Jade Elektra

I have always been a creative person and have always wanted to be on stage or at least have everyone's attention.”

Originally from Tampa, Florida, Jade Elektra is a Toronto-based drag recording artist, also known as DJ Relentless. Jade is known for her activism around HIV/AIDS. Since 2007, she and her husband have been producing events to create safe spaces for the HIV+ community and to raise funds and awareness for local AIDS Service Organizations.

I was molested by an uncle from the age of 7 to 10. I believe that this period shaped my behaviour as a teen and my sexual health and attitude. I was very promiscuous when I left home at the age of 16 to be on my own. Living in Florida in the 80s, there was not much education and information about AIDS. And although I tended to practice safe sex, it was a condom that broke in 1989 that began my journey as a person living with HIV.”

Diagnosed in 1990, Jade moved to New York City with her friend, Grace, in the spring of 1992. Grace was also HIV+ and helped Jade, a small town Southern boy, get acquainted with the big city, get her first job, and taught her how to survive in the cracks of having no access to health care.

For the first year and a half [after my diagnosis], I thought I was dying and planned to take a bank loan to do all the things I always dreamed about. But somehow it dawned on me that I would probably be healthy and in debt for the rest of my life. So I gave up that idea and just started pursuing my dreams.”

Jade did not get on medical treatment until 2002, when she learned that she had diabetes. The condition became worse, leading to the decline of her T-cells in 2005, which dropped below 200. Jade started her HIV medications immediately and her CD4 count shot up to around 500 within the first two months.

In 2009, Jade moved to Toronto. For the first 8 years, the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (PWA) was an important source of support for her, as she and her husband relied on their food bank for survival. By 2015, Jade became a permanent resident in Canada and was able to get a doctor in Toronto to maintain a strong treatment plan and care support.

HIV/AIDS is complicated and affects different people differently. It's important that there continues to be research into the disease. I survived many years without any treatment, while others died even though they were on the meds. Education is also so important—especially for our youth. Even though the meds are keeping people alive, there is so much more that needs to be done to support people—mentally and physically.”