Why I’m Marching with ACT with Pride!


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My first encounter with ACT (AIDS Committee of Toronto) was in its early days operating over what at  the time was a KFC take-out restaurant.  Compassion and information deep-fried!  I was still living in St. Catharines, Ontario in those days, those early days of HIV and the upstart AIDS Niagara.  I was a bit of a pamphlet junkie, always looking for a new way to convey what limited information there seemed to be about HIV and AIDS.  ACT could be counted on for a variety of ways to disseminate such information, some of it with the blessing of government funders, some with a bit more of an independent streak out of necessity.

When I moved to Toronto, ACT had also moved to 464 Yonge Street, upstairs, north of College near the RBC branch which still exists today.  There I remember wonderful healing circles taking place, Sunday evenings  as I recall, where I learned the rudiments of Buddhism, mindfulness and Louise Hay words and songs (such as “I Love Myself the Way I Am”).

It was either here, or at ACT’s next move (to its present 399 Church Street address), that I began my volunteer work as part-time receptionist, fielding calls and in-person visits, enjoying an always-friendly rapport with staff.

Highlights of my care at ACT came in the 1990s when a certain senior nurse and sex therapist would make available her guest cottage in a  beautiful spot on Lake Simcoe  to support groups from ACT for consecutive weeks at a time throughout the summer.  I traveled yearly with the Recovery Group, so-named for our mutual support as recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.  In pictures of our earliest years, I am one only a couple of members to have survived.

ACT continues to figure in my life, even though I am no longer an active volunteer.  Sometime after this holiday weekend I expect to be matched up with an ACT buddy for the first time in several years.  This will be an old experience revisited, one which I very much look forward to.  I also pledge to become involved in ACT’s regular “condom stuffing” parties for outreach work, where kits of condoms and other healthy things are stuffed into plastic bags for mass distribution.

I never think about 30+ years of ACT without being grateful for having survived just as long, while remembering with such fondness the many who haven’t.  I miss you all.

HAPPY PRIDE!  HAPPY WORLD PRIDE TORONTO!!!

Letter to The Star Re: When free speech becomes hate crime (Letters, June 23)


From among the throngs walking past, largely ignoring him, a street
preacher standing with a mic and an amplifier in front of Old City Hall
called me out leaving the opening ceremonies of World Pride taking place at
Nathan Phillips Square last Friday.

Punching his words from between what he considered to be biblical
condemnations of the gay 'lifestyle', he interrupted himself and pointed at
me, yelling, "And look at you...", sizing up my 6'3", 122 lb frame as
bearing the strains of HIV (correctly, for what that's worth), directly
using me as an example of what happens when, as he sees it, God is
disobeyed.

What place does this sort of degradation have in our public streets? Even
the most flamboyant parts of Pride Week aren't designed to shove hate in
the faces of those who do not share our particular love of life!

Kenn Chaplin
Toronto

A new low


“How long have you been wasting?” the chiropodist asked me a couple of weeks ago as she updated a history on me.

The starkness of the verb, however accurate, stayed with me.

I’ve always been thin, I said, but my weight has been falling a bit since last fall.

Fast forward to preparations for a bone density test in Women’s College Hospital’s shiny new facilities today.

I stepped up onto an equally shiny, new, digital scale.

Height: 6’3″.
Weight: 122 lbs.(just over 55 kg)

Wait, what?

On my worst weight dives I’ve never been below 130. Even at my usual 145 I’m off the BMI chart.

122?

I’m accepting fattening dinner invitations.

Another change to “Mr. G’s eye exam”


 Mr. G’s eye exam has been changed yet again so that the antagonist, though dead for more than a decade, might only be identified by his last initial and the responsibilities he held – not by full name nor school.

I’m doing this following some brief correspondence from a classmate who wondered, without suggesting anything directly to me, whether the man’s son, our classmate, might be unfairly wearing the sins of his father in this Google age. Also, as I have posted previously, something has shifted from a feeling of justified un-forgiveness to at least releasing my choke-hold.

Meet Sujata, Russian Blue beauty


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Sujata, the name given to her by the previous human in her life, Kevin, is Sanskrit meaning “from a good family origin”; “Su” means “good”, “Jatakas” means “of good origins” or “well born”. The breed was also known as “archangel” in its early generations.

Sujata has been hiding whenever I’ve given her the opportunity this evening. I’m really looking forward to getting to know this beauty!

Drop-kicking HIV/AIDS stigma to the curb


“This December I found a mass the size of a cantaloupe in my lung…I used social media to express my feelings without having to burden my family and friends.

I’d like to write a feature…that explores the way the Internet has changed the way we view illnesses, both visible and invisible, and how it’s changed our acceptance of grief and death…”

-Teresa Sarga

As I first reported on Facebook last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Teresa Sarga, a journalist and blogger from Syracuse, New York, about blogging as a person living with HIV/AIDS “…and more”.  The issue of stigma is being unearthed and critically examined more and more lately, which is a good thing.

I’ve decided that, so long as I am open, I am not letting stigma thwart me.

Stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, in my case, began with me.

If anyone deserves AIDS, I told myself, long before I tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, I do.

What a statement with which to live my life.

Fortunately I am able to unpack it:

-as if anyone deserves AIDS (or cancer or heart disease or diabetes)

-as if disease and illness discriminate

 

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