On December 1, as we mark World AIDS Day, CUPE Ontario commemorates the millions of people around the world who have died from HIV/AIDS since the illness emerged in our communities. We also recommit our union to fighting against the deep stigma still attached to this disease, and to continue our part in the ongoing work to ensure access to treatment for those who contract it.

Since the early 1980s, much has progressed thanks to decades of people coming together to join the fight against the epidemic: from courageous activists forcing governments to take notice and action, to community workers and volunteers spreading knowledge and dismantling deep-rooted homophobic and transphobic stigma, to scientists and health care professionals determined to bring treatment and care to those affected. Now, HIV has been transformed through this work from a death sentence to a manageable chronic illness that, when effectively treated with medication, becomes virtually non-transmissible.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated, it is racialized, Indigenous, and marginalized populations that are disproportionately affected by such health crises. And given that people with weakened immune systems due to HIV are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, we must continue to fight for adequate, proactive access to prevention, testing, and treatment of both illnesses.

As we reflect on four decades of HIV and AIDS history, as well as the last two years of the COVID pandemic, let us be inspired by the dedication of those who came before us by renewing our commitment to raise awareness, destroy stigma, and end inequity in access to health care services for all members of our community.