HIV Community Link at 35

{The Calgary Gay History Project is presenting a series on AIDS history reflecting on how Calgarians and Canadians reacted to this earlier pandemic. This installment was written by Project researcher, Tereasa Maillie.}

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Globe and Mail excerpt from April 20, 1984

HIV Community Link has been active in the Calgary community providing support and education for over 35 years as a registered society. Its roots were in the early 1980s epidemic reaching Calgary, and little information was available to help people combat this deadly virus. Homophobia, prejudice, and discomfort around the ways HIV was transmitted blocked discussion and treatment.

In response, gay and lesbian activists first met in late 1983 to decide on a plan of action, and join together to advocate for infected people. AIDS Calgary Awareness Association was born, and according to activist Doug Young’s personal notes, the first meetings were about the legal fight for people who were HIV positive. They were not alone: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver had also started their own chapters based on the many groups that had begun in the USA.

Known as AIDS Calgary, the group registered as a society on October 9, 1985. Their first office was at #300, 1021 – 10th Avenue S.W. and staffed by a core group of volunteers under Doug Morin, the first Executive Director. Money was tight, but LGTBQ2 organizations such as the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch donated funds and held community events. In the 1990s, AIDS Calgary began hosting their own signature fundraiser called Calgary Cares. The special event included silent auctions of local fashion designers’ clothes, a stage show, and dinner. The AIDS Walk and Run started 25 years ago; it has raised approximately $1.8 million to fund the agency and its services in Calgary.

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Doug Morin – Executive Director of AIDS Calgary, Dec. 1986. Photo source: University of Calgary Digital Archives

With this help, AIDS Calgary was able to expand their outreach and advocacy, including their hotline and newsletters: Ellipse, 360 degrees, and AIDS Calgary News. Part of their advocacy work was to lobby the government to fund research, promote health programs, and help end the stigma surrounding HIV positive people in Canadian society. In two National AIDS conferences (1985 in Montreal and 1986 in Toronto), AIDS Calgary joined with other organizations to create the Canadian AIDS Society. The goal was to tap into a larger umbrella group’s powers of shared information, advocacy, and support for all members.

In 2013, AIDS Calgary Awareness Association changed their name to HIV Community Link, as they also offered programs and services in Medicine Hat and Brooks. Their focus remains “on health promotion, increasing access to testing, delivering effective harm reduction programs, and reducing the stigma associated with HIV.”

{TM}

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