AAHP Blog

POSITIVE SEX Exhibition Goes Live!

1460421430.pngOn April 8, in honour of Youth and AIDS Day, the AIDS Activist History Project (AAHP) launched its first exhibition, titled “POSITIVE SEX: Eroticizing Safer Sex Practices in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Hosted by the MacOdrum Library at Carleton University, “POSITIVE SEX” combines powerful excerpts from eight oral history interviews with over thirty pieces of ephemera (including photos, pamphlets, flyers, posters, articles and news clippings) from the AAHP collection. Also on display is a collection of books related to AIDS activism and safer (positive) sex, a selection of erotic, sex-positive and educational materials from CATIE and Venus Envy, and an assortment of condoms (male and female! flavoured and lubricated!) and dental dams donated by the Graduate Students’ Association.

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Making comedy, making change

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On the video wall, there was a little five minute remake of Death in Venice, but turned into “The ADS Epidemic”, not the AIDS epidemic. So, acquired dread of sex was the new epidemic, and it was of course talking about that culture of fear and hatred that early AIDS discourses in the mainstream media and state policies have produced, demonizing queers, creating a general sense of sex panic, and trying to combat that through humour and music.

– John Greyson (AAHP interview transcript, p. 1)

As someone who dabbles in stand up comedy, I’ve been thinking about the work of making comedy and the work of making change.

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Dying for a cure!

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A photograph of an AIDS ACTION NOW! die-in at Toronto Pride. Retrieved from the AAHP Omeka collection: http://activehistory.ca/2015/06/the-die-in

So, we did a die-in that actually said, “Dying of denial of drugs” or whatever, right. And I think it was for that conference that we produced this flyer that was headlined, “There can be no consensus without the involvement of people living with AIDS and HIV.” And we leafleted everyone.
Gary Kinsman (AAHP interview transcript, p. 14)

Like Gary Kinsman quoted above, AIDS activists across Canada have reflected on putting their bodies on the line to extend the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. In his AAHP interview, Kinsman describes engaging in direct action that was “technically against the rules” but that would “have a media impact” (AAHP interview transcript, p. 12). The die-in is a fitting example.

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Hooking up to social services!

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Figure 1. Getting “hooked up.” Research Proposal. Retrieved from AIDS Activist History Project collection: http://aidsactivisthistory.omeka.net/items/show/50

From 1990 to 1993, Toronto-based activists/academics conducted research on the behind-the-scenes work of “hooking up.” They weren’t investigating romantic encounters—nor were they trying to catch people with their pants down.* Instead, they were researching the work that people living with HIV and AIDS do to “hook up” with health and social services. Researchers George W. Smith, Eric Mykhalovskiy and Douglas Weatherbee (who was involved in the early stages of the project) applied for, and secured, funding from Canada’s National Welfare Grants in 1990.

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Fighting bigotry in Nova Scotia: AIDS activism in the eighties and nineties

Originally posted by Halifax Media Co-op
by Robert Devet

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An AIDS vigil at the Citadel in Halifax. A new website shows how people living with HIV/AIDS in Nova Scotia engaged in a along and vigorous battle against prejudice. Photo: Anita Martinez

An AIDS vigil at the Citadel in Halifax. A new website shows how people living with HIV/AIDS in Nova Scotia engaged in a long and vigorous battle against prejudice. Photo Anita Martinez KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Less than thirty years ago people living with HIV/AIDS in Canada agitated against widespread prejudice, ignorance and stigmatization in society and government. This was while treatment was in its infancy and people with AIDS were dying at horrific rates.

In Nova Scotia Eric Smith, a South Shore schoolteacher living with HIV, was banned from the classroom after parents threatened to keep their children at home.

Also in Nova Scotia, Simon Thwaites was discharged from the Navy for being HIV-positive. He successfully fought the discharge in a precedent-setting case arguing that discrimination based on disability is a human rights’ violation.

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AIDS Activist History Project posts interviews with Vancouver, Toronto & Nova Scotia activists

Originally posted to NB Media Co-op

3104752_orig.pngLess than thirty years ago, ordinary people living with HIV/AIDS, alongside allies, took action to resist stigma, change harmful government policies, and save one another’s lives. These people’s stories deserve to be remembered and learned from. We have posted complete transcripts along with short video clips of the first interviews conducted as part of the AIDS Activist History Project. We have also collected and made available extensive archival material, including photos, meeting minutes, and news articles from this time. It is all available through our website.This is only a beginning of recovering the stories of direct action oriented AIDS activism from 1985 to 1996 across ‘Canada’ that will include more interviews in these centres as well as the narratives of activists in Montreal and Ottawa. During these years AIDS activists changed the world. These interviews capture a sense of the power of this organizing and the energy and imagination of these activists. Along with these stories of resistance are stories of loss and pain as people died during these years because of state and professional neglect.
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