Celebrating 15 years

back to My Night With Reg

Timeline of Events

This timeline is intended to provide a historical context prior to attending My Night With Reg. Because the play captures a specific time and place (London, UK, in the early 1980s), this timeline extends beyond the timeframe of My Night With Reg to bring the issues of the play into a contemporary context, highlight the Canadian experience and, we hope, inspire audiences to learn more about issues faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and the global AIDS crisis.


June 28, 1969: During a routine raid of Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn (a bar with a mixed clientele including Black and Latino drag queens, students, homeless youth, hustlers and transgender patrons) by the New York City Police Department, a riot breaks out. Demonstrations start the following night and for subsequent nights throughout the week as New York’s LGBTQ community – long the target of discrimination and persecution – declare enough is enough. “Stonewall” signals a new era of freedom and forever symbolizes the birth of the Gay Liberation movement. back to top
1979: The epidemic later discovered to be AIDS becomes evident in Haiti. back to top
1980: In Toronto’s Mayoral election, gay rights emerge as a major issue, with Mayoral incumbent John Sewell endorsing openly gay alderman candidate George Hislop. The defeat of both Hislop and Sewell on November 10 reflects the city’s anti-gay climate and provides a police mandate to attack Toronto’s LGBTQ community. back to top
1981: On February 5, Toronto police raid the city’s four largest bath houses, causing major property destruction, verbally abusing and publicly humiliating hundreds of gay men and conducting the largest mass arrest of citizens in the city’s history. The incident becomes a catalyst for LGBTQ action, galvanizing the community.
  In response to the raids, the Right to Privacy Committee (formed in 1979 in response to a raid of a small bathhouse called The Barracks in which fewer arrests were made) steps up its efforts, establishing a model of community organization, leadership and advocacy that will lay the groundwork for the soon-to-come fight against AIDS. Importantly, in later years, when San Francisco and New York baths are shut down, gay activists and Public Health officials in Toronto succeed in keeping the city’s bathhouse doors open as they are recognized as an important forum to educate many gay men (particularly closeted gay men) about AIDS and safer sex.
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. On June 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) in the United States publishes news of the outbreaks and the deaths of five gay men. The syndrome is first referred to as “gay cancer” and later, GRID (“Gay-Related Immune Deficiency”). One month later, on July 3, the New York Times publishes an article: “Rare Cancer seen in 41 homosexuals.”
In New York, Larry Kramer invites 80 friends into his home to discuss these sudden deaths of otherwise healthy gay men and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (“GMHC”) is formed.
In the fall, renowned Toronto-based newsmagazine and LGBTQ collective The Body Politic addresses the mainstream media’s portrayal of the emerging American epidemic, confronting what writers identify as homophobic and fear-mongering perspectives. back to top
1982: In March, the first AIDS cases are officially reported in Canada and the UK.
  The syndrome is linked to blood and is identified not just in gay men but also in recent Haitian immigrants, women, male heterosexual injection drug users, hemophiliacs, blood transfusion recipients and babies. On July 27, GRID is renamed AIDS (“Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome”). Fourteen nations report AIDS cases.
In November, writer and professor Michael Lynch – soon to become one of Canada’s leading AIDS activists until his death in 1991 – publishes a controversial feature article in The Body Politic condemning the American gay community’s acquiescence to institutionalization, medicalization and fear-mongering in the press. He calls for a more personal, community-based approach that will lay the foundation for AIDS service and activism work in Canada. back to top
1983: The United States reports 3,000 AIDS cases and over 1,000 deaths due to AIDS-related illnesses. Fifty-one cases are reported in Canada.
  From March to June of this year, a group of Toronto activists, writers, health care professionals and social workers join forces in an effort to establish an ongoing AIDS committee to organize a coordinated response, and address the needs of AIDS patients and the community’s need for AIDS education. At a July 19 press conference, the AIDS Committee of Toronto (“ACT”) makes its debut to the community.
At Paris’s Pasteur Institute in France, a team of scientists led by Dr. Luc Montagnier isolates the virus that may cause AIDS. They name it lymphadenopathy-associated virus (“LAV”). back to top
1984: American Dr. Robert Gallo and his team confirm the discovery of the virus causing AIDS, claiming it as their own and renaming it human T‑lymphotropic virus type III (“HTLV-III”). Montagnier and Gallo eventually agree to rename the virus human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”), but their acrimonious ownership dispute continues for years.
  Western scientists become aware that AIDS is widespread in parts of Africa.
The first needle exchange program is established in Amsterdam to help stop the spread of infection among injection drug users.
In San Francisco, the bathhouses are closed down. The community protests adamantly and, after a legal battle, they reopen.
In the US, AIDS rates have doubled within the year and over 6,000 cases are reported. About 150 cases are reported in Canada. back to top
1985: The Normal Heart, by Larry Kramer, opens at New York’s Public Theatre on April 21.
