A devoted and compassionate activist from Vancouver's queer, HIV, and AIDS communities has died.
Ken Buchanan, a New Westminster resident who was originally from Prince George, was diagnosed with HIV in 2004 and was co-infected with hepatitis C, according to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website.
He entered palliative care at St. Paul's Hospital on April 6. He died on April 15.
Buchanan had told the Georgia Straight in a 2012 interview that after he received his HIV diagnosis, he quit his banking career and devoted himself to numerous AIDS and HIV organizations.
Buchanan has been a treasurer, vice-chair, and chair of the Positive Living Society of British Columbia (formerly known as the BC Persons with AIDS Society). He had been a board member from 2005 to 2012. The non-profit society helps to empower people living with AIDS and HIV. All of its board members are HIV–positive.
“It feels so good to be giving back, to be a productive member of society, to be part of something that provides such invaluable support,” Buchanan told the Straight in an interview about his work at Positive Living BC.
He was chair of Positive Living BC’s Community Representation and Engagement Committee, which sought meaningful change in government policy and legislation. In his work, he addressed the legal aspects of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure.
He was also a board member of the Pacific AIDS Network (Provincial Health Services Authority region representative). He was also a member of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS Therapeutic Guidelines Committee and the Canadian Treatment Action Council.
Positive Living BC vice-chair Wayne Campbell told the Straight by phone that Buchanan had been fighting cancer along with HIV and consequently had to step back from the board to concentrate on his health. He resigned on October 24, 2012. "He was a very strong fighter, all the way along," Campbell said.
Campbell explained that Buchanan was "always championing the underdog". He added that Buchanan had also worked with aboriginal groups in northern B.C. and so he "brought a wealth of information about the aboriginal populations that were living with HIV also".
Furthermore, Buchanan joined the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network's board of directors in 2011. Legal Network president (on leave) David Eby had high praise for Buchanan's work on the board as well as in the community on HIV and human rights–related issues.
"He was a very calm man, even in the most stressful situations; he was very level-headed," Eby told the Straight by phone. "And he was a remarkable fighter for people who were HIV-positive. Even when he wasn't well himself, he made himself go to meetings and continue the fight, and he was very courageous in that way, and he put himself aside in terms of the commitment that he brought to the fight for human rights."
Eby said that Buchanan's contributions were invaluable.
"He was incredibly connected to the community of AIDS service provider organizations, and also to people living with HIV in Vancouver and across Canada. His voice was truly representative of those communities, and so the fact that he was able to come and share that knowledge and wisdom with us—we're really going to miss him."
Straight editor Charlie Smith described Buchanan as a gracious, kind-hearted, and considerate man who gave a great deal to Vancouver. Buchanan and Zoran Stjepjanovic of the Positive Living BC organized the 2012 AccolAIDS awards; Smith was one of the judges.
“Ken’s character shone through during that experience,” Smith recalled. “He was incredibly compassionate toward others, even when he wasn’t in the best of health himself.”