An Incurable Case of Brotherly Love - A tribute to both Riyad and Roy Wadia
By Katherine Dodds, December 11, 2013
I didn’t know Riyad Wadia, but I know his brother Roy. And because I’ve seen Roy in action, I know Riyad must have been someone very wonderful.
On November 30, ten years ago, Riyad Wadia, India’s first openly gay filmmaker and a behind-the-scenes gay activist died of AIDS. It was two years later when I met his brother Roy who was working at the BCCDC when he accompanied us on a trip to Kitamaat Village with Chee Mamuk (Aboriginal program of the BC CDC) to make a short film about STIs and HIV with youth from the Haisla Nation. Riyad moved Roy to do this kind of health advoacy work, and it’s an honour to his memory that Roy is so dedicated to this cause.
Roy’s tribute to Riyad, was included by Denise Ryan in the recent Vancouver Sun’s series on the HIV/AIDS epidemic to mark this December’s 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day and Month.
Roy writes: “Riyad was a beautiful soul, loving and giving, missed to this day not only by our mother and myself, but by literally hundreds of people around the world who were lucky enough to know him.” Describing the irony of the fact that while Riyad helped many HIV-positive people get discreet and top-notch medical advice about HIV as well as access to medication, he himself never took any medication for the entire seven-plus years after his diagnosis, Roy wonders “Was it deep-seated self-stigma that stopped him from taking care of his own health especially in a day and age when medication was easily available and all the more when India’s leading generic drug manufacturer, Cipla, run by a family friend, would have provided him ARV free of cost? I still struggle to figure out what the true reason was.”
For those of us who work in health promotion within already marginalized populations, the reality is poignant: stigma can be deadly. The topic of the film made by the Haisla youth was on rumours and how they can travel quickly, like STIs can, in a small community. And like STIs, rumours can be prevented.
Their film “Stand True” was light hearted and funny, but the night of its ‘world premiere” celebration, screened in front of 200 Community members in the Kitamaat Village Rec Centre, Invited guest, Charlotte Brooks got up to speak. I witnessed the group of young filmmakers, visibly transform. Charlotte talked about how their film’s theme of rumours touched on something so important, and she shared what living with HIV has been like for her, how rumours and stigma caused so much pain to her and to her family. Suddenly those youth knew that they had not only done something cool, they had done something important with their short film. Life-changing even.
Tags: Health/Health Advocacy, health promotion, HIV AIDS, Chee Mamuk
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