Metro Vancouver HIV and AIDS activist Ken Buchanan dies

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.”

Comments (16) Add New Comment
John Bishop
Ken most recently held the position of Chair of the Board of Positive Living BC. He resigned in Oct 2012 to dedicate his time and energy to his health.
John Bishop, Chair, Positive Living BC
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dave905
I thought HIV was no longer a death sentence and was treatable? Yet he died in 9 years! The length of time you were guaranteed to die back in the early 90's before meds were available?!
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Jackie Haywood, Director Support Services, Positive Living BC
I will also remember Ken for his sense of humour and his commitment to supporting HIV+ people in addiction. Another community where his hopefulness and dedication helped many.
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Colin McKenna
As a long time supporter of Positive Living BC and as a fellow community member, I tip my hat to this amazing man. He did a ton for someone who was going through so much.
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Mike Alain
Ken was an inspiring mentor.
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Dr.Hasan Mahmud
Ken Buchanon death proves that we should continue his activities.
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dr.Hasan Mahmud
Path of ken buchanon will inspiring to follow.
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Barb Snelgrove
A passionate and tireless community worker on behalf of HIV/AIDS, even and often, when himself in poor health. A kind and caring man who inspired everyone he came in contact with.
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Carol Stephenson
I knew Ken many years ago during his banking career. Even then he was cheerful while fighting adversity, had a caring compassionate spirit and was a great friend. I am grieved at his passing, but celebrate the many achievements which he held dear.
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Joey Greene
"Selfless servive to others".Alot of people talk about it,read about it and want to do it,Ken lived it.I am very proud to call him my friend.
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cHLOE
We need HIV/AIDS education. It’s very important!! CDC has granted CSU $1.9M for HIV/AIDS education. The number of members on the largest HIV dating&support site == pozspaces.com (if I spell the site correctly) has reached 500,000 members
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Michael and Roy
We are saddened that Ken has died, knowing we have lost a wonderful man from our community and our world. His warm smile and greeting, whether in the Positive Living office, on the street or at a public event always made for a welcomed moment in the day. Our thoughts are with William, Ken's family and family of friends who supported him and cared for him as he bravely battled on.
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Glyn Townson, co-chair Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation, former chair Positive Living Society of BC
I met Ken when we were recruiting members for the board at Positive Living (at the time BCPWA). What first impressed me about him was his willingness to jump in and work on providing solutions to problems rather complaining about them. He was a huge asset to our organization and many others across the country, and continued to work tirelessly regardless of his health situation. I could always count on Ken, he was a man of his word.

His sense of humour, his strength of character, his gentle spirit and his compassion for others will be greatly missed.

I will always fondly remember the years we worked together on the board of Positive Living and the many achievements that were accomplished as a result of his hard work and diligence.

My thoughts and prayers to his partner, son and family at this time of great loss.
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Denise
Ken was a gentle and loving man. He was much loved by the community and was a great supporter of women with HIV. He will be greatly missed by many, many people.
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Xavier Nitti
I knew Ken during his banking days in Tumbler Ridge & Cassiar BC. He was a fantastic person to know and an excellent mentor. He was always supportive to so many people and had such a positive impact on peoples lives. He was a true friend in every sense of the word. When Ken left the bank unfortunately we lost touch. I was very sad to learn of his passing today. Ken will definitely be missed by all the people that knew him.
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VICTOR TORRES
WHY THIS ARTICLE INSIST IN PUT HIV AS PART OF VIRUS THAT IS KILLING THE BODY? I THINK YOU HVE TOREEARCH MORE WITH THE DISSENTSIF YOU RECEIVING ANY SUPPORT FROM THE MAINSTRAIN SORRY FOR YOU...IF YOU CAN SHOW ME HIV IN IS FORM PURE,VISUAL ETC..YOU ARE GOOD.
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