Martha McCain honoured with award for outstanding philanthropic leadership for the HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ communities

Martha McCain is being recognized with The Casey Award for her outstanding commitment through financial contributions. The award honours McCain’s continued and extraordinary support as a generous donor, and her impact on the LGBTQ community, which is far-reaching through the support of dozens of causes in the arts, education, and social justice advocacy realm.

She is an active supporter, whose significant contributions have had a lasting impact for many organizations, including Casey House, Ontario’s HIV specialty hospital. Martha was a principal supporter for Casey House’s Rebuilding lives capital campaign and their recently completed rooftop Love Family Healing Garden.

Her contributions elevate the voices of the LGBTQ community and the work of many organizations serving people who are often invisible and forgotten. This is exemplified when she co-chaired Egale Canada’s $16 million capital campaign to create Friends of Ruby, an LBGTIQ2S youth centre and transitional housing shelter. And, by her support of Toronto Inside Out Film Festival when they launched the Re-Focus fund, which is directed at the promotion of professional development, growth, and achievement in LGBTQ female and non-binary filmmakers. Of this project, Martha said she believes that her support “provides a small step toward a fairer playing field and inclusivity; giving greater voice and visibility to the LGBTQ community through film.”

This is a sampling of the projects Martha McCain has supported, and continues to support. Her work continues to create an impact, as she provides access to initiatives and opportunities that highlight the community, encouraging it to be seen.

Casey House extends warm congratulations to Martha McCain on achieving this recognition of her generosity.

Prairie Harm Reduction awarded for leadership in social justice and harm reduction for the HIV/AIDS community

Prairie Harm Reduction is being recognized with The Casey Award for being transformational in their responsive approach to the needs of people living with and at risk of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Formerly called AIDS Saskatoon, Prairie Harm Reduction is a community-based non-profit working to improve life for service users through harm reduction, emphasizing local action with national impact. They have demonstrated exemplary leadership in a province that has the highest rates of new HIV infection, primarily amongst people who inject drugs.

Executive Director Jason Mercredi has led Prairie Harm Reduction for the last five years, transforming the organization’s direction and boldly implementing much needed services to save lives and reduce HIV infection. Under Mercredi’s leadership, they opened Saskatchewan’s first supervised consumption site (SCS) last year in a challenging and adversarial political climate. Open over 12 hours a day, it is currently the only SCS in Saskatchewan and the only one in Canada offering inhalation services indoors.

Although the current provincial government has admitted that supervised consumption is an effective strategy, and while the rest of Prairie Harm Reduction’s supports are funded through the government, they were denied their funding request to operate their SCS and rely on fundraised dollars.

They have mobilized support from around the country, local businesses and leaders, neighbours and community members, through T-shirt sales, small business partnerships, and crowd funding donations. In the process, they have raised significant awareness about the HIV epidemic in Saskatchewan, educating the public about harm reduction, including reducing stigma and discrimination.

This organization works tirelessly to keep their doors open and save lives, which has inspired people across the country. Amongst the closure of SCS in Alberta and the cutting of funding to sites in Toronto Prairie Harm Reduction continues to lead, finding new ways to meet the needs of the communities they serve. They have been able to mobilize the city of Saskatoon to support the SCS, reduce stigma and discrimination and have demonstrated incredible leadership.

Most importantly, Prairie Harm Reduction has made the world a more humane place for people who use drugs and people living with HIV/AIDS in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Gregory Robinson honoured with award for exceptional volunteer service to Casey House and the HIV/AIDS community

Gregory Robinson is being recognized with The Casey Award for exceptional volunteer service to Casey House and the HIV/AIDS community.

Greg has heart, passion and clinical expertise. He is an educator, collaborator, volunteer, HIV historian and exceptional person, who generously gives of his time to share a wise and heartfelt depth of knowledge with sincerity and candor.

As an HIV positive physician, Robinson left his clinical practice in the 1980s out of fear his patients would judge and avoid him and moved into clinical epidemiology. Now retired, he continues to mentor clinical trainees and contribute to research. He has been a member of Casey House’s research advisory committee, and collaborated on many research projects.

Greg has been involved in educating numerous current and future health providers, specifically spearheading an interprofessional mentorship program with rehabilitation professionals working in the field of HIV. He generously shares his clinical expertise with students along with his personal lived experience of HIV.

Greg was a co-founding member of Realize, formerly known as the Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation, and has been involved with the organization since its inception in 2009. There he has served in governance and advisory roles, as well as being a co-faculty member of the University of Toronto’s interprofessional learning course on HIV and rehabilitation. He has also contributed to an online module about HIV for U of T guest faculty and students.

He is a frequent guest speaker, and there is nothing more persuasive than when Greg is in front of an audience of dedicated care providers. He engages them with impassioned reflections on the meaning of compassionate competent care and one nominator says she has witnessed the audience be “visibly moved and potentially forever changed”.

When Greg is not giving of his time to educate, he is a kind, thoughtful, and engaged volunteer who supports Casey House clients when they are most in need. With genuine compassion he listens without judgment and offers people the tenderness that they seek when they are at their most vulnerable.

In many forums Greg speaks on behalf of people living with HIV, and in 2017, he joined a group fellow advocates as peer chefs for Casey House’s June’s HIV+ Eatery, where the public is challenged to eat a meal prepared by people living with HIV.

Greg is an extremely dedicated individual who moves through the world with unwavering compassion, generosity of spirit and dedication to client care. Casey House extends warm congratulations to Gregory Robinson for his volunteerism, which is reminiscent of the spirit of June Callwood.

