TRUONG, Patrick Kristoff
After a courageous battle with bile duct cancer, our dear Patrick passed away on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre. A Funeral Service was held on Thursday, February 23, 2012. This is a tribute to Patrick.
Patrick Truong was one of the very first Asian PHAs (persons living with HIV/AIDS) who came out to speak about the issue of HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination, and homophobia in the Toronto Asian community. He was a pioneer, a champion, a mentor, a good party goer, a support staff, and a professional to the many people who knew him.
Patrick migrated to Canada as a refugee with his family during the 1970s and settled in Toronto. He came out as a proud gay man during the height of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. Patrick’s early activism began with Gay Asians Toronto (GAT), one of the founding coalition groups that merged to become what is known today as Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS). He was a gay men’s outreach worker for GAT’s Gay Asian AIDS Project (GAAP) in 1989 when the AIDS epidemic was at its peak. In 1993, he was elected President of Gay Asian Toronto and from 1998 to 2000 he was a board member of ACAS.
In 2001, Patrick stepped down from the ACAS Board to take a position as Support Program Coordinator. Patrick utilized his resilient skills as a PHA, multi-linguist (he spoke Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English), case manager, program manager, and fundraiser in many different capacities, both professionally and as volunteer. Patrick had served on numerous external committees, provided guidance and mentorship to newly formed groups such as CAAT /ETSN, and applied his many talents to fundraise and support groups promoting gay Asian rights in the GTA such as Club Asian 25 (a queer Asian group) and the Rabbits (a performance arts troupe).
In the past few years, Patrick worked closely with the support program of Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) in Toronto. He was instrumental in starting support services for HIV+ woman at ACAS. In 2008, he started a new initiative called PHA Mentorship Program. He spent his extra hours to make sure that PHAs who are mentees received good training and work experience that would increase their chances to find gainful employment in AIDS service organizations. In 2010 he received the Ontario AIDS Network’s Caregiver Award for his exemplified and outstanding work as a support worker. In 2011, the ALPHA (Asians Living Proof of HIV/AIDS), an informal social support group, was born from his initiative and the support of other Asian PHAs. From 2010 onward, Patrick was a member of the CLHE (Criminal Law and HIV Exposure) and the Toronto Mental Health Network groups.
HIV stigma and homophobia continues to spread unabated in our community, causing unnecessary harm to individuals living with/affected by HIV. Patrick’s defiance against discrimination in all its forms had set an example for the community and empowered individuals to ‘come out’ in solidarity against HIV stigma and homophobia. His marriage to Andrew, his life partner, was a reminder to the community that HIV- positive gay Asian men exist, and that we can lead productive, healthy, proud lives.
Patrick was fully engaged and passionate about the many social issues affecting PHAs in our community. He was modest about his contributions to the HIV movement, and was most comfortable being at the periphery rather than the centre of attention. For those who have had the opportunity to meet Patrick, one can attest that his wisdom, compassion and commitment to serving PHAs was unmatched in our community. He continued to talk about work while he was hospitalized and wanted to make sure all services at ACAS for PHAs were done properly. Even before he passed, he requested that in lieu of flowers, people can donate to ACAS so that we could start an endowment fund to buy a building.
I had a privilege to work with Patrick for 8 years at ACAS. I was very impressed with his work ethics, excellent program and case management, and exceptional problem solving skills. But above all, it was how he lived his life with integrity that really astounded me. His last word to Amutha Samgam, his co-worker, was ‘You’re strong. You can do it.’ I believe his message was meant for all of us. ‘We are strong, and we can do it! ‘
He will be missed by all of us at ACAS.
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