Justin Anantawan

Having to deal with HIV stigma has taught me to self advocate and love myself more than I did before my diagnosis.”

Justin Anantawan is a Toronto-based HIV activist, social worker, teacher, musician, and photographer of Chinese and Thai Descent. Justin frequently travels to Kenya and Jamaica for outreach work in the LGBTQ community and PLHA community. Most recently, he visited Kenya, where he distributed condoms and lube to MSM on Grindr and provided counselling and group support for men living with HIV.

When I first got diagnosed with HIV, I was devastated and thought my life was over. I could only focus on the negatives, believing that I wouldn't be able to travel the world like I had done before, that I wouldn't be able to find love, that I would have horrible side effects from antiretroviral drugs, and that God had abandoned me. However, as the years have gone by, these thoughts have all turned out to be false. In fact, having HIV has enriched my life in ways I would have never predicted.”

Justin says that because of his HIV status, he has been able to meet men who are accepting of him and with whom he has been able to forge deeper relationships and friendships.

Justin’s journey includes the critical support of local AIDS Service Organizations, including the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), where he received counselling for a few years, and Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), where he completed his social work internship. At ACAS, the staff and volunteers taught Justin how to be an HIV activist and educator in the community, and gave him a place of family and belonging.

I especially want to thank Christian Hui who has been my mentor in the field.”

Justin hopes that the Canadian government will make a greater effort to educate society more about Undetectable=Untransmittable, make HIV drugs free and change laws to make people living with HIV/AIDS less vulnerable to criminalization.

I want people to know that we as people living with HIV/AIDS do not need your pity.  We need your support and allyship in learning more and educating others about HIV/AIDS so that the weight of spreading awareness on HIV does not fall solely on our backs.”