Alphonso King Jr honoured with award for exceptional volunteer service to the HIV/AIDS community

Alphonso King Jr. is being recognized with The Casey Award for exceptional volunteer service to the HIV/AIDS community. The award honours King’s dedication to being an advocate for people living with and affected by HIV.

Alphonso is a self-described female impersonator, vocalist, recording artist, DJ, actor, writer and out HIV+ activist, also known under his drag recording artist name Jade Elektra, and disc jockey name DJ Relentless. Alphonso is a strong advocate for people living with and affected by HIV. He brings attention to issues faced by marginalized communities and people of colour while creating awareness around the many facets of racial discrimination, inequity and inequality, queer rights, and stigma.

Originally from Florida, Alphonso was young gay and HIV+ when he moved to New York City in the early 90s. Love brought him to Toronto in 2009, where he found an HIV+ community more hidden away than the one in New York. Alphonso took action and started POZ-TO, a monthly social event and fundraiser created to fight stigma associated with being positive, and to build community.

In partnership with his husband John Richard Allan, he created Facebook groups, produced events and fundraisers for the queer and POZ communities, such as the Daddy Issues Fundraiser, and the POZ-TO Awards, which recognizes community members for their activism. Mingle is another community fundraiser; hosted by the beautiful Jade Electra the events raise funds and awareness for a variety of AIDS service organizations such as ACT and ASAAP.

Alphonso has travelled extensively to bring attention to PrEP, PEP and U=U, important topics around sex positivity. His single ‘Undetectable’, sung to Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable’ created an inspirational song for the community and a creative vehicle for a message about science.

Combining the desire to build a stronger HIV+ community with fundraising for causes that support the community is a passion for King. Casey House extends warm congratulations to Alphonso for achieving this recognition of his volunteerism and fundraising.

Sean Hosein honoured with award for decades of leadership in social justice for the HIV/AIDS community

Sean Hosein is being recognized with The Casey Award for decades of leadership in social justice for the HIV/AIDS community by bringing information and education to people living with and working in HIV.

For more than 40 years Sean has made an indelible and lasting contribution to the HIV/AIDS community. He is a self-taught knowledge translation expert, who shares what he learns to help people make informed decisions alongside their care providers. Sean started reading medical journals about the little known disease AIDS at the beginning of the HIV epidemic, inspired by his friends and housemates who became early AIDS activists. He taught himself the basics of immunology and in 1985 published his first article about HIV in Rites, Canada’s first national lesbian and gay magazine.

As the pace of research increased, Sean worked to make it more accessible, publishing in early editions of Xtra magazine, being instrumental in the production of the first Treatment AIDS broadsheet in 1988 listing a range of experimental treatments, and self-publishing his summarized research findings.

This is how he became the creator, researcher and writer of TreatmentUpdate, first published in 1989 in collaboration with AIDS Action Now!, and which became known internationally as a reliable, accurate and unbiased source of HIV treatment information. These efforts lead to the creation of CATIE, a community-based information source on HIV/AIDS, in 1990. Sean became a member of its inaugural board, and then the organization’s science and medicine editor.

Over the years he has connected with renowned HIV researchers around the world, trained and supported the knowledge acquisition of hundreds of people living with HIV, their caregivers and those working in the field, including frontline service providers.

Casey House extends warm congratulations to Sean Hosein for his dedication to communication and learning.

Bob Leahy honoured with award for decades of leadership in social justice for the HIV/AIDS community

Bob Leahy is being recognized with The Casey Award for decades of leadership in social justice for the HIV/AIDS community. The award honours Leahy’s many years of advocacy and information sharing, with contributions to the issues of HIV and aging, U=U, and optimal health and well-being.

Dubbed a ‘community elder’ among people living with HIV, Bob has been an engaged volunteer and activist in the HIV community since his diagnosis in the early 1990s.

He has been involved with governance of AIDS service organizations from the Peterborough AIDS Resource Network and Ontario HIV Treatment Network, to the Canadian AIDS Society, and has also been a vocal advocate for seniors living with HIV, raising awareness and advocating for the unique needs. Realize executive director Tammy Yates called him “one of the most tireless, strategic and passionate advocates” she has had the pleasure to work with.

Leahy was publisher and editor of PositiveLite.com, a Canadian peer-driven, volunteer-run online magazine by and for people living with HIV that for nine years captured the entirety of the HIV experience. It published thousands of articles, up to three in one day, and had tremendous influence, with articles regularly shared by other sites.

According to founding executive director of U=U Prevention Access Campaign Bruce Richman, Bob was one of a handful of people from around the globe whose courage, commitment and tireless dedication grew the idea of Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) into a worldwide movement. Bob took a courageous, personal and unpopular stand on behalf of people living with HIV. He shared the message about the role of an undetectable viral load in HIV prevention before it was accepted by AIDS service organizations and HIV clinical practice. In 2016, when U=U was still controversial in the HIV medical, public health and PLWA communities, though Bob was criticized and shamed personally and professionally, he continued to persevere and made use of all his resources to put forth the science. These efforts launched the national U=U movement, including getting CATIE to sign on in 2017 as the first globally recognized HIV information resource organization, and made history when the Canadian government joined as the first official U=U country, endorsing it on World AIDS Day in 2018. He had a transformative impact on the growth of a message now accepted by the global medical and scientific community.

Bob recently retired from his volunteer career, says Bruce Richman, “He is a fierce warrior with a heart of gold – perhaps so big and full that it caused him some trouble lately.”

Casey House extends warm congratulations to Bob Leahy on achieving this recognition.