This year Pride Toronto asks everyone, “What will you add to Pride?” and our answer is that PWA will continue to provide a healing and welcoming space
for those living with and affected by HIV just like we’ve always strived to do during our 30 year history.
What Does A Healing And Welcoming Space Mean To Us?
It means in response and resistance to HIV-related stigma and discrimination that we create and maintain a safe place where people can feel a sense of belonging, receive support and meaningfully contribute to our community of people living with and affected by HIV.
PWA believes that when any member of our community experiences discrimination and oppression, it affects us all. In the words of Lilla Watson, Indigenous woman, activist and artist, we believe that “our liberty is bound together”. We stand together not only against HIV stigma and discrimination, but against all stigma and discrimination.
Why We Feel We Need To Recommit This Promise
Those living with HIV/AIDS experience stigma and discrimination in ways that intersect with other forms of discrimination, such as homophobia, racism, sexism and transphobia. During our 30 year history, one of PWA’s key mandates has been and continue to be to combat intersectional discriminations that negatively influence the ability to obtain and keep safe housing, HIV medications, medical care, immigration status, employment – and the list goes on.
In the last year alone there have been many examples of discrimination homophobia, racism, sexism and transphobia. Unfortunately, the passion inherit with these challenging situations that encourages change has divided us instead of bringing us together to celebrate each other’s differences.
For this reason we believe it’s critical to recommit our place in our community as a healing and welcoming space for everyone.
Three Recent Examples of Stigma and Challenges
- This past winter, a Toronto police officer publicly disclosed a person’s HIV status and made an inaccurate AIDS-phobic comment that HIV would be transmitted through spit. This stigma and misinformation is tied to how the Canadian judicial system is a world leader in the criminalization of HIV nondisclosure, including in cases where there was no intent or actual transmission. These charges disproportionately affect women and racialized men.
- This year Pride Toronto took a stand against the ongoing systemic racism of the Toronto Police Service. These members of our communities want the Toronto Police Services to reconcile the structural issues affecting racialized people, including queer people of colour and those living with HIV/AIDS including the policy of “carding”, which disproportionately affects these folks and allows for the delivery of longer sentences for being “known to police”.
- While we recognize that there is much debate about the decision Pride Toronto made in excluding the Toronto Police Services from some Pride activities this year, we also absolutely welcome the greater awareness and discussion of these important issues directly affecting our communities.
For us, a healing and welcoming space is where people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS can have a safe, inclusive and open space for creative and meaningful expression of everyone’s experiences, lives and knowledge. And we will be keeping this promise at this year’s Pride and every day for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, and for all of communities in Toronto because our liberty is bound together.
Brian Fior and Suzanne Paddock
Board Chair and Interim Executive Director
On behalf of the Board of Directors
Toronto People With AIDS Foundation