  On September 17, US President Ronald Reagan publicly says the word “AIDS” for the first time.
  In November, an HIV antibody test is developed in Canada. Community leaders fight for anonymous testing, though until any treatment becomes available, people are encouraged to not get tested for fear of stigmatization.
The first International AIDS Conference is held in Atlanta, Georgia. 2,000 people, primarily doctors and scientists, attend.
  The UK Government invests millions of dollars in research and launches its first AIDS awareness campaign. back to top
1986: 38,000 AIDS cases have been reported globally from 85 countries.
  The CDC reports significant racial disparities in rates of infection, recognizing that Black and Hispanic Americans are developing the disease at three times the rate of Caucasian Americans. Among children, the disparity is even greater.
Toronto becomes the first city in Canada to develop an AIDS strategy including funding for community-based organizations.
The Ontario Human Rights Code is amended to protect against discrimination based on “sexual orientation.”
In New York, Mayor Koch shuts down the bathhouses.
Dr. Jonathan Mann founds the World Health Organization’s Global Program on AIDS, alerting international leaders to the crisis and establishing AIDS as a global human rights issue. back to top
1987: The first anti-HIV drug – AZT – is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and becomes available for people living with HIV and AIDS (“PHAs”) in America. There is limited access to AZT for Canadian PHAs and, over the next several years in Canada, PHAs will fight for access to experimental treatments available elsewhere.
  The Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (“PWA”) is formed.
In New York, Larry Kramer, ousted from GMHC, which he founded, joins with other activists to form the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (“ACT UP”) – a “nonpartisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS Crisis.” On March 24, ACT UP organizes its first demonstration at Trinity Church in the Wall Street business district, to demand affordable life-saving medicines be made available to patients, an end to discrimination against PHAs, AIDS education and a coordinated government response to the crisis.
In April, President Reagan delivers his first major speech on AIDS.
In October, hundreds of thousands of people take part in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. ACT UP’s now iconic “Silence = Death” logo gains visibility.
  In the UK there are over 1,000 reported AIDS cases. The government launches its “Don’t Die of Ignorance” campaign, delivering leaflets to every home in the country.
Princess Diana opens the first HIV ward in a UK hospital. A photograph of Princess Diana holding the hand of a patient is broadcast across the world.
The UK’s National AIDS Trust is founded to provide community education, support and advocacy. Needle exchanges are piloted in the UK and the government’s “Don’t Die of Ignorance” campaign is launched.
HIV testing is introduced across the UK. back to top
1988: First World AIDS Day.
  AIDS Action Now! (“AAN!”) forms in Toronto as a result of continuing frustration with government inaction and health care bureaucracy. The activist organization, led by Michael Lynch, pressures politicians and pharmaceutical companies to improve treatment for PHAs, secure access to experimental drugs, establish compassionate arms of clinical trials and guarantee PHA representation at all decision-making levels. Their conviction to remain volunteer-driven and independent of government funding allows AAN! political freedom not afforded charitable organizations like ACT or PWA. Over the years, through their direct action approach, AAN! is successful in bringing about major changes to government and pharmaceutical policy and action.
Michael Lynch’s AIDS Memorial is unveiled on Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, June 26. (See Section I for a field trip suggestion).
By the end of the year, 1,790 AIDS-related deaths have been reported in Canada. back to top
1989: Several ethno-cultural AIDS service organizations are established in Toronto, including the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (“Black CAP”) and the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (“ASAAP”).
  Canada’s first needle exchange program is established in Vancouver.
The fifth International AIDS Conference is held in Montreal in June. AAN! and ACT UP members take over the opening ceremonies and AAN! Chair Tim McCaskell officially opens the conference, calling attention to the fact that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, slated to open the conference, was about to make his very first public speech about AIDS in five years of being Prime Minister.
The first HIV awareness materials targeted at gay men are produced by the Health Education Authority in the UK. back to top
1990: An estimated 8 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide.
  Canada’s Federal Health Minister Perrin Beatty announces the first National AIDS Strategy.
The popular British Broadcasting Corporation soap opera Eastenders runs a storyline in which a major character is diagnosed with HIV. back to top
1991: Developing from an AAN! initiative, the Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (“CATIE”) is established.
  Darien Taylor and Andrea Rudd found Voices of Positive Women Support Services Ontario – funded primarily by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Health Canada – to serve the specific needs of women living with HIV.
  Actor Jeremy Irons is the first to publicly wear the red ribbon during the 1991 Tony Awards ceremony in New York. The ribbon soon becomes renowned as an international symbol of AIDS awareness.
  Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury announces he has AIDS the day before he dies at the age of 45. Several months later at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in Wembley Stadium, more than 100,000 red ribbons are distributed. back to top
1993: In the US, the CDC, FDA and National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) declare a joint statement that condoms are “highly effective for prevention of HIV infection.”
