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Canadian AIDS Society honours David Hoe for lifetime of service

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May pledges, 'I will join with you'

David Hoe, recipient of the Canadian AIDS Society leadership award. Credit: Noreen Fagan

The Canadian AIDS Society honoured HIV/AIDS activist David Hoe at a reception to celebrate the society’s 25th anniversary. A melange of MPs from the Conservative, NDP and Green parties were present to see Hoe receive the Canadian AIDS Society leadership award.

Hoe was referred to as an outstanding individual who showed incredible leadership in his ongoing dedication to the HIV/AIDS movement and “an inspiration to those new in the movement.”

In the first two sentences of his speech, Hoe made the crowd move closer to the stage, dropped the usual opening thanks and spoke to them as lovers and addicts.

“It is in love, sex, addiction, silence and space that we have HIV transmission, and the only way we can make a shift with that is for each one of us to change the space in which we live,” he said. “Fear and love cannot exist simultaneously.”

We need to transform fear of HIV/AIDS into compassion and conversation, he said. He talked of the progress the Canadian AIDS Society has made in the last 25 years, drawing particular attention to the introduction of safer sex guidelines.

Before the guidelines were adopted, “it was impossible to talk about what needed to be talked about, which is ‘How do you handle the wonderful messiness of sex and talk about it in a health context and in an HIV-prevention context?'”

He said the safer sex guidelines gave people the power to talk about sex in a vernacular way rather than in clinical terms and that the guidelines helped people stay healthy.

In an interview with Xtra after the reception, Hoe reiterated the need for conversation between people as a way of breaking down the stigma and fear around HIV/AIDS.

“We’re now meeting, a group of us, with public health and the police to look at how to handle somebody who is struggling with safer sex. That’s much healthier than slapping someone down and then publicizing them as a sexual predator,” he said.

He mentioned his dismay that, in a recent HIV criminalization case, Johnson Aziga was found guilty of first-degree murder. He talked about the upcoming Supreme Court case involving Clato Mabior as an opportunity to talk about HIV transmission. The court will decide whether Mabior — an HIV-positive man who, when convicted, was on antiretrovirals and sometimes used condoms with his partners — still put his sex partners at “significant risk.”

Hoe has worked for 20 years in the HIV/AIDS movement. He was the first executive director of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, a senior policy advisor on HIV/AIDS with the government of Canada, co-chair of the Ontario Minister of Health Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS, chairperson for the development of Ontario’s strategy on HIV/AIDS to 2008, consultant and adviser to the Ontario organizational development program, consultant to the Toronto PWA Foundation, and has recently joined the board of directors of the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, a research-funding body.

The reception for the 25th anniversary of the Canadian AIDS Society was part of a four-day forum on HIV/AIDS for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The event was Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s first public address as an MP. She spoke of friends lost to HIV/AIDS and of friends living with HIV/AIDS.

May also spoke of offering support whenever she was called upon.

“I will join with you whenever I am called upon, whatever we can do throughout the party that I represent across Canada and through the role I will play in the House of Commons,” she said. “I look particularly at my friends on the government benches to make sure the support is there when we need it, that the funds are there when we need it and the Canadian AIDS Society and all its wonderful partner groups and the collation continue to do the great work that is being done until we know that HIV/AIDS is no more.”