25 CHAMPIONS

This year, we are celebrating a milestone in our community history. 25 champions throughout 25 years of work in the HIV/AIDS movement has allowed us grow ourselves, our engagement and our programming. Here they are in no particular order:

Anthony Mohamed

Anthony (right), ASAAP’s first Program Coordinator and subsequent Executive Director was instrumental in laying the foundation for our growth over the last 25 years. He pioneered outreach efforts by creating safe spaces for conversations about sexual health in mainstream places like Gerrard Street’s India Bazaar. Anthony participated and acted in ASAAP’s first video documentary “Bolo Bolo” on HIV, sexuality and the South Asian community and authored numerous articles for various ethno-specific media. He continues to be involved with ASAAP today and facilitated client focus groups in support of our 2012-2015 strategic plan and presented the first ever Kalpesh Oza Award to recipient Annie Giga in 2012.

Amita Handa

Amita (left) has been involved with ASAAP for close to 20 years and held multiple roles in governance, front-line work and as a community partner and donor. Between 2001 and 2002, she worked as the HIV Prevention Coordinator and was integral in creating a number of memorable initiatives including “Chillin’ in Your Brown Skin” a collective of four agencies that tackled HIV prevention work through an intersectional lens. Amita is also a member of the Besharam collective, which supported ASAAP as a monthly donor. She continues to support our work by leveraging her role at the Toronto District School Board to provide valuable community connections and create safe spaces.

Zavare Tengra

Zavare (right) was ASAAP’s MSM Prevention Coordinator for over 7 years during which time he shaped South Asian men’s HIV programming with exciting campaigns and initiatives. He was the driving force behind the inception of Dosti, the longest running social support space for South Asian queer identified men in Canada. Zavare was instrumental in supporting HIV testing and provided this service in-house at ASAAP. He is also a part of the Besharam Collective, a past monthly donor and continues to be actively involved as part of our MSM research team and as a participant of a forthcoming HIV testing video in collaboration with Hassle Free Clinic.

Umbreen Inayet

Umbereen (left) was ASAAP’s PR and Communications Coordinator in 2009, during which time she organized major fundraising events titled Stimulasian that increased visibility and brought ASAAP new connections and volunteers. As the co-producer, writer and director of ‘Meri Kahani: My Story’, a play about that highlighted survivor narratives of family violence, she coordinated joint events for ASAAP to fundraise through screenings of her production. Umbereen is also a professional social worker and has offered to volunteer clinical supervision sessions for ASAAP’s support team.

Haran Vijayanathan

Haran (left) is a long standing and committed advocate in the HIV and queer rights movement and has been a strong supporter of ASAAP for close to 13 years as staff, board & community partner. He has volunteered for multiple safer sex campaigns including Discover with a Cover in 2004, Dosti and Snehithan web resources and the Colour Me Queer campaign in 2012. As the founder and key lead for ‘My House’, York Region’s first LGBT Resource Centre, Haran continues to be an integral community partner and is focused on linking South Asian MSM in York Region to culturally appropriate services and to ASAAP. As of 2014, Haran is also a part of ASAAP’s AIM research team, steering research work with queer identified South Asian men.

Karima Khamali


Karima (second from the right) was ASAAP’s Board Chair during our foundational years and worked alongside many of ASAAP’s founding members. She played a key role in organizing ASAAP’s first ever Annual General Meeting in 1995 paving the way for our engagement and accountability to the communities we serve.

Rahim Thawer

Rahim (left) is an active community member in the HIV and queer rights movement and a Clinical Counsellor at an accredited youth mental health agency in Toronto. He has worked for multiple HIV/AIDS service organizations and was ASAAP’s MSM Outreach Worker between 2009 -2010 and worked to create safe, anti-oppressive, social support spaces for queer identified South Asian men. In 2009, he participated in ASAAP’s ‘Brown Like Me’ documentary and is committed to connecting ASAAP to relevant community spaces and resources. Rahim is on the World Pride 2014 Human Rights Subcommittee and is an active community organizer on the Board of Salaam: Queer Muslim Community and with Ismaili Queers: Advocates for Pluralism.

Nadia Junaid

Nadia (left) has been a sexual health service provider for over 15 years in Toronto and had a tremendous role in shaping ASAAP’s programming today. While at ASAAP, she worked as the HIV Prevention Coordinator and was integral in helping to solidify the women’s prevention project. She is often credited with going above and beyond the scope of her position, volunteering to do sexual health workshops for South Asian populations outside the city of Toronto as far as Peterborough Ontario, with very little resources. Nadia also lent her expertise to the board, helping to shape the agency on a governance level.

Krishan Mehta

Krishan was the Chair of the ASAAP Board from 2004 to 2006 and shaped many of our governance policies and practices; he has been a key community advocate and partner for close to 10 years. As a professional fundraiser and leader with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)’s Inclusive Giving Program, he has and continues to connect ASAAP to a unique and valued network of supporters with whom we can share our important work. Krishan has also volunteered his expertise in resource development to help guide the agency’s fundraising efforts and facilitated useful sessions as part of our Board and Staff development.

Richard Coutinho

Richard (centre) has been an avid community member and ambassador for ASAAP for over 7 years and recently competed a full 6 year term from 2007-2013 on ASAAP’s Board/ During this time he was involved in the development of two strategic plans and helped usher the agency in a new direction. As Chair of the Board Development and Recruitment committee and a member of the Policies and By-laws committee he helped to bring on and mentor new members of the board and shape our current governance related policies. Richard is also ASAAP’s first community member to sign on to our 25 for 25 donor campaign!