  In the US Congress, the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban is passed and HIV status becomes a factor in determining permission to enter the United States. back to top
1994: AAN! successfully pressures the Ontario government to establish Ontario’s Trillium Drug Program, granting drug treatment access to all PHAs, regardless of income. back to top
1995: AIDS is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 44.
  In the UK there are over 10,000 reported AIDS cases and 25,000 people are living with HIV.
The United Nations establishes the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (“UNAIDS”). back to top
1996: New antiretroviral treatments are proven to be highly effective against HIV, substantially improving the lives of PHAs and fundamentally transforming the landscape of the epidemic in the developed world.
  New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek all run cover stories, hailing AIDS breakthroughs and the “end of the epidemic.”
  In the US, AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death among all Americans ages 25 to 44. It remains, however, the leading cause of death of African Americans ages 25 to 44 and the third highest among women in this age group.
In Ontario, there are about 950 new HIV diagnoses this year. Diagnosis continues at this steady rate over the next five years.
Activists are successful in pressuring the Canadian government to renew the National AIDS Strategy. back to top
1997: An estimated 22 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide. back to top
1998: The Supreme Court of Canada reaches a decision in the case of R. v. Cuerrier and in Canada non-disclosure of HIV status before engaging in activities that pose a “significant risk” of HIV transmission becomes a criminal offense. The courts, however, provide no definition of “significant risk” nor do they provide any guidelines for determining what “significant risk” might entail. The result is an inconsistent, subjective, case-by-case approach to interpreting the law. back to top
2000: One million people in Africa are newly infected with HIV this year. The UN Security Council discusses HIV/AIDS for the first time.
  Five pharmaceutical companies reduce antiretroviral drug prices for developing countries at the prompting of UNAIDS. back to top
2001: In Toronto, rates of infection among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (“MSM”) are on the rise.
  The World Trade Organization (WTO) announces the Doha Declaration allowing developing countries to manufacture generic medications to combat public health crises like HIV/AIDS.
The UK starts charging and prosecuting people for transmitting HIV if they did not inform their partners they were living with HIV and transmit the virus. back to top
2002: Ontario HIV diagnoses increase to about 1,100 per year and remain at this rate.
  The Global Fund approves its first round of grants totaling $600 million and the UN establishes that HIV and AIDS are leading cause of death in sub-Sarahan Africa.
The US FDA approves the first rapid HIV test with 99.6% accuracy and a result in 20 minutes. back to top
2003: Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection site, opens in Vancouver.
President George W. Bush announces the creation of the United States President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a $15-billion, 5-year plan to combat AIDS, primarily in countries with a high number of HIV infections. The UN announces plans to bring HIV treatment to 3 million people. back to top
2005: The UK passes the Disability Discrimination Act, providing legal protection against discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS. back to top
2006: Approximately 73,000 people in the UK are living with HIV/AIDS. back to top
2007: The Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure is formed by PHAs and representatives from community-based AIDS organizations, to oppose the expansive use of the criminal law to address HIV non-disclosure. By 2011 the Working Group is successful in convincing the Attorney General to establish guidelines for interpreting the law.
  Rapid testing for HIV (known as Rapid Point of Care Testing) is established in Ontario by Minister of Health George Smitherman.
On World AIDS Day, George W. Bush’s administration commemorates the US’s commitment to combating the world AIDS epidemic by hanging a 28-foot AIDS Ribbon banner on the White House’s iconic North Portico – the first banner, sign or symbol to prominently hang from the White House since Abraham Lincoln lived in the building. back to top
2010: President Obama lifts the travel ban on HIV-positive people entering the US.
Research shows a reduction in HIV infection among men who have sex with men when they take an HIV medication called Truvada as a form of prevention called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). back to top
2011: “Treatment as prevention” is hailed as the biggest scientific breakthrough of the year by Science Magazine after a major trial shows a 96% reduction in HIV transmission risk during heterosexual sex without a condom when a person is successfully responding to treatment.
Confirmation is published that the first patient cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown, still has a negative HIV status, four years after treatment with a bone marrow transplant carried out in Germany. back to top
2012: On July 16, the US Food and Drug Administration approves the use of Truvada, an HIV treatment medication, for people who are not living with HIV as a form of HIV prevention.
The Supreme Court of Canada rules in two cases that people have a legal duty to disclose their HIV status to a sexual partner if their sexual conduct poses a “significant risk” of transmitting HIV. The court stipulates that vaginal sex with a condom and a low viral count does not constitute a “significant risk.” back to top
2013: Canada and US researchers announce that a 20-year-old HIV-positive adult on HIV medications in the US or Canada is expected to live into their early 70s, a life expectancy approaching that of the general population; however, differences in life expectancy based on sex, race, HIV transmission risk group, and CD4 count remain.
