Activists Protest Canadian Minster of Health’s Address at International AIDS Conference

July 25, 2012 – Demonstrators turned their back on Leona Aglukkaq, the Canadian Minister of Health during her opening remarks at the North American Regional Session at the AIDS 2012 XIX International AIDS Conference this afternoon. Activists from AIDS ACTION NOW! and Insite Vancouver addressed the Minister during her speech regarding her record of denying the science and evidence of harm reduction, as well as cuts to HIV programs across the country. The Minster – whose inaction and complacency on harm reduction, as well as recently implementing cuts to health and social services in Canada - have earned her vocal criticism from health professionals during the conference.

The Minister is actively denying the health and human rights of countless residents of Canada who are most impacted by AIDS and Hepatitis C” said Alex McClelland, the spokesperson of AIDS ACTION NOW! who led the call for activists and conference delegates to turn their backs on the Minster. “It is shameful that she would present at a conference on HIV, while actively denying proven prevention methods and implementing massive cuts to HIV prevention, care and support programs”, stated McClelland just before the demonstration, “the Harper Government has turned its back on our communities so we did the same to her”.

Approximately 50 protestors held signs that read: “We can end AIDS when the Canadian Government recognizes the science and evidence of harm reduction” and “ We can end AIDS when the Canadian Government fully funds healthcare for all”. A large banner reading “Harm Reduction = Life” was unfurled by activists. Protesters followed the conference rules of demonstration; activism at International AIDS Conferences is a recognized part of the community-based response to HIV.

Dr. Philip Berger was among the protestors and held a sign in support of refugees living with HIV - addressing the impact of the Harper Government’s cuts to refugee health in the Interim Federal Health Program. Dr. Berger had tried to question to Minster about cuts to refugee healthcare coverage at the conference yesterday, but was pushed away by her security team.

At the end of the Minister’s speech, Clare Hacksel a spokesperson for PHS Community Health Service Society, the non-profit that operates Insite, publicly questioned the Minster regarding her denial of the proven successes of the supervised injection site. Hacksel, who spoke with supporters in advance of the session said: Minister Aglukkaq continues to ignore science at the expense of drug users lives.

The Minster acknowledged during her speech that people who inject drugs are disproportionally represented among rates people with HIV, but despite this, she continues to deny harm reduction approaches and refused to take a document from Hacksel evidencing the proven successes of Insite on reducing overdose deaths and rates of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Throughout the conference week in Washington D.C., the Harper Government has received numerous vocal criticisms regarding regressive policy stances and funding cuts from a wide range of healthcare professionals, activists and people living with HIV.

Download press release.

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AAN! Pickets Ontario Attorney General: “Think Twice” before you prosecute

On Tuesday, July 24, AAN! members and allies greeted employees of the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario as they arrived for work.

Covering both the front and back doors of the Ministry of the Attorney General building on Bay Street in downtown Toronto, we handed out Stop the With-Hunt / Think Twice postcards to Ministry employees.












“These unnecessary prosecutions are driving people underground and making it harder to control the epidemic,” said AAN! spokesperson Tim McCaskell.  “Prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure must be based on complete and accurate scientific and medical evidence, not on preconceptions, fear or prejudice.”


Ontario leads all Canadian provinces with half the country’s prosecutions of people with HIV for non-disclosure of our status.   Many of these prosecutions involving situations where there was no significant risk of HIV transmission.  On an ongoing basis, AAN! and allies will be collecting signed postcards and everyday sending handfuls to the Attorney General, John Gerretsen.  Look for us at upcoming events, like the Friends for Life bike rally kick-off (Sunday 29 July at Queen’s Park in Toronto).  Sign a postcard. Stand on the side of fairness and justice.

The campaign to restore a semblance of “justice” for people living with HIV involved in the the criminal justice system is gaining momentum.  Coming soon, an on-line petition/letter to Minister Gerretsen … stay tuned for details.

