The biannual AccolAIDS awards gala, which shines a spotlight on heroes in the B.C. HIV/AIDS movement, is always rife with celebratory, inspirational, and poignant moments, and this year was no exception.
In fact, the evening, held on April 13 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and hosted by Global BC's Sophie Lui and CBC's Fred Lee, began with Positive Living BC chair John Bishop taking a moment to acknowledge the passing of ted northe.
He described northe as "one of our community's most helpful supporters". northe, an LGBT rights pioneer who died on March 30, founded the Imperial Court System in Canada to raise funds for charities.
"ted truly was a sparkling light for people living with HIV and AIDS," Bishop said, "and not just because of all the sequins and glitter that were on his gowns, he sparkled because of how much he cared for his peers, and we will all miss him for that. Tonight, I see a room filled that same sort of sparkle."
Bishop also shared some good news and announced that construction on new headquarters for Positive Living BC is slated to begin at 1107 Seymour Street later this year.
The award announcements commenced with the inaugural Youth Leader Award, which went to 27-year-old YouthCO executive director and Pacific AIDS Network board member Jesse Brown. Brown was diagnosed with HIV in 2007 and shared his story in the documentary Positive Youth.
Dr. Kate Shannon, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS' Gender and Sexual Health Initiative, won the Social/Political/Community Action award. Dr. Shannon has devoted herself to evidence-based health and human rights, particularly for sex workers.
She was involved in the Bedford case at the Supreme Court of Canada. In December 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled to strike down laws that affected sex workers' safety, health, and human rights.
Dr. Brian Conway was named the winner of the Science/Research/Technology award. Dr. Conway, the medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, has served as president of the Canadian Association of HIV Research and is chairman of the Federal Ministerial Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
"Tonight, we're celebrating each other's accomplishments but tomorrow morning, we get back to work," he said in his acceptance speech. "My dream for the future, especially for the future of my three daughters, is that we live in a world without AIDS."
Dotty Kanke received the Philanthropy award from Eastside Pharmacy's Alex Tam, who previously won the Health Promotion and Harm Reduction award and Peoples' Choice Award in 2012. Kanke provides support to the Vancouver Native Health Society's Positive Outlook Program. Kanke and her husband Bud have raised $38,000 for St. Paul's Hospital and the Native Health Society.
Two winners tied for the Panel's Merit Award.
The first recipient named was Dr. Brian Willoughby was a founding member of the St. Paul's Hospital AIDS care team and a founder of the Spectrum Health Clinic.
The second recipient was Marcie Summers, who is the executive director of the Positive Women's Network, both founder and chair of the Vancouver Women & AIDS Project of the Pacific AIDS Network, and a founding member of the Blueprint for Action on Women & Girls and HIV/AIDS.
She spoke about how she became involved in AIDS volunteer work in the 1980s but discovered that there was a heavy gender bias at the onset of the epidemic.
"What I realized…[was that] there was no discourse around women and HIV," she said on stage. "There was no discussion about prevention for women, or even—god forbid—there might be positive women living out there in our communities. So we formed a little group, pretty grassroots…and we did start the first project around prevention and support for women in Canada."
She remained devoted to ensuring women's issues remained a part of all HIV/AIDS discussions.
"For a long time, we had a scarcity mentality at PW. 'Oh, we can't go to a conference. We can't afford a conference.' And all of a sudden, I realized we can't afford not to go to those conference. We can't afford not to be at the table. We can't afford not to be involved with those research projects. We need women's voices at every table in this country."
One of the most moving moments of the night came with the announcement of the Kevin Brown Positive Hero Award.
Positive Living BC chair John Bishop explained that the award goes to an individual with HIV/AIDS who makes outstanding contributions to HIV movement. The award was established in the memory of late Kevin Brown who was a founding member and the first chair of the Vancouver Coalition for People Living with AIDS.
"Kevin is noted to have said, 'If we don't advocate for ourselves, no one else will'," Bishop said. "And along the way, we found that this gave us a tremendous sense of empowerment, something that being someone's client never could have done."
The award went to local activist Ken Buchanan, who died on April 15. His partner William Christiansen accepted the award on Buchanan's behalf and delivered an emotional speech.
"I want to talk about dignity," Christensen said. "This is something that Ken showed me ever since I met him five years ago. The dignity that he taught me was to recognize my abilities and the person who I am….Up until the time he passed away last year, he had the most dignity I've ever seen in a human being. I believe that he got that dignity from where he volunteered and that was at Positive Living Society of British Columbia."
The Peoples' Choice Community Award, which received 1,785 votes, went to Michele Pearce, a Vancouver Coastal Health STOP HIV/AIDS nurse.
The evening raised $112,000.
Here is a list of the winners:
Youth Leader Award
Innovative Policy, Programs and Services
McLaren Housing Society
Kevin Brown Positive Hero Award
Ken Buchanan (posthumous)
Dr. Brian Conway
Dr. Kate Shannon
Panel's Merit Award
Dr. Brian Willoughby (tie)
Marcie Summers (tie)
Peoples' Choice Community Award