Guided by the motto “Because All Black People’s Lives Are Important,” the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) was founded in 1989 to serve HIV+ members of the African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) community in Toronto.
Over 30 years later, Black CAP is this year’s Charity of Choice. Some feel that HIV/AIDS advocacy and support are no longer needed. According to Black CAP, that couldn’t be further from the truth. ACB people make up only 1 in 20 of Ontario’s population yet represent 1 in 5 people living with HIV in Ontario.
Black CAP Executive Director Gareth Henry discusses the ongoing stigma of HIV+ people, employment and housing issues, how that intersects with anti-Black racism, and the need for long-term funding for racialized organizations.
When Black CAP came onto the scene in 1989, Henry hadn’t yet come to Canada from Jamaica, but he has no doubt as to why the organization was formed at that time. “I can only imagine how horrible it would have been for gay men back in the early 90s. Black people were dying of HIV,” says Henry. “Black CAP was formed to deal with the stigma of homophobia, being HIV+ and being Black.
A diverse group of community members came together to respond to a need and support their brothers and sisters in a time of crisis.” Thirty-three years later, the organization is still standing tall. And although the issues facing queer, HIV+ Black people today are similar to when Black CAP was founded, Henry points to one vital difference.
“Black people are not dropping dead of HIV and AIDS-related illnesses today. That’s the only startling difference,” explains Henry. ”But why have HIV issues taken a backseat, even within the queer community?
“Even though there is a decrease in the national number of new infections in Canada, there is an increase among racialized communities,” explains Henry. These days, the focus is on U = U(Undetectable =Untransmittable), PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and other medical technologies designed to minimize the spread of HIV and prolong the lives of HIV+ people. But none of these matter when queer, ACB folks face serious health equity and access issues.