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AIDS Walk for Life brings in $375,000


AIDS Walk for Life brings in $375,000

Supporters brave rain to fundraise for AIDS Committee of Toronto
More than 260 volunteers and 1,000 marchers raised $375,000 at the annual AIDS Walk for Life on Sept 23, and money continues to come in.
AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) co-chair Jamie Slater announced the total at 4pm Sunday and says the final tally will be available next week.
Though organizers hoped to reach $500,000, Slater says he’s happy with the result, especially considering cloudy skies likely kept many supporters indoors.
The annual march raises funds for ACT to continue developing programs and providing services for people living with HIV and AIDS.
Since advocates first addressed AIDS in the 1980s, programming has expanded to include more communities that are affected by HIV, says Adam Ferraro, ACT’s communications coordinator.
ACT has programs geared toward young people, women, men, new Canadians and the aging population. It does everything from preventative work, to online outreach, to counselling, Ferraro says.
“AIDS isn’t over,” he says. “It’s still something that we, as a community and a city, have to work towards eliminating.”
According to the Public Health Agency, one in four new HIV diagnoses are among people under 30, and one in five is among women. Meanwhile, one in five gay men are living with HIV.
In Toronto, two people are infected with HIV each day, and an estimated 20,000 Torontonians live with the disease.
Along the downtown route, the marchers paused at the AIDS Memorial to hang red flowers in honour of those who have lost their lives to AIDS.
Toronto artist George MacIntyre was at the march with every reason to celebrate: this month marks 30 years since he tested positive for HIV. 
“It takes great courage to come out and say that,” he says.
He hopes to inspire others to keep going, noting that the positive environment at the annual fundraiser has given him strength.
MacIntyre has chronicled 40 years of gay Toronto history through a series of 12 paintings, the last depicting the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home, the first funeral home in Toronto willing to bury people who had died of AIDS-related illness.
Long-time ACT volunteer Jim Billing has been living with HIV for more than 25 years. Coming to the march is a chance for him to see many friends and debunk myths that AIDS is no longer a pressing issue.
“[This march] means a great deal to me,” he says. “There’s still a lot of need.”
The community fair was a mixture of local merchants, gay and lesbian organizations, and HIV/AIDS service providers. AIDS Action Now sold T-shirts with the slogans “Harper Equals Death” and “We Are Not Criminals” as part of a campaign to combat social stigma and advocate for government support around HIV/AIDS.
This year, local talents The Doubts and DJ Aural wrapped up the event, playing until only a few people remained dancing in the rain.

Check out Xtra's photos from the event. 
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The real death cult
It's ironic that Tim McCaskell's AIDS Action Now sold T-shirts at the ACT event with the slogan “Harper Equals Death”. Given his leadership role with QuAIA (which essentially advocates at Pride for homophobic Muslim nations that persecute and kill gays), his opposition to criminal sanctions for HIV-positive people who gleefully have unprotected anal sex without disclosing their HIV status to partners, and his apparent opposition to hard-hitting campaigns that warn gay youth about HIV transmission (purportedly for fear of making HIV-positive people look bad), it could be said that Tim McCaskell is a leader of a real death cult.
Differences in reporting
It’s interesting to see the differences in how Xtra reported on two fundraising events of the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) in September: (1) ACT’s annual AIDS Walk for Life event was held on Sunday, September 23 and Xtra published a story on Monday, September 24 (above) stating that the event raised $375,000. The $375,000 figure was also mentioned in a September 24 news item on ACT’s website at www.actoronto.org. (2) ACT’s Fashion Cares event was held on Sunday, September 9 and Xtra published a story on Monday, September 9 (see http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Elton_John_performs_at_Fashion_Cares-12514.aspx) and a guest column on Thursday, September 13 (see http://www.xtra.ca/public/Toronto/Fashion_Cares_past_and_present-12533.aspx). The September 13 guest column on Xtra.ca was also linked to a September 18 news item on ACT’s website. (3) While ACT and Xtra quickly publicized the $375,000 that was raised at the AIDS Walk for Life event on September 23, they have not yet published a dollar figure for the amount raised at the Fashion Cares event on September 9. I wonder why.
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