While no one could say that I had ever completely stopped my AIDS activism I have, I would suggest, limited myself in recent years to writing or speaking about it on a smaller scale.
It was consistent, determined protests – some of which I was a part of – that led to government speeding up access to HIV/AIDS medicines still in development here for those of us desperate to try them out (these were the days before what became known as the “cocktail” of treatment drugs). I remember picketing the Ontario Ministry of Health for access to the now-primitive AZT medication and that was before I knew my own sero-status. Then, post-cocktail release, I protested with others who could not afford the thousands of dollars per month these drugs cost – leading to the Trillium Drug Program in Ontario (and similar ones in other provinces) which helps not just people with HIV/AIDS but anyone else whose prescription drug costs are prohibitive.
Then in 2006, during a workshop at the national NDP convention on Canada’s role in the world, I almost tearfully spoke of the need for Canada to assist countries of the south who were dealing with HIV/AIDS on a scale we cannot fathom here, and with precious little hope of doing so with treatments as expensive as our own. In what has become my mantra, of sorts, on this issue I asked, “What makes me any more deserving of these treatments than anyone else, anywhere else in the world?” It was around this time, and in the context of a non-partisan debate, that our federal Parliament passed legislation making it possible to ease patent restrictions on these medicines so that generic versions could be made available at drastically reduced costs.
Not one pill has made it out of Canada, so the sad story goes, although I have also heard of one shipment. This is obviously outrageous, whichever is correct. A bill before Parliament this week, Bill C-393, aims to change this.
So it is with considerable excitement that I look forward to tomorrow’s action at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas Streets over the lunch hour. This note on logistics went out early this afternoon:
To: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, AIDS Action Now!, and Bill C-393 Student Coalition Organizers
Thank you everyone for all your help thus far in organizing the Bill C-393 “Die-In”. The event is virtually a day away. Find the final details below!
1. Media & Targeting
-Our media representatives are Richard Elliott (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jolene Cushman (email@example.com), and Tyler Blacquiere (firstname.lastname@example.org), and they will be standing at the Dundas Square corner of the Yonge and Dundas intersection, beginning at 12:00 pm.
-Media Advisories were sent out Friday morning
-Press Releases and follow-ups will be sent out on Monday morning
-Our own photographer and videographer will be on site
-All Members of Parliament will be sent an email with the advisory and press release on SUNDAY
2. Roles (have been filled)
-4 Team Leaders
-4 Team Assistants
-3 Media Reps: Jolene, Richard, Tyler
-1 Whistler, who will also be a Marshall
-2 Banner Holders – Can be identified at the event
3. Logistics of the “Die-In” Itself:
After visiting Dundas Square, we have found out that we only have 20 seconds for each “die-in”
i) There will be four teams for each corner of the intersection. Each team will have a Team Leader and Team Assistant.
ii) When the Scramble Lights go on, two people will run to the middle of the intersection and lie down. At the same time, the rest of their team will take a few steps and then sit down in a crouched position. (This is the only option since time is short!)
iii) At 7 seconds remaining, the head Marshall will whistle and everyone will return to their corner.
iv) We will continue for 30 minutes
4. Schedule for The Day
11:45 am – AAN Members, Leanne, Anda, Ahmad, Olesia, Sahar will be at King’s College Road/College at the U of T Gates. They will divide people into 4 teams.
11:50 am – Everyone starts to walk to Yonge and Dundas
12:00 pm – Media Reps (Richard, Tyler and Jolene) arrive at Dundas Square. They divide the participants who are there into the 4 teams.
12:15 pm – All participants are at Dundas Square. Sahar gives a quick brief on Bill C-393, points out Media Reps, says that we will return to the Square at 1:00 pm after the action
12:20 pm – Everyone is separated into their teams. Team leaders brief their teams.
12:30 pm – Everyone takes their places. Action begins.
1:00 pm – Action ends. Participants who wish to do so file back to the Square. De-brief and thank people. If people want, we can do Postcard Outreach.
5. Postcard Outreach
After the action around 1:00 pm, we will have an optional postcarding outreach in the area. Can HIV/AIDS Legal Network folks bring some postcards along?