Raising HIV Awareness Across Canada

As our F17 Budget year winds to an end, I’m particularly impressed by the commitment of the CANFAR team in advancing our mission of raising HIV awareness across Canada. The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) is the only national charitable foundation that raises awareness to generate funds for research into all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS: With this focus on increasing HIV awareness from coast to coast, and with the additional generous support of the Slaight Family Foundation, our team has built a stronger network of HIV advocates, educators and supporters.

Early in the fall of 2016, Roxanne Ma (at that time, Coordinator of Administration & Volunteer Engagement) and National Youth Ambassador Muluba Habanyama spent a rigorous week in Edmonton, Alberta, where they led a series of workshops, speaking engagements, radio interviews and participated in the Edmonton AIDS walk.

A few weeks later, Andrea Zeelie-Varga (Manager of National Awareness Programs) conducted a series of interviews and on-site fact-findings with grassroots organizations in Whitehorse, Yukon.

In November, I had the pleasure of hosting 40 CANFAR supporters and friends as well as local AIDS Service Organizations at the Gastown Social in Vancouver, British Columbia. Three of our guests were intrigued to hear about Bloor Street Entertains, and decided to fly to Toronto later in the month to check it out in person. Returning to Vancouver rightly impressed, and motivated — our three new CANFAR volunteers have initiated The CANFAR Dinner to be held in Vancouver June 2ndPurchase tickets by clicking here.

On World AIDS Day (December 1st), there was a flurry of HIV awareness activity which included Canadian landmarks and monuments being lit red in Fort Erie, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

In March 2017, Roxanne Ma was promoted to Manager of National Awareness Programs and immediately headed off to the Canadian Roots Exchange Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she delivered a workshop promoting dialogue and education on HIV for Indigenous youth. While there, she also finalized a partnership with Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY Inc) to engage street-involved youth on HIV prevention, education, and knowledge of local sexual health resources.

In April, Lauryn Kronick, CANFAR’s newly appointed Senior Manager of Public Relations, visited Prince Albert and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to advance an evolving collaboration with AIDS Saskatoon at the Saskatchewan Association for Community Education Conference. Saskatchewan educators, health promoters, and youth workers were provided free educational materials and classroom resources which CANFAR produces as part of the Slaight Family Foundation funded One and All initiative.

In April, Christopher Bunting, CANFAR’s newly appointed Deputy Chair of Board of Directors and outgoing President and CEO, and Cameron Dunkin, Manager of Research & Program Integration,attended the annual CAHR Conference in Montreal, Quebec. CAHR is the premier Canadian gathering for those working in all disciplines of HIV and AIDS research, as well as policymakers, people living with HIV, and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. While there, Christopher and Cameron met with several CANFAR-funded researchers and spoke with potential research applicants, in addition to hosting an information booth with partner organizations.

Later that month, Cameron travelled to Windsor, Ontario for “OUTShine,” the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust Conference, where he pursued new partnership opportunities with organizations to advance CANFAR’s awareness activities for gay youth.

Most recently in May, CANFAR partnered with Physical Health and Education Canada (PHE Canada)’s National Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to promote our educational resources. While attending this conference, Roxanne Ma was able to build a new on-the-ground partnership with THRIVE Community Youth Network.

And as our budget year concludes, I will be returning to Vancouver to attend The CANFAR Dinner where CANFAR Scientific Advisory Committee member and UBC Professor Dr. Hélène Côté will be the keynote speaker.

As this story demonstrates, our reach at CANFAR has increased significantly, and the impact of our work is being felt from coast to coast to coast. I’m profoundly inspired by the effect this is having on HIV awareness, and humbled by the fact that our donations this week include gifts from Portugal Cove–St. Philip’s Newfoundland and Port Coquitlam, British Columbia! To these generous individuals and the thousands of others across the country who support CANFAR, I thank you for your ongoing commitment to supporting HIV and AIDS research.

Authored by Kyle Winters, CANFAR President and Chief Operating Officer