By Jeff Potts (with permission)
To suggest, on this 30th World AIDS Day (and for me personally, the 28th), that I am not profoundly overwhelmed or just a little bit exhausted would be disingenuous to be sure. I stood alongside and with some of the most-amazing, history-making people today, at the foot of Centre Block where I witnessed and was part of the most incredible moments this country’s HIV community has ever experienced. I was truly wiped when I got home… it was the most exhilarating kind of tired I’ve felt in a very long time.
Today, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa kept its promise to leave an indelible mark on Canada’s HIV landscape and did so on the steps of this country’s Parliament at the base of our iconic Peace Tower. Today, the formidable “B-Team”, Bob Leahy, Brittany Cameron, Bryan C. Jones, and Bruce Richman– giants in this country’s and the world’s HIV movement – kept their promises to keep it real and to make it count. Today, the Federal Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, stood with the ACO and with the B-Team to honour these promises and she made history doing it. The most-genuine Minister of Health this country has known (in my humble opinion) didn’t just say – on Canadian soil – that Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U), she signed the U=U declaration on behalf of the Government of Canada – the first national government in the world to make history in this most-profound and real way. While at the mic making this history, the Minister’s emotions let a few tears flow… I know this because I hugged her while she took a bit of a breather and her tears touched my own cheeks. I was so moved… and that is understated.
For more than three decades, we’ve lived with the devastation of HIV- and AIDS-related losses that defy description. We’ve said goodbye to countless friends and to too many loved ones; we’ve erected memorials and stitched together panels of massive memorial quilts; and we’ve set hundreds of thousands of flowers afloat on still bodies of water across this country and around the world.
Today, we paused to pay tribute to the amazing warriors who have left us, but who paved the way for us. Today, here and everywhere, we stood together in solidarity to make sense of our individual and collective losses and to make sure that our personal and shared struggles matter. Today, after decades of funerals and memorial services too many to count, by embracing U=U and by embracing each other, we said goodbye to the most persistent antagonist of our times…
With us and with our commitment to U=U, Rest in Peace HIV-related stigma, you will NOT be missed!