It is with heavy hearts that HQ announces the passing of long-time community advocate and HQ supporter Ron Rosenes. Ron died on Saturday, October 21, 2023 after a brief illness. Our deepest sympathies go out to his partner, Brian Goodman, his family, and all those who knew and loved him.
For over forty years, Ron was a fierce and thoughtful advocate for people living with and affected by HIV, as well as the LGBTQ+ community more broadly. His brave and strategic efforts contributed to meaningful advancements in public attitudes toward HIV and LGBTQ+ people, and led to policy and programs that have meaningfully improved many lives.
Among his pursuits, Ron was a strong advocate for integrated mental and sexual health services for gay men. He was involved in community organizing, including “Pitching our Tents,” a meeting hosted by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), geared to identifying key issues that gay men face, what the priorities for action should be, and how to encourage the next generation of leaders. At this meeting, participants called for an integrated sexual and mental health hub, and in 2018, Ron hosted a second meeting at his home to discuss the idea further. From there, HQ was born. Ron continued to nurture the project as a member of HQ’s first fundraising cabinet organized by ACT, and was one of its key donors. He generously contributed $175,000 to support the build of HQ at 790 Bay Street in Toronto.
Ron was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s, at a time when the virus was heavily stigmatized and the prognosis for survival was bleak. Still, Ron stood up on behalf of his community to demand rights and services that didn’t exist but were desperately needed. Thanks to his bravery, and the bravery of his contemporaries, many of those services are now commonplace today.
Throughout his life, Ron was an active volunteer, spokesperson and fundraiser for many organizations, including ACT, the HIV Legal Network, the Canadian Treatment Action Council (all of whose boards he chaired), Casey House, Realize, the OHTN, CATIE, and eventually HQ. Additionally, he was a long-standing member of the Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS. His advocacy was recognized by the federal government in 2014, when he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. His work has also been recognized by myriad other organizations; he holds an honorary doctorate from Carlson University and was the recipient of Casey House’s 2021 Casey Award.
John McCullagh, an HQ board member and long-time friend and colleague of Ron, remembers him this way: “Ron was outspoken, but always polite. He was an advocate for gay men and for the diverse population of people living with HIV. He was open about his HIV status, even in the early days of the epidemic when HIV-related stigma and discrimination were widespread. He advocated for the need for changes in the law and policies governing HIV disclosure in Canada, and campaigned for justice for those arrested in the infamous police raids on four Toronto bathhouses that took place in 1981. He was a dedicated, constant and dependable volunteer in the community, advocating for the inclusion of people living with HIV in policies that affect our lives. In addition to his amazing contributions to the community, he was an avid traveler, supporter of the arts, a stylish dresser, and a super-nice, warm and generous person. He leaves an outstanding legacy of activism and awareness building.”
Despite his passing, Ron’s legacy will continue to echo through the community, and in the ongoing work of HQ. He is deeply missed by his friends and colleagues at HQ, and by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.