Updated: Richmond AIDS activist recognized with good citizenship medal

John Cameron has been giving back to his community for more than four decades – doing everything from running support groups for people with AIDS, organizing awareness events and just driving people to medical appointments.

Cameron said he was “one of the lucky ones” to survive full-blown AIDS and hepatitis B — thanks to his doctors, Dr. Julio Montaner in Vancouver and Dr. Richard Sagorin at the Richmond Hospital. And even though as he’s getting older and his health isn’t great, he believes it shouldn’t hinder him from continuing to help where he can.

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“Even if your health is limited, you can do a lot from your kitchen table or computer,” he said.

Cameron was honoured last week with a Medal of Good Citizenship for all his volunteer work to bring services and support to people living with AIDS.

Although he was grateful for the recognition, he said all the work done to support people with AIDS in Vancouver and Richmond is a “group effort,” with a lot of people working toward the same goals.

Cameron was the first person in Richmond to openly come out with AIDS. Since then, he has been instrumental in establishing support groups and harm reduction measures in both Richmond and Vancouver as well as advocating for support for people with hepatitis and substance use issues.

Cameron was described in the announcement of his medal as a “results-oriented renegade.”

Between 1980 and 1994, Cameron volunteered during the emerging AIDS crisis all the while working full-time.

He helped found a peer-operated needle exchange program  — the only one in Canada — in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver as well as helping to establish the Carnegie AIDS Support Group, which still meets weekly after 26 years.

Cameron’s volunteer work also included helping people with their income tax and disability paperwork and helping people get to medical appointments and hospital visits.

After openly talking about his diagnosis, Cameron started organizing a support group in Richmond to help others infected by the virus.

This support group led to the establishment of AIDS services in Richmond when they were still largely focused in downtown Vancouver.

He has also organized Canada’s largest community-driven World AIDS Day — still going strong after 26 years — and a World Hepatitis Day event.

More recently, he was vocal in his support for the Richmond School District’s SOGI policy, which is a resource toolkit to support students around sexual orientation and gender identity.

Cameron was one of 18 people in B.C. to receive the Medal of Good Citizenship this year.

“Your outstanding contributions to the well-being of your communities inspire us all,” said Premier John Horgan in a press release to the recipients. “The generous gifts of your time and support make a difference in people’s lives and help build a stronger province for everyone.”

 

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