OPINION: Trudeau’s vision for ‘innovation’ won’t end Hepatitis C and HIV
In advance of tonight's HIV/AIDS community lecture, PhD student Alexander McClelland slams recent funding changes.

In the past year we have seen the development of two preventable public health emergencies across Canada. In September, Saskatchewan doctors called for a state of emergency over HIV rates that are double the national average, and in April, British Columbia declared a public health emergency after fentanyl overdoses killed 200 people in three months.

Beyond the declared health emergencies, the combined epidemics of Hepatitis C and HIV have been consistently on the rise for years, with around 8,000 new Hep C cases annually — many through injection drug use — and more than 4,000 new cases of HIV in the same time period. There is now a cure for Hep C, but one that is out of reach to many due to the prohibitive cost of the patented drug sold under the brand names Sovaldi and Harvoni.

So how is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration responding? Last month we saw the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) administer the most aggressive gutting and reorganization of funding for groups working to end these crises since the emergence of the two viruses in the 1980s. Now, 42 historically supported organizations have been denied funding.

These cuts are driven by what public health officials call “integration.” The idea is to combine all the funding for HIV, Hep C and other infections of the blood into one pot of money, without increasing the pot. This plan was introduced under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, but is now being enacted by the Liberals.  

The trend of upholding Harper’s promises is something that Trudeau is becoming better known for than following through on his own.

This reorganization is intended to increase the level of competition, with PHAC stating they are looking to fund “innovation.”

‘We already have a multitude of proven approaches’

Trudeau’s choice to promote competition and corporate logic is not innovative and will not end the epidemics of Hep C and HIV.

True innovation would be ending the false climate of financial austerity.

True innovation would be fully financially supporting indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to address the growing health crises in their communities.

True innovation would be fully funding a Hep C strategy with a goal of eliminating the virus — now an actual possibility!

True innovation would be not only pushing for opening a multitude of supervised drug consumption sites across the country, but also enabling the complete liberation of drugs from Canadian legal frameworks to support people to use safely and end the overdose epidemics.

We already have a multitude of proven approaches to help end HIV and Hep C such as peer-based education and harm reduction interventions, but under the Harper regime they were chronically underfunded and under attack. Now with Trudeau, we see the same thing: keep people fighting for meagre resources, and call this “innovation.”

Meanwhile, groups that have been running successful initiatives such as Montreal’sASTTeQ, CACTUS, the Coalition Sida des Sourds du Québec, and Maison Plein Coeurare losing funding. The same is the case for the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network at the national level.

In our city and across the country, groups are now left scrambling to compete with each other instead of focusing on addressing real health crises in their communities.

‘Chronically underfunded Hep C’

While this integration of funds is intended to streamline services, it also means smaller organizations are losing resources and larger organizations will be tasked with taking on specialized services for populations and diseases that they have no previous experience addressing.

This also means chronically underfunded Hep C groups could be ignored. In an opposition response to the situation entitled, “NDP statement on Liberal cuts to HIV/AIDS organizations,” Hep C was not even mentioned once, despite PHAC cutting all funding for World Hepatitis C Day.

A year after being voted into power in dramatic fashion, it’s time the Trudeau government stopped playing political word games such as asking for innovation while enacting the age-old practice of freezing budgets.

Instead it should support the programs of a variety of organizations across Canada run by those who are most impacted by the two diseases and best placed to respond. In the process, it will better the lives of all residents of Canada, including indigenous people — another of Trudeau’s promises.
Celebrate 30 Years of an Influential Black Gay Anthology
In the fall of 1986—the height of the AIDS epidemic—one of the earliest collections of black gay men's writings was published. It was known as inspiration and blueprints for a generation grappling with racism, homophobia and HIV.

On Nov. 2, The Counter Narrative Project is leading events in seven cities to honor the 30th anniversary of this towering racial and social justice book.

