On November 25, in advance of World AIDS Day, high-end boutiques and hotels in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood will host intimate dinners for the 25th anniversary of Bloor Street Entertains, in support of The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). Partners include The Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Tiffany & Co., Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Louboutin, Gardiner Museum, Holt Renfrew, and others. 

An estimated 65,000 Canadians are living with HIV and 14% of them are unaware of their status. Last year, Canada approved HIV self-testing kits helping to remove healthcare access barriers, which was made even more difficult because of COVID. Thanks to the collaborative support from CANFAR in the past year over 60,000 self-testing kits were distributed and peer navigation services were provided free of charge. 

CANFAR’s mission is to eradicate HIV by 2025. We connected with CEO Alex Filiatrault to ask him about the state of HIV in Canada today, and why this annual fundraiser has become so vital for the organization. 

What is the biggest message you want Canadians to know about the state of HIV in Canada right now?

Although we’ve made huge progress in the past few years — including the approval of HIV self-testing in Canada a year ago which means more Canadians can know their status, as well as removing stigma from testing — there is still a lot of work to be done. Trauma, youth education, addressing inequities, and facilitating access to treatment and care are paramount. Through CANFAR, we support cutting-edge research and path to care that allows us to effectively project we can bring new cases to zero within a few years.

Why is this fundraiser so important?

Bloor Street Entertains has been a cornerstone of our activities with patrons of CANFAR for 25 years now. The community rallies together year after year, showing their dedication to the cause of HIV and bringing together groups from various backgrounds who join forces for a unique goal. BSE for me shows the generosity of our supporters and the entire Toronto community. As well, BSE takes place a few days before World AIDS Day on December 1, which is when we spotlight how far we’ve come and how much work is still ahead of us to effectively end the epidemic.

After a tumultuous couple of years with the pandemic, how are you feeling about this year’s event?

It is so refreshing to come back to in-person gatherings but we know we are not out of the woods yet. This is why we chose to focus on science for this year’s event: our scientists and medical frontline workers have been fighting a global pandemic; the same medical community has been working on HIV treatment and prevention. This year is all about honouring the medical community and our amazing researchers who have been dedicated to making our lives better.

See the CANFAR website to learn more and find out ways to contribute and get involved.