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AIDS Committee of Ottawa launches 30th anniversary legacy book

‘ACO XXX: Our Words, Our Stories, Our Lives’ is a glossy coffee table book about the people who shaped – and were shaped by – the AIDS support group.

Khaled Salam, executive director of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO), displays the group’s new 30th anniversary book, ACO XXX: Our Words, Our Stories, Our Lives.

lucy scholey/metro

Khaled Salam, executive director of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO), displays the group’s new 30th anniversary book, ACO XXX: Our Words, Our Stories, Our Lives.

It was the middle of the AIDS epidemic in 1985, when gay men and people with HIV faced “fear, hostility, grief, and anger.”

Despite the stigma, Barry Deeprose helped found the AIDS Committee of Ottawa that year.

Five years later, Anne Pilon would be the first woman to walk through the ACO doors. Then a 19-year-old recovering addict who was HIV-positive, she asked to join the 16 other members.

“They welcomed me with open arms,” she said. “I was part of that group for a few years but unfortunately I’m the only survivor of that group.”

The words of Deeprose and Pilon appear in the ACO’s new Legacy Project, “ACO XXX: Our Words, Our Stories, Our Lives.” It’s a glossy coffee table book about the people who shaped – and were shaped by ­– the AIDS support group.

Since the advent of Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) in 1996, AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was. But the stigma remains.  

Last year, the ACO launched a discrimination lawsuit against a landlord who allegedly terminated the group’s new lease at the last minute.

“(The) stigma and discrimination that’s attached to HIV/AIDS is still, today, one of our biggest battles,” said Khaled Salam, the ACO’s executive director.

The ACO will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this Saturday at the St. Elias Banquet Centre. The free tickets are all called for, but there’s another fundraising effort underway, called 30-30-30.

The ACO is asking for 30 lbs. of used goods – or two full garbage bags – over 30 days. Drop them off at Value Village before Sept. 19. 

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