It's been four decades since the HIV/AIDS crisis first beset communities around the world, devastated entire generations, and launched individuals and organizations into taking political, social, and medical action. Over that period of time, we've witnessed developments and progress that have changed the nature of the epidemic, and have helped to prolong the lives of those with HIV.
A cure, however, is still to be found.
British Columbia also remains the Canadian province with the third highest number of people living with HIV (11,700 people out of a total of 75,500 Canadians).
An organization that is continuing to face the challenge of combatting the spread of HIV is the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). In partnership with TD Bank, they held their first CANFAR Dinner in Vancouver, on June 2 at the Telus Garden rooftop hosting centre.
At the event, CANFAR president Kyle Winters, who said his organization consists of a 10-person team, explained that CANFAR focuses on two things: HIV awareness and research funding.
When it comes HIV awareness, Winters said that they particularly aim on reaching youth and do so by creating curriculum material available to teachers that is flexible enough to be used by a wide range of instructors, whether they're teaching P.E., science, or social studies.
Although he said that they reach about two million students a year, he added that they are also acutely aware of those who have been outside of their range.
"What we realize is that young kids who aren't in traditional educational systems are at the most risk of HIV," he said.
Thanks to a $1 million donation, Winters said CANFAR is funding a nationwide initiative to educate and boost youth awareness. In particular, they're working with Vancouver's YouthCO HIV and Hep C Society to increase awareness of HIV and STIs among indigenous people in foster systems.
UBC pathology and laboratory medicine associate professor Dr. Hélène Côté, who is also a member of CANFAR Scientific Advisory Committee, went on to talk about the research that CANFAR funds.
She said that since CANFAR launched in 1987, the organization has provided over $20 million in funding to over 400 projects across Canada. That includes partnerships with Vancouver organizations such as St. Paul's Hospital, the Canadian HIV Trial Network, the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation, and the Health Initiative for Men.
The fundraising evening included a variety of food selections from the Lazy Gourmet, who offered a menu that blended eastern and western culinary influences, ranging from confit chicken crisp with edamame purée and Kobe beef to jalapeño chocolate mousse and French macarons; alcohol from the Fountainhead Pub and wine from Pender Island's Sea Star Vineyards; and live music by the Parker Woods Trio.