The number of reported people in Canada who died as a result of AIDS related health issues is reported at 31 deaths – thanks largely to Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapies. back to top
2014: In the UK, an estimated 103,700 people are living with HIV, with approximately 18,100 being undiagnosed and unaware of their status. About 67% of people living with HIV are men and 33% are women with MSM representing 55% of HIV diagnoses. While Black African and Black Caribbean people represent a small percentage of the population in the UK (about 3%) they account for approximately 30% of people living with HIV. Among men who have sex with men, 6,500 remain unaware of their HIV infection, while 3,900 men and women from black African communities are also unaware they have HIV.
A free HIV home-testing kit is launched across England to lower the number of people who don’t know their status, while HIV charities are hit by funding cuts.
  Over 95% of people living with HIV in the UK acquired HIV through unprotected sex (49% through sex between a man and a woman and 46% through sex between men). 2% of people living with HIV acquired HIV through injection drug use.
European researchers involved with the PARTNER study announce that after following 767 couples where one person is HIV-positive and taking Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (maintaining a low viral load below 200 copies/m), no transmissions of HIV occurred. This is despite some couples not using condoms, and some couples encountering the presence of STIs. back to top
2015: In Toronto, Humber College Nursing Interns at ACT start a petition –“There’s a pill to prevent HIV… help get it approved in Canada” – and collect 15,331 signatures. The petition is delivered to the Minister of Health prior to Christmas 2015. back to top
2016: On February 26, Health Canada approves the use of Truvada, an HIV treatment medication, for people who are not living with HIV as a form of HIV prevention called PrEP. Ontario makes no announcement to cover PrEP through the public health system.
On May 31, in England, the National Health Service announces it will not fund a PrEP strategy to prevent HIV, arguing the NHS is not responsible for prevention. The NHS in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have yet to make a decision on PrEP.
The UK’s National AIDS Trust (NAT) successfully challenges the NHS England’s stance over PrEP with a High Court decision indicating the NHS can fund PrEP as they are in charge of preventative health.
A Toronto physician, Dr. David Knox, reports the apparent failure of PrEP to protect a patient from contracting HIV – the first documented case in the world. A second report from California is documented later in 2016 at a conference in Chicago. While thousands of people in Canada, the US and UK are believed to be taking PrEP, researchers estimate the likelihood of a PrEP user encountering a PrEP-resistant form of HIV at high enough quantities to cause infection are less than 1%.
Toronto City Council approves three supervised injection sites for injection drug users. back to top
December 2016: An estimated 36.9 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide. 25 countries have seen a 50% or greater drop in new HIV infections since 2001. In 2011, new infections in children were 43% lower than in 2003, and 24% lower than 2009. This reflects the continued large number of new HIV infections, but also a significant expansion of access to antiretroviral therapy, which has helped reduce AIDS-related deaths, especially in more recent years. (HIV and AIDS statistics at a glance)
An estimated 75,500 Canadians were living with HIV or AIDS at the end of 2014. Nationwide, gay, bisexual and other MSM comprise 48.2% of new infections in 2015. Another 10.2% of new infections in 2015 occurred among heterosexual men and women not from countries where HIV is endemic; 10.6% of new infections occurred among heterosexual men and women from countries where HIV is endemic, and another 11% occurred in heterosexuals with no identifiable risk factors. Aboriginal Canadians continue to be over-represented, comprising 17.5% of all new infections in 2015. (HIV in Canada: Surveillance summary tables, 2014-2015)
An estimated 16,020 people living with HIV remained undiagnosed in 2014. This represents 21% of the estimated number of people living with HIV. (The epidemiology of HIV in Canada)
Over 20,000 people have tested positive for HIV in Toronto since HIV testing began in late 1985. This represents 65% of all HIV-positive test reports in Ontario.
Men have accounted for 87.5% of all positive HIV test reports in Toronto since 1985. 82% of all infections among men in Toronto have been among gay, bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men.
Women have accounted for 12.5% of all positive HIV test reports in Toronto since 1985. 48% of all infections among women in Toronto have been among women from countries with high rates of HIV. (HIV and AIDS statistics at a glance) back to top

Information for this timeline was gathered from the following organizations, media sources and publications: AVERT, AIDS Committee of Toronto, BBC, CATIE, Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, Stephen Lewis Foundation, Toronto Star, Ontario HIV Epidemiologic Monitoring Unit, PHAC HIV in Canada Surveillance, Pride Toronto, ACT UP, HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario), National AIDS Trust, Public Broadcasting Service’s FRONTLINE, Ann Silversides, AIDS Activist: Michael Lynch and the Politics of Community (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2003). Special Thanks to Rui Pires at AIDS Committee of Toronto for his support and contributions.