University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

John Maxwell

Dealing with the changing face of HIV and AIDS

“The face of HIV and AIDS is expanding to include more communities,” says John Maxwell (BA 1990 UC). “There is no one way of delivering prevention and support services. We have to become more sophisticated.”

That task falls on the shoulders of Maxwell, 38, the director of communications and community development for the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). After graduating from U of T with a degree in political science and economics, Maxwell started volunteering for ACT because he wanted “to give back to the community.” Now he finds himself in the thick of major issues facing the not-for-profit organization.

Federal funding for AIDS has not increased since 1993, though there are more people than ever living with the disease – 14,000 in Toronto alone. That grim reality is motivating various HIV/AIDS organizations to join forces.

Maxwell co-ordinated the integration of Viver – the AIDS organization servicing Toronto’s Portuguese-speaking community – into ACT. “It’s important to establish models where we can work together. It frees people up from the administration and fundraising to do actual work for the program.”

As well, Maxwell oversees ACT’s research initiatives. A recent study examining behaviour and factors that are contributing to a rise in infection among gay and bisexual men will ultimately lead to better prevention education. “You sometimes wonder if you’re making a difference, but then you get positive feedback and people thanking you,” he says.

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