Shivalee Paliwal

Shivalee (right) was the the Chair of the ASAAP board for nearly four years from 2010 to 2013 bringing her expertise, passion for community work and boundless energy to the team. Her incredible leadership helped move the agency forward during a time of great change. Shivalee was pivotal in creating the 2012-2015 strategic plan and in the subsequent implementation plan driving Board actions. As a professional dancer, Shivalee has also volunteered performances for ASAAP’s fundraisers and the 20 year recognition event titled ‘Embrace’.

Vijay Saravanamuthu

Vijay began volunteering with ASAAP in 2004 then joined the staff team in 2005 as the Tamil Outreach Worker and MSM Prevention Coordinator. He was the first provincial gay men’s health strategy worker at ASAAP. In 2004-05, Vijay co-founded Snehithan, the first social support group for Tamil and queer identified men in Canada and in 2006 supported the development of Brown Like Me, a documentary on queer, brown narratives. While at Taibu CHC, Vijay continues to work with ASAAP in multiple capacities and connects us to outreach and education opportunities in East Scarborough. Most recently, Vijay was featured as a guest speaker for the MSM Brown and Proud Campaign.

Narina Nagra

Narina (right) was the Chair of the ASAAP Board in the early 2000’s and has supported the organization in governance, as the Volunteer Coordinator in 2005 and as a community partner and consultant. She has been involved with ASAAP in these multiple roles for close to 15 years. In 2011 -12 Narina volunteered time to facilitate focus groups with our key stakeholders as part of our 2012-2015 Strategic Plan. In her role at Mt Sinai Hospital, she continues to connect the agency to important stakeholders and consultative spaces such as the Symposium on ‘Screening for Domestic Violence in Health Care Settings.

Devan Nambiar

Devan (left) was one of the earliest members of ASAAP and an instrumental community advocate in the HIV/AIDS movement. As one of the few openly queer PHAs in the community, he helped shape the agency’s early directions while on the Board. He has volunteered for multiple campaigns such as “Discover with a Cover, ” promoting safer sex in South Asian diaspora communities and contributed to ASAAP’s blog as a guest writer. He continues to support the agency’s work through his role at the Rainbow Health Ontario by providing ASAAP with valuable networks and relevant resources. Devan most recently led a MSc. research study on Complementary and Alternative Medicines for PHAs on HAART and provided ASAAP with valuable data relevant for South Asian PHAs. Devan was the 2006 recipient of the Canadian AIDS Society Leadership Award.

Annie Giga

Annie (centre) has been a strong, dedicated supporter of ASAAP for over 20 years and an important voice in the South Asian community of people involved in HIV/AIDS work. Annie has also served on ASAAP’s Board of Directors and played an integral role in formulating accessible governance policies and has participated on numerous advisory committees, bringing her unique and inclusive perspective to the table. She has directly supported newcomer South Asians living with HIV to settle their lives and families in new environments, establish their networks and get connected to care. Annie was the first ever recipient of the Kalpesh Oza Award in 2012.

Siva Gunaratnam

Siva (left) joined ASAAP as a volunteer and as one of Snehithan’s earliest members in 2005 and subsequently worked as the Tamil Outreach and MSM Outreach Coordinator till 2010. Siva has been a strong supporter on multiple levels and continues to steer important work with Tamil queer identified men as a member of ASAAP’s MSM research team. Since leaving his role at ASAAP, Siva continues to be a valuable worker in the HIV/AIDS sector and is a regular supporter of Snehithan, ASAAP’s fundraisers, including the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon, community campaigns and AGMs.

Ratna Choudary

Ratna is a committed and long-term volunteer for ASAAP and a standing contributor to our Annual General Meetings, monthly condom stuffing events and fundraising activities. She has also supported ASAAP’s resource development efforts as a volunteer peer reviewer and through interpretation and translation from English to Hindi. She was instrumental in translating components of our website and the PHA Program Client Satisfaction Forms. Ratna played a key role in our 2013 and 2014 Women’s Forum titled ‘Filling in the Gaps’ and in our major fundraising gala, ‘The Sweetest Taboo’ in 2012.

Nasreen Latheef

Nasreen (right) is one of ASAAP’s dedicated and committed volunteers who has contributed her time and expertise to a number of committees and programs. She is a volunteer for the ELAN (Empowerement, Love and Networking) program with South Asian female-identified PHAs and has facilitated arts-based activities on an ongoing basis. Nasreen has also been a past member of the Research Working Group and was part of the Hiring Committee as a community representative for youth and women’s service coordinator roles.

Rounak Khan

Rounak (right) worked as ASAAP’s PHA Support Coordinator from 2004-2007 and made foundational and memorable impacts on ASAAP’s support programming by connecting communities to relevant and important services. She was instrumental in ASAAP’s programming for the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto and presented on Community Based Research ASAAP collaborated on with South Asian PHAs on Depression, Isolation and Resiliencies. Rounak volunteered for multiple campaigns including the infamous ‘Wrap it Right’ and authored articles for ethno-specific media. In her current role with the Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC) she continues to connect ASAAP to trainings, programs and resources.

Anita Balakrishna

Anