1983-2003 : ACT Timeline

June 24, 2003

1980 – Outbreaks of Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP) and a rare cancer, Kaposi's Sarcoma, are reported by doctors in Los Angeles and New York among gay male patients. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States publishes news of the outbreaks. The syndrome is referred to as GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency).

October, 1981 – The Gay community in Toronto begins to confront AIDS. The Body Politic publishes its first major article on AIDS, critiquing media misreporting.

February, 1982 – The first cases of AIDS are reported in Canada.

1982 – The syndrome is linked to blood and is identified not just in gay men but also in women, male heterosexual drug users, hemophiliacs, blood transfusion recipients and babies. GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) is renamed AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Fourteen nations report AIDS cases.

April 5, 1983 – Gays in Health Care and the Hassle Free Clinic hold a public health forum at Ryerson on AIDS and Hepatitis B. At the forum an “ongoing AIDS committee” is proposed.

April 26, 1983 – A large group of volunteers come together to create five working groups for the proposed committee: community education; patient support; fundraising; medical liaison; media and public relations.

Street Number 66July 18, 1983 – The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) is officially established at 66 Wellesley Street E. The first board members are elected and six full-time staff are hired.

July 19, 1983 – Represented by Peter Evans, one of the first people to publicly reveal his HIV status in Canada, ACT announces itself to the community at a press conference. Toronto Public Health unveils the “Numbers” poster it has developed with ACT, targeted at gay men. Their message is to reduce risk by reducing the number of sexual partners.

1983-84 – Shortly after launching the “Numbers” campaign, ACT decides that getting information to gay men about safer sex and giving them the power to make their own decisions is more effective than telling them to reduce their number of partners. ACT calls this the “risk reduction” model, a departure from the traditional “no risk” health practices.

1984 – It is determined by an international committee that AIDS is caused by a virus they call HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

July, 1984 – ACT initiates the first official AIDS Awareness Week, which in later years becomes provincial and national.

1985 – Several AIDS groups, including ACT, come together to form the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN).

1985 – ACT organizes the first AIDS Vigil in Toronto.

May, 1985 – ACT participates in the first Canadian Conference on AIDS held in Montreal. This meeting is the catalyst for the formation of the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS), which is officially formed in July 1986.

November, 1985 – An HIV antibody test is developed in Canada. ACT fights for anonymous testing and encourages people not to get tested because there is no treatment.

1986 – Toronto becomes the first city in Canada to develop an AIDS strategy including funding for community-based organizations. ACT establishes a long-term working relationship with the City of Toronto even while ACT continues to challenge traditional health practices.

1986 – June Callwood comes to ACT to begin a hospice project which later develops into Casey House.

1986 – ACT hosts the second Canadian AIDS Conference in Toronto where the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) is formed. ACT participates on the steering committee.

1986-87 – ACT undertakes major education and advocacy work with the provincial government to have AIDS recognized as a priority. The Ministry of Health develops a community-based AIDS funding program.

1986-87 – ACT’s Buddy Program expands which leads to the introduction of the Practical Assistance Program.

464 Yonge Street Number1987 – ACT moves to a new location at 464 Yonge Street.

1987 – ACT presents the first Fashion Cares fundraising event with the theme “Diamond Club”.

1987 – The first anti-HIV drug (AZT) is released.

1987 – The Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (TPWAF) is formed.

February, 1988 – AIDS Action Now! is formed in Toronto as a result of continuing frustration with government inaction. The group of AIDS activists lobby politicians and put pressure on governments, drug companies, and other institutions to secure improved treatment for people with AIDS. Later that year the group leads the Canadian AIDS Conference participants in a demonstration, burning federal Health Minister Jake Epp in effigy.

1988 – ACT presents the first annual Dancers for Life fundraising event.

1988-89 – As the epidemic spreads, so does the response. Several ethno-cultural AIDS service organizations are formed in Toronto.

1989 – Activists take over the opening stage at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, demanding more action from governments.

1989 – ACT launches the AIDS Walk Toronto fundraiser.

1989 – ACT hosts the Deaf Outreach Project in cooperation with the Rainbow Alliance for the Deaf, the Canadian Hearing Society and others.

1989 – The Women and AIDS project is launched at ACT to educate women about how to prevent HIV infection. When infection rates among women begin to rise, ACT starts to provide support for women living with HIV/AIDS.
1990 – Federal Health Minister Perrin Beatty announces the first National AIDS Strategy.

1990 – The Chief Medical Officer of Health in Ontario attempts to classify HIV/AIDS as a virulent disease that could result in quarantine orders. The community successfully fights against this move.

1990 – A “Treatment Update” is published by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to educate people about available treatments. ACT starts to encourage people to consider getting tested for HIV (anonymously) so that they can begin treatment.

1991 – The Ontario government creates the Ontario AIDS Bureau, partly in response to community pressure to have more responsive leadership.

1991 – ACT launches its first ever safer sex campaign for young gay men “The Safer Sex Generation”.

1992-93 – ACT launches an HIV Health Promotion Program, hosting workshops and health forums for people living with HIV to educate them on how to improve their overall health.

399 Church Street Number1993 – ACT and TPWAF relocate to 399 Church Street.

1994 – ACT launches its “I Can Relate” campaign, promoting safer sex among gay men in relationships.

July, 1996 – The success of new anti-HIV drugs called protease inhibitors in combination with existing drugs (called "the cocktail") is announced at the International AIDS Conference in Vancouver. Conference delegates shout down federal Health Minister David Dingwall for failing to renew AIDS funding. Later that year, the government agrees to renew the National AIDS Strategy.

1997 – ACT establishes the Community Partners Fund to share fundraising revenues with other Toronto based AIDS organizations.

May, 1998 – The International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) central secretariat office relocates to Toronto from Ottawa and is housed at ACT.

August, 1999 – ACT enters into a partnership with VIVER (the Portuguese-speaking HIV/AIDS Coaltion) and sponsors the Portuguese-speaking Men's Outreach program. ACT secures funding for other Portuguese-language services.

September, 1999 – ACT begins a non-discrimination/access & equity organizational change process.

1999 – ACT & TPWAF develop the “Employment Action Program” as drug treatments allow people living with HIV to be healthy enough to go back to work. This program helps clients update their skills, provides help with resumes and places them in jobs.

1999 – ACT initiates its HIV prevention and community development program for at-risk youth in Toronto.

1999 (?) – ACT amends its constitution to ensure that a minimum of four of its twelve board members are people living with HIV/AIDS.

May, 2000 – ACT, in cooperation with Health Canada, publishes a national brochure called “Women, Sexual Assault & HIV/AIDS” in French and English.

2001 – Fashion Cares receives the Canadian Event Industry Award for “Best Event Produced by a Charitable Organization”.

2001 – Last year of the Dancers for Life fundraising event.

2001 – ACT’s “Welcome to Condom Country Campaign” is launched, the largest HIV/AIDS health promotion campaign in Canada. This campaign responds to the dramatic increase in HIV infection amongst gay and bisexual men in Toronto.

2001 – ACT increases its emphasis on harm reduction and launches its “torontovibe.com” website for recreational drug-using gay and bisexual men in Toronto.

June, 2001 – ACT receives recognition as a non-profit organization at the United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS).

June, 2001 – ACT expands its international commitment. Charles Roy, ACT’s, Executive director at the time, plays an important role in the development of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria declared at UNGASS.

September, 2001 – ACT increases its involvement in community-based research initiatives by hiring a Director of Research and Program Development.

October, 2001 – Positive Youth Outreach (PYO) enters into a partnership with ACT and becomes a program of ACT.

2002 – ACT secures long-term disability benefits for its employees, becoming one of the only AIDS service organizations in Canada to have such benefits.

March, 2002 – ACT presents the first annual SNAP! a photographic fundraising event which raises almost $50,000 for ACT in its first year.

August, 2002 – Charles Roy, ACT’s Executive Director suddenly dies of HIV/AIDS complications.

June, 2003 – ACT launches its 20th anniversary marketing campaign to reconnect the public with the issue of HIV/AIDS and to familiarize Torontonians with ACT’s work.