Members of B.C.'s HIV and AIDS movement gathered in style at the 10th biannual awards gala AccolAIDS, presented by Positive Living BC and ViiV Healthcare Shire Canada, at the Vancouver Convention Centre on April 29.
CBC Radio One's Fred Lee and Global BC's Morning News cohost Sophie Lui cohosted the sold-out, upscale event, which included a three-course meal, musical entertainment, a silent auction, and comedian David C. Jones conducting the live auction.
The evening gave people from across the province the opportunity to meet each other, celebrate the hard work and devotion of those in the field, and to raise funds.
The 33 nominees ranged from organizations and programs (such as Raincity Housing and Support Society, Health Initiative for Men, Short and Epic Productions, It's Different Now Campaign, and more) to individuals (such as Dr. Rolando Barrios, Miranda Compton, Fairlie Mendoza, Bradford McIntyre, Dr. Cindy Patton, John Pedersen and Cineplex, and more). Posthumous nominations were made for Catherine White Holman, Wayne Moore, Mark Smith, and Dr. Peter Jepson-Young.
Awards were chosen by an advisory panel consisting of Bristol-Myers Squibb representative Doug Doyley, Pacific AIDS Network cochair Darren Lauscher, Spectrum Health's Dr. Carol Murphy, Fraser Health Authority public health director Dave Portesi, and the Georgia Straight's editor Charlie Smith.
Dr. Peter Jepson-Young won the advisory panel's Merit Award, a special category the panel has the opportunity to rename each year to recognize a candidate for achievements not covered by other award categories. This year, the award was renamed the Legacy Award for Dr. Peter's enduring impact on the B.C. HIV and AIDS movement.
Downtown Eastside pharmacist Alex Tam of Eastside Pharmacy tied with Dr. Gabor Maté for the health promotion and harm reduction award, but Tam also won the inaugural AccolAIDS People's Choice Community Award. The latter award category was posted on the Positive Living BC website, allowing the general public to vote for their choice.
The ever-glamorous and humorous Joan-E not only kept audiences entertained by performing several musical numbers, but also won the Philanthropy Award.
"It is because of the humanity of others that I have had any success whatsoever in nonprofit or charity work in this town," Joan-E said. "And it is the humanity of this community that we, as a community, meet our challenges, overcome adversity, and most always win the day."
Although award winners paid tribute in their acceptance speeches to the impressive work being made in the province, one of the recurring themes among some was a concern about federal funding cuts.
Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network chief executive officer Ken Clement, presented Emma Palmantier with the Social, Political, and Community Action Award. Clement noted that Palmantier's work for those who don't have a voice is significant since aboriginal people in Canada have the highest rate of HIV infections in the country.
"When we have seen the cuts to aboriginal health in Canada, we need to pause," he said, "and I think we are going to need to reactivate our sense of community and activism."
(One is the National Aboriginal Health Organization, who announced on April 5 that their funding has been cut by Health Canada.)
Dr. Gabor Maté, who tied Alex Tam for the Health Promotion and Harm Reduction Award, said that harm reduction also involves recognizing that childhood trauma is the most significant risk factor for addiction and diseases, particularly needle-transmitted HIV.
He also noted historical harm to groups that have been the most ostracized, marginalized or excluded, such as gay and aboriginal communities.
Maté stated that an aboriginal person on the Downtown Eastside, the risk of getting HIV infection is double that of a Caucasian. He says that's a result of "historical harm".
"It's a result of policies that destroyed peoples' identities, and I wish I could say that was only in the past, but that process on many levels, on a political level, continues today. And of course, again, the addicted people who are carrying the burden, not only of a lifelong trauma but that goes back to their very beginnings of people who were also ostracized and criminalized and judged harshly, and…we live in a society where…there are cutbacks to significant social programs but the money's not lacking. The money's going to the tune of billions of dollars to build more jails for people. And the people who will end up in those jails, why end up in those jails? Because they were traumatized as children, and they turned to drugs to soothe themselves. Now… we're actively harming people all the time on a massive scale, with our social, and political, and legal policies. And harm reduction, as much as anything else, helps to reduce the harm of those policies on those individuals and those groups."
Glyn Townson won the Kevin Brown PWA Hero Award, and talked about what changes he has seen over the past few decades. When Townson was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s, he said that there weren't any services, only support groups, and no treatments. Although he has seen many changes and improvements since then, he cautioned the audience that we are entering a new era of budget cuts.
"With the recent funding announcements…some of the agencies have lost horrible amounts of funding and may or may not recover," he said. "You, as our community, are going to have to step up to the plate, and us as people living with HIV are going to have support our organizations more. That's the reality. It's not going to be by government anymore. We are going to have do philanthropic stuff ourselves. So it's just a wakeup call but within the next two years, funding at the federal level is probably going to be almost nothing."
The evening made a new fundraising record by collecting over $115,000.
Here is a full list of winners.
Innovative Programs and Services
Dr. Jack Forbes
Dr. Forbes is the cofounder of the Oak Tree Clinic, the women and family HIV centre at the BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre which was established in 1994. Forbes said that they started with 60 patients and now have over 600.
Joan-E (Robert Kaiser)
Joan-E, the creation of entertainer Robert Kaiser, has been performing in Vancouver since 1990. Amongst her philanthropic work, she hosts Bingo For Life, which has raised over 25 million dollars for Friends For Life.
Palmantier is the Northern BC Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Coalition chair, main negotiator, and manager. She has helped to represent 55 First Nations communities in northern BC for past six years.
BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, Laboratory Program
The BC-CfE Research Laboratory Program is responsible for almost two-thirds of Canadian clinical HIV drug resistance testing and has developed novel drug resistance testing methods, including genotypic assay testing.
Panel's Merit Award
Dr. Peter Jepson-Young (posthumous)
Dr. Peter was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1986 and shared his experiences on CBC TV's The Dr. Peter Diaries (1990 to 1992). November 20, 2012, will be the 20th anniversary of Dr. Peter's death from an AIDS–related illness.
Health Promotion and Harm Reduction
Dr. Gabor Maté (tie)
Dr. Maté is a physician and psychotherapist who has worked 12 years in the Downtown Eastside at the Portland Hotel Society's doctor. He is also an author (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction and columnist. He has also been a proponent of harm-reduction initiatives, such as the NAOMI (North American Opiate Medications Initiatives) Project and InSite.
Alex Tam (tie)
For 32 years, Tam has provided healthcare to some of Vancouver's most marginalized groups and donates an estimated $50,000 worth of food, medical supplies, and other items to his community.
Kevin Brown PWA Hero Award
Townson has served as chair of Positive Living BC and helped the society to change their name in 2011. He's also the cochair of the Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation.
AccolAIDS Peoples' Choice Award