Medicine should never have been privatized in the first place. The concept of profiting off of human desperation and the need for life-saving medicine is, philosophically, intrinsically, and morally wrong both as a fundamental concept and in practice. The fact that Martin Shkreli was ever able to buy an AIDS drug and increase its price 5000% is indicative of a problem even bigger than a truly evil, despicable, and selfish human being; it is indicative of the problem of the current system of for-profit pharmaceuticals with obviously inadequate price regulation.
Ex-hedge funder buys rights to AIDS drug and raises price from $13.50 to $750 per pill

A former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical businessman has purchased the rights to a 62-year-old drug used for treating life-threatening parasitic infections and raised the price overnight from $13.50 per tablet to $750.

According to the New York Times, Martin Shkreli, 32, the founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased the rights to Daraprim for $55 million on the same day that Turing announced it had raised $90 million from Shkreli and other investors in its first round of financing.

Daraprim is used for treating toxoplasmosis — an opportunistic parasitic infection that can cause serious or even life-threatening problems in babies and for people with compromised immune systems like AIDS patients and certain cancer patients — that sold for slightly over $1 a tablet several years ago.  Prices have increased as the rights to the drug have been passed from one pharmaceutical company to the next, but nothing like the almost 5,500 percent increase since Shkreli acquired it.

This is absolutely monstrous. He’s like a parody of a capitalist from a Marxist propaganda film. Jesus H. Christ what a piece of trash.

Spread his face around. Don’t let him be anonymous. Let everyone know his name and what he looks like so that he’ll never, ever be able to go about in public again without being utterly terrified.


“On Josie Webb’s thirteenth birthday, her aunt gave her a book that changed her life. It was a volume of Maya Angelou poems. After Josie read “And Still I Rise”, she knew she didn’t want to be a…a ballet dancer, or a nurse; she wanted to be a poet. So, it was a proud day when she graduated from Hillman with a degree in English Literature in high honors. That was the spring of 1992. But the following spring, Josie Webb has died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome: the disease we all know as AIDS. 

I didn’t get AIDS from a blood transfusion, or by doing drugs. I got it by having unprotected sex with my boyfriend junior year in high school. I knew Frank was smart, fine, team star quarterback. Neither of us knew he was HIV positive. Lying in the grass on a humid night, looking up at the stars, you just know you’re going to live forever. Lying in the grass, it’s impossible to imagine that 5 years later you’ll be lying in a hospital bed with pneumocystis pneumonia and a few years to live. Nothing like an AIDS ward to teach you that youth is not immortality. More than anything, youth is the power to make choices. Now that I’m gone, I ask one thing of you. Remember always to choose life.” 
-Tisha Campbell guest-starring as a student living with AIDS. 

In an interview on Oprah’s “Where Are They Now?,” director Debbie Allen revealed that the episode was almost pulled from the air (due to several advertisers dropping out). However, years after the episode’s original air date, the series was praised for being one of the first to publicly tackle the subject and foster an open dialogue about the epidemic. (x)



I work with people who have HIV as a part of my job. If you have HIV please remember:

HIV can be controlled by medications for a super long time (think 30 years+). It is more like getting a diabetes diagnosis than a death sentence.

No matter how your infection happened you deserve to live and have a happy life.

By federal law in the United States there is tons of resources to help you get medication for FREE.

You can find partners who will accept you and love you.

You can have children who are born HIV-. If a child is born in a first world county with medical care the likelyhood of transmission is rediculously low.

On medication your likelyhood of infecting others decreases significantly depending on your viral load.

PEP and PrEP are exciting things to look into to be able to have unprotected sex and prevent transmission.

HIV does not have to be central to your identity.

People who take their medication like prescribed can actually have as few as 2 doctor appointments a year for their condition !

Don’t let stigma, fear and lack of education get you down! You are a wonderful person and can achieve wonderful things. Don’t give up.

And if you don’t know your status please get tested. Please!


Gran Fury was an artistic collective active in New York between 1988 to 1995 that operated in tandem with ACT UP, the AIDS advocacy group founded in the city in 1987. The organizations’ graphical material, in particular its iconic SILENCE=DEATH design, eventually disseminated beyond the city and beyond activist circles into national discourse and popular culture. Named for a line of Plymouth cars used by the police department, Gran Fury’s tactics embraced advertising techniques - bold aesthetics and graphic design, the exploitation of public spaces, emphasis on wide distribution. At the same time, its members remained wary of the branding of its art as trendy “convenient product” and consistently emphasized the limitations of art and importance of direct action, exemplified by the recurring slogan “Art is not enough”.

