Day With(out) Art: Zoe Dodd/Allyson Mitchell & Jessica Whitbread Videos

AIDS ACTION NOW launched the POSTER/virus project last night at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

AAN and Toronto Drug Users Union member Zoe Dodd talks about her collaborative poster made with with John Greyson on harm reduction and prisions for the AAN POSTER/virus project. Zoe addresses Bill-C 10 and Harper’s prison expansion (aka Canada’s National Housing Strategy), government perpetrated genocide through defunding the Global Fund on AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the collective passion and fighting we need to step up in order to act against these attacks on our communities.

Artist and academic Allyson Mitchell and AAN member Jessica Whitbread talk about their collaborative “FUCK POSITIVE WOMEN” poster from the AAN POSTER/Virus project. Mitchell talks about creating new sex positive iconographies for HIV-positive women and their work with the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW).

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AIDS ACTION NOW! with Toronto Stop The Cuts Network at Ford’s 2012 Budget Launch

Monday, Nov 28, Toronto: A crowd of residents from across Toronto organizing in neighbourhood committees of Stop The Cuts Network gathered at 9am under the banner Stop the Cuts at City Hall to protest the launch of the 2012 budget. AIDS ACTION NOW! member Jordan B.G. spoke to the crowd of residents and reporters.

“Good morning everyone! I am here to represent AIDS ACTION NOW! We are a direct action community-based group engaged in promoting the rights of people living with HIV, AIDS and/or Hepatitis C. We are calling attention to the many organizations focused on the health of marginalized communities throughout Toronto—organizations now facing cuts under this Ford’s administration.

I am one of the more than 17,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Toronto. There are 2 new HIV infections each day in Toronto, with rates on the rise each year: young women, gay men, seniors, people who use drugs, people from Aboriginal communities, newcomers to Canada, refuges, non-status peoples, from the suburbs, from Rosedale to Regent Park, from Rexdale to Willowdale.

HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C can be devastating physically, emotionally — and often financially. Many of us live below the poverty line, trying to cope with a significant health challenge while trying to survive on the meager payment provided by ODSP. People with HIV, AIDS and/or Hepatitis C depend on services like food banks, subsidized housing, Wheel Trans and the TTC, the services of many community groups and AIDS Service Organizations. These services are necessary for us to stay alive, to keep our jobs, to go to doctors, to receive treatments, and to connect with others like ourselves.

I’m sure you’ve heard that this City Council is cutting 800 units of social housing. This is housing where people with HIV and Hepatitis C live. This is housing where people receive treatment. This is housing that keeps people alive! These housing cuts will put people out on the street where they will not have the ability to manage their health.

A recent study noted that a majority of people with HIV who live in the GTA were living on less than $1500 a month — putting them at the edge of, or below, the poverty line here in Toronto. Nationally, just 11% of people not affected by HIV and AIDS are living on the same amount. We who are living with HIV, AIDS and/or Hepatitis C are part of the countless numbers who will be bearing the brunt of these, and other, hateful and devastating cuts.

From the very beginning of the budget process by Ford and supporters on Council — the Core Services Review, the subsequent community consultations, the deputations — this Ford’s supporters on Council goals have been to ignore any voices that they don’t agree with. Instead, this these councilors want to gut the very services and necessities that all marginalized and vulnerable people in Toronto require to live. Not cuts to frills — not gravy — but cuts to food, shelter, transportation, services — the essentials of our lives.

Rob Ford’s agenda is to punish those whose survival depends on social services — because he considers those services to be wasteful, and he considers us to be a drain on the system. He mistakenly eliminates city revenue sources like the Vehicle Registration Tax, and then cuts our services to make up for his mistakes. We’ve heard a lot about the 1% and the 99%. This agenda of destruction serves the 1% who cannot understand what it means to go hungry — or to live with astronomical medical costs — or to be unable to work even though we want to. This agenda has no compassion, no humanity — and it serves a vision that has no compassion, no humanity. These cuts will result in a greater cost than we can see right now. A cost in our city’s quality of life — and a cost in lives.

In our communities, we have already seen how quickly we can be dehumanized — to fit our mayor’s idea of who is of valued and who is not. This mayor and this city council were elected to represent and to serve all Torontonians. Even the poorest, most vulnerable citizens are worthy of respect, and cannot be ignored.

We at AIDS ACTION NOW! stand in solidarity with you — and with everyone saying no to these attacks from our Mayor and our City Council. Thank you for this chance to speak with you this morning, and STOP THE CUTS!”

Join Toronto Stop the Cuts!

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AIDS ACTION NOW! POSTER/virus: A fusion of HIV/Art/Activism


Join us at the launch on November 30th DAY WITH(OUT) ART @ the ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO 6pm-8:30pm

Featuring performances by Kiki Ballroom Alliance and the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy
Speakers: Allyson Mitchell/Mikiki/Jessica Whitbread/Zoe Dodd/Collin Graham
DJs: Nik Red/Leila P.

Featuring works by: Kent Monkman/Allyson Mitchell/Daryl Vocat/John Greyson/Cecilia Berkovic/Mikiki with Scott Donald

See the posters here

It is 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, and we are still struggling. New forms of AIDS-phobia, discrimination and inequality continue to emerge including the increasing criminalization of people living with HIV. In Toronto, we are still facing proposed cuts to municipal funding for essential social services to address HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphilis. Federally in Canada, the climate of fear and austerity are increasing health inequalities for us all. It is clear that now more than ever, activism and art are needed to reinvigorate the response to HIV and AIDS.