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March for AIDS in Washington D.C.

Tuesday July 24th - Members of AIDS ACTION NOW! marched yesterday in the We Can End AIDS Massive Mobilization for Economic Justice and Human Rights. During the AIDS 2012 XIX International AIDS Conference, AIDS ACTION NOW! members came together with thousands of American and international activists to demand a world in which the lives and health of individuals, workers, families and communities are prioritized over ideology and the interests of corporations and the wealthy. Activists addressed that there is the science, treatments, and the resources to end the HIV epidemic, but not the political will. AIDS ACTION NOW! marched in the Human Rights and Harm Reduction arm of the march.

We Can End AIDS:

  • When Canada’s government recognizes the science and evidence of harm reduction!
  • When Canada’s government recognizes the human right to health and fully funds healthcare for all!
  • When Canada’s government stops the attacks on advocacy and allows activist’s voices to be heard!
  • When Canada’s courts stop the criminalization of HIV and put and end to state-sponsored stigma and discrimination!

At the end of the march, American activists were arrested during act of civil disobedience. Activists from Housing Works, the Drug Policy Alliance, Vocal NY, and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance were arrested after tying money, condoms, pill bottles and syringes to the fence of the white house - all symbols of what is needed to end the AIDS epidemic. Video below:

More photos of the march on Flickr!


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Video of AIDS 2012 Harper Government Protest

Harper’s cuts are killing us! AIDS ACTION NOW!

From HIV PJA Countdown AIDS 2012

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Harper Government targeted at AIDS 2012

Activists angered over funding cuts and regressive government policy protest the Canada exhibit booth

Monday July 23, 12 – To launch off the AIDS 2012 XIX International AIDS Conference Washington D.C., Canadian and international activists demonstrated at the Canadian exhibition booth this afternoon. The Canadian booth is financed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is a symbol of the government’s presence at the conference. “The Harper government’s lack of commitment on HIV and human rights is negligent and shameful”, said Alex McClelland of Canada’s AIDS ACTION NOW, the group who organized the demonstration. “We need to act in order to save our lives and our communities”, stated McClelland who is living with HIV.

Around 50 activists targeted the booth carrying signs and banners stating messages such as “Harm reduction = Life”, while chanting: “Harper’s cuts are killing us, AIDS Action Now!” The booth was wrapped in caution tape reading: “The Harper Government: Evidence Free Zone”, calling attention to the government’s denial of the science and evidence of harm reduction interventions - such as providing needle exchange programs; and the implementation of failed approaches such as mandatory minimum sentencing. Protesters followed the conference rules of demonstration; activism at International AIDS Conferences is a recognized part of the community-based response to HIV.

Activists in Washington for the AIDS 2012 conference demonstrated to show their anger towards the Harper government’s regressive approach to the country’s growing HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics. “Harper’s agenda to dismantle our country’s health and social safety net, and their implementation of moralistic and criminalizing policies on drug use are creating a perfect storm for HIV and Hep C infections to explode”, stated Zoe Dodd, a harm reduction activist and member of AIDS ACTION NOW!  “We have to stand up against this denial of our basic human rights to health and security”, said Dodd.

Since obtaining a majority of seats in the House of Commons, despite receiving only 39 percent of the vote, Harper’s government has implemented massive cuts to social services, including to:

  • Indigenous peoples health through cuts to funding of the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch;
  • Refugees and newcomers to Canada through decreasing services through the Interim Federal Health Program;
  • People living with and most affected by HIV through cutting funding to national and local HIV service organizations.

During the XIX International AIDS Conference, AIDS ACTION NOW! mobilizing Canadian delegates at the AIDS conference and is part of an coalition of international organizations who will participate in the We Can End AIDS Massive Mobilization for Economic Justice and Human Rights. On July 24th at NOON, the march will take over five main streets of DC, including K Street, New York Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue and culminate at the White House Gates.

More pics of the action on Flickr




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