Our first projects were poster sniping (illegal wheat-pasting of posters on vacant signage), and Xeroxed flyers, a working method which grew out of an ACT UP aesthetic and our limited funds. After about a year, our tactics changed as we questioned whether postering was the most effective means of reaching a large general audience. 

As Gran Fury received increasing art world support, we did so with the condition that we receive the greatest possible public access to our work, in most cases exhibiting outside the art space itself. We decided not to produce work for the gallery market. Art institutions provided us with access to public spaces a group such as ours would otherwise never have had the resources to acquire; they profited through supporting AIDS work by an activist group which met their aesthetic standards and which was willing to observe certain boundaries of wheat was and was not allowable-explicit obscenity or critique of their sponsors.

…At the same time, our work began to feel like a signature style, a convenient product for the art world to use to fulfill its’ desire to “do something” about the AIDS crisis. Gran Fury’s status as flavor of the month in the American art world was over; interest in our work had shifted to Europe where we consistently felt handicapped by attempting to understand their specific issues, as well as by our inability to use colloquial slogans. In 1992 we designed a campaign for Montreal which utilized the symbols of Quebecois sovereignty to draw attention to AIDS issues – specifically a warning to conduct research and design programs that would apply to the Canadian situation. The project backfired because the icon we chose to use was too potent – some did not recognize it as an AIDS campaign. In general, we found that we could only produce the most general messages, otherwise we ran the risk of misreading a local situation or creating something that would fail in translation.

Good Luck…Miss You ~ Gran Fury

We want the art world to recognize that collective direct action will bring an end to the AIDS crisis. And that collective direct action can mean a whole lot of things across a whole lot of communities: we have already been co-opted, we are complicit with the art world’s institutions in what we hope are strategic ways. We do not only act as an irritant, we also point to what’s going on in society at large. 

Whenever we can, we steer the art world projects into public spaces so that we can address audiences other than museum-going audiences or the readership of art magazines…

Our main beat isn’t with the art world, it’s with the United States government’s lack of response and the political crisis that underlies the medical crisis of AIDS. If we can use the art world as a tool to broadly articulate concerns, then we are glad for that support. My fear is that the heavy emphasis on the cultural analysis of AIDS distances us from the fact that this is a living, breathing crisis in which lives are at stake right at this moment.

BOMB: Gran Fury by Robert Gober

A generation of artists were wiped out by Aids and we barely talk about it
A new film about the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is a shocking and brilliant reminder of the devastation HIV and Aids wreaked – and still does
By Suzanne Moore

Yet there was a time when you could walk around London or New York and see these gaunt faces, marked with sarcomas, and everyone you hung out with was dying. The official culture was in denial. Sometimes it was easier to be. I remember seeing Derek Jarman at a play. At that point he was blind. I didn’t want to see him like that. And then my friend was queer-bashed on the way home. Freddie Mercury died. Keith Haring died. Eazy- E from NWA died. Denholm Elliott died. Rock Hudson died. Fela Kuti died. And my uncle who wasn’t famous or even my actual uncle died. One of my friends lost seven people who were all under 30.”


Cecil Baldwin talks openly about HIV for the first time. I love him, and I’m so incredibly proud of him. Honored to call him a friend, my fictional podcast boyfriend, and a stigma-ending badass.


Today is World AIDS Day. And despite advances like PrEP, more health campaigns targeting queer people, and other social and technological developments, LGBTQ communities still struggle with HIV/AIDS every day, from dealing with the disease to fighting the stigma that often comes with it. And young people aren’t out of the woods, either. There’s a lot to do.

  • Get tested to learn your status here
  • Learn about how to honor World AIDS Day here
  • Find an event to attend here
  • Support an HIV/AIDS-related charity here, here, here, here or here.

Whatever you do, do something.