

    What it means to be undetectable

    Bop Leahy talks to the folks at AIDS Vancouver about their innovative campaign “The New Face of HIV – What It Means to Be Undetectable”. It refers to the new realities of living with HIV in the era of highly effective antiretrovirals
  • Bedding Andrew

    Bedding Andrew

    Bob Leahy in an extended conversation with Toronto neg guy Andrew Morrison-Gurza about life with a disability, sex on wheels, his film “Bedding Andrew” and what he shares with people living with HIV
  • Research news:  compensation  available for study participants

    Research news: compensation available for study participants

    The purpose of this OHTN study is to understand what people in Ontario think about participating in different types of HIV-related health research. See how you can get involved.

Health Section

International Section

Legal Section

Lifestyle Section

  • Forever single - a never ending dating game

    Forever single - a never ending dating game

    FS Magazine says when it comes to relationships, gay men can be some of the most jaded humans on our overly-cynical dirt ball of a planet. Which is just typical of us *eye roll*
  • Introduction to my new world

    Introduction to my new world

    First impressions: Megan DePutter recently left her job working with an AIDS Service organization in Guelph, Ontario to move to Glasgow, Scotland. Here’s her first report from there.
  • Road tripping again

    Road tripping again

    Bob Leahy on his roadtrip to West Virginia where even HIV is hiding in “them thar hills”. Plus doing new things like eating the American way, touring Fiesta HQ and a visit to prison.

Living with HIV Section

Media Section

Opinion Pieces Section

Population Specific Section

Sex and Sexuality Section