This year, AIDS ACTION NOW is working to create a different kind of dialogue around HIV, in the art world, and on the street, in ways that hasn’t happened for a long time. Join us on November 30th for the Day With(out) Art: A fusion of HIV/Art/Activism at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 6-8:30pm.

In honor of the Day With(out) Art 2011, AIDS ACTION NOW has launched a poster series created by local Toronto artists Allyson Mitchell, Kent Monkman, John Greyson, Daryl Vocat, Cecilia Berkovic, and Mikiki with Scott Donald. The posters were developed collectively with community members working to respond to HIV. The posters aim to address important issues facing our lives as people living with HIV and/or who are co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C including sexual rights, harm reduction, criminalization of HIV exposure, and the need for political action to address the epidemics.

Through merging the worlds of art and activism we are intentionally evoking the history of creative responses to HIV. Our aim is to provoke discussion, controversy and dialogue in a way traditional activism cannot. See the posters here (and watch as they are emerge around the city over the next 2 weeks).

Facebook event:

Acknowledgments: We would like to thank the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy, the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), the Toronto Drug Users Union, the AIDS ACTION NOW! Steering Committee, Doe O’Brien Teengs, Andrew Brett, Zoe Dodd, Len Tooley, Nicole Greenspan, Tim McCaskell, Brent Southin, Allyson Mitchell, Kent Monkman, John Greyson, Daryl Vocat, Cecilia Berkovic, Scott Donald, Mikiki, the AGO Youth Council, and the York University Faculty of Environmental Studies Community Arts Program.

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Sign the petition to stop the deportation of Herberth Menedez and other queers living with HIV

Many thanks to everyone who came out to the vigil of support for Herberth Menendez on Tuesday. This was the first step in our efforts to raise awareness of Herberth’s case and the many like it. Canada is sending people living with HIV back to countries where they face intense violence, discrimination and stigma due to their sexualities and HIV-status. Herberth’s case is not unique, but Herberth is willing to take the risk of speaking out to call attention to the injustices of the Canadian Immigration system.

Herberth Menendez is a 30 year old Mexican citizen who immigrated to Canada in 2007. He left Mexico to claim refugee status in Canada because he feared for his life due to the intense discrimination and threats of physical violence he faced for being openly gay and living with HIV. Despite having submitted detailed proof of the homophobia and HIV discrimination he has faced in Mexico, Herberth is currently in the final stages of his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Application. His lawyer has told him there is very little likelihood that his application will be accepted.

Sign the petition on here.

To stay in touch with Herberth and the community of freinds who are helping him to be allowed to stay, join the facebook group here.

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Support Herberth Menendez From Deportation! Vigil Nov. 8th/6pm/Dundas Square/Toronto

Call for Immigration Canada to stop the deportation of gay refugee claimants who are living with HIV and face extreme violence if sent home!

To show support for Herberth and call for him to stay, friends of Herbeth, concerned community members, Latinos Positivos and AIDS ACTION NOW! will be holding a support vigil of at Yonge and Dundas Square on November 8, 2011 at 6pm. Facebook event page here.

Join Herberth’s support page on Facebook here.

Herberth Menendez is a 30 year old Mexican citizen who immigrated to Canada in 2007. He left Mexico to claim refugee status in Canada because he feared for his life due to the intense discrimination and threats of physical violence he faced for being openly gay and living with HIV. Despite having submitted detailed proof of the homophobia and HIV discrimination he has faced in Mexico, Herberth is currently in the final stages of his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Application. His lawyer has told him there is very little likelihood of his application will be accepted.

Canada has a record of deporting immigrants from many Spanish speaking countries, including Mexico, despite the fact that they have proof they will face violence in their home country if they return.The Mexican Government continues to put up a façade for Canada that homophobic murders do not take place there. However, we sadly hear of cases very often where gay men have been assassinated in Mexico for their sexual orientation or HIV status.

Herberth left Mexico to escape persecution from his neighbours and his own father because he was openly gay and is living with HIV. He was thrown out of his family home by his father and told never to return or he would personally kill him. When Herberth found out he was HIV positive, he suffered discrimination by friends and family and dealt with the intense stigma that exists in the medical community when he sought out health care in Mexico. Nurses and doctors would disclose his HIV-positive status without Herberth’s consent in front of other patients in the clinic without any conscious effort of respecting his confidentiality.

Herberth came to Canada to try and get support and leave a climate of fear and stigma he faced in Mexico. In Toronto, he found Latinos Positivos, an organization dedicated to supporting members of the Latin community who are living with HIV. Members of Latinos Positivos have now become Herberth’s family in Canada. He has volunteered for Latinos Positivos since his arrival and in 2011, Herberth’s drag persona Ashanti Silman was crowned Miss Latinos Positivos. In this role, Herberth has performed at and supported several fundraisers for the organization and helped raise funds for and awareness of their programming. Most recently he contributed efforts towards the production of a pamphlet about HIV and stigma in the Latin community with the Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples and Latinos Positivos.

For more information on how to help Herberth please contact:

Email you concern to Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenny: and to the Ontario Minister of Citizen and Immigration, Charles Sousa:

Anna Willats of Las Perlas Del Mar talks about Herberth’s case:

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