AIDS Vancouver's 30-year campaign is a chronicle of change
by Brett O’Reilly
Thirty years ago, five gay men came together to address an epidemic. Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was taking the lives of once perfectly healthy yourg men, and no one understood why. Rumours and misinformation seemed to spread as quickly as the sickness, itself. Something had to be done.
Five gay men, focused on a common cause: to collect as much accurate and relevant information on AIDS as possible and disseminate it to the public; to find answers where none seemed to exisit; to support those affected by this infection, both the men whose bodies were being ravaged by theis terrible virus, and those who could only stand helplessly by, losing their lovbed ones.
These men started a phone line - Canada's very first AIDS helpline - in the closet of of one memnber's home to receive and forward information and provide assistance to any caller regardless of where in the world they were. It still wasn''t enough. A proper home was needed - a proper organization, one that would stand in service to those suffering, that could access money and resources otherwise unavailable.
In 1983, 30 years ago this year, those five gay men created AIDS Vancouver, Canada's first AIDS Service Orgnaization.
Over the next 30 years, much has changed. Human Immonodeficiency Virus (HIV) was identified as the cause of AIDS, over 30 million people have been lost, more than 30 million are living with the virus, and of those five men, two lost their battle against the very disease they fought so bravely to conquer.
Thirty years of remarkable loss; 30 years of remarkable progress.
In July 2013, AIDS Vancouver launched a series of online videos called The 30 30 Campaign. Originally envisioned as a history of AIDS Vancouver with each video focusing on one year in the life of the organization, the campaign evloved into somehnting greater. Research revealed stories thought lost - from footage of "Patient Zero" Gaetan Dugas to location of three cherry blossom trees planted in Stanley Park as the first AIDS Memorial - The 30 30 Campaign quickly moved from a chronology of AIDS Vancouver to a chronology of HIV/AIDS in Vancouver.
The 30 30 Campaign covers a wide range of events throughout the history of the epidemic in Vancouver: the first AIDS forum, held in 1984, at which Gaetan Dugas was present and asked questions of the forum panel: the creation of speciality AIDS service organizations such as Positive Living Society of BC (formerly BC Persons With AIDS Society), Positive Women's Network, and Youthco; the struggles and triumphs in obtaining funds for AIDS care and research; the discovery of HIV and the subsequent development of game-changing Hightly Active Anti-Retoviral Therapy (HAART).
The 30 30 Campaign is also home to many personal stories.
The stories of front-line health-care workers such as nurse Irene Goldstone; of gutsy politicians such as Liberal Member of Parliament Dr. Hedy Fry; of Micheal Vonn and Mary Jackson, one who lost a lover, the other a brother, to AIDS; of our very own Dr. Julio Montaner; and of course, those with HIV who have survived, people such as Val Nicholson, Bradford McIntyre, and Ed Lee, who have been courageous enought to share their stories with The 30 30 Campaign.
The 30 30 Campaign remains today and will continue into perpetuity to be avialble as an educational resource, an historical archive, and a memorial to everyone whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
From 30 years past to today, AIDS Vancouver continues to serve Vancouver's HIV/AIDS Community. No on knows what the next 30 years holds, but as long as there is a need, AIDS Vancouver will be there.
Brett O'reilly is the Fund Development and Communications Coordinator for AIDS Vancouver.
About AIDS Vancouver
The first AIDS service organization in Canada. AIDS Vancouver was founded in 1983 as the first AIDS service organization in Canada.
AIDS Vancouver plays a special role in providing quality health care to people affected by HIV/AIDS living in the Lower Mainland. It is clearly more than just a community health care organization. It is an organization whose presence and continued strength is essential to the quality for life of this community and of each individual and family who draws on its services. Our Agency is a vital community asset which everyone affected by HIV/AIDS can share, and in which we all have a stake.
"Reproduced with permission - AIDS Vancouver "
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