This year, the recipient of The Casey Award 2016 is Art Zoccole, a devoted HIV/AIDS advocate and leader within Canada’s Aboriginal community.
The award was presented at the Casey House & Casey House Foundation annual meeting, June 22 at The 519.
From the tribute to Art Zoccole by Brian Shackleton, chair of the Casey Award committee:
On behalf of the 2016 Casey Awards committee, I’m pleased to announce the recipient of this year’s Casey Award, Art Zoccole.
Art is the recipient of the Casey Award for his devotion to HIV/AIDS advocacy and his leadership within Canada’s Aboriginal community.
The Casey Award celebrates leadership in the fields of HIV/AIDS and social justice, which accurately describes Art’s life work. Art has been involved in HIV/AIDS advocacy since the 1980s. At that time gay men with AIDS were reluctant to find support from their Aboriginal communities when they fell ill, they were fearful of sharing their status and having to acknowledge their sexuality. And for those who died, acceptance was also difficult; some communities mistakenly believed that HIV was transmissible after death and were reluctant to accept the bodies of those who perished from AIDS.
Seeing a need for more resources for Aboriginal people who were living with HIV/AIDS Art co-founded 2-Spirited People of the First Nation in 1989, a Toronto based non-profit for Aboriginal people who carry male and female spirits and identify as LGBTQ. Their programs include HIV/AIDS education, outreach, prevention, support and counselling. The organization has been instrumental in providing support for those in the Aboriginal community, and has been at the forefront of raising awareness of two-spirited people. Art serves as executive director amongst his many additional roles in HIV/AIDS education and advocacy.
Art has his hand in all aspects of activism: he is involved in research, a member of task forces, advisory councils, speaks publicly at conferences, chaired the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, volunteers his expertise as a leadership volunteer and promotes education. Art has worked to combat stigma and reduce discrimination of diverse populations within the Aboriginal community, discrimination that is faced within and from beyond that community. He believes strongly that resources and support is most effective when it comes from within the Aboriginal community and works collaboratively to make them available.
Art describes his work as “having a voice in his community to remind people that this disease is still very much present and that more work needs to be done.” Casey House is in full support of that sentiment, recognizing that HIV/AIDS is an urgent health problem; one that needs as many voices as possible.
Art, thank you for using your voice, for making yourself heard, for speaking up for all those who are living with HIV, and particularly for those who are Aboriginal.
Please join me in congratulating Art Zoccole on his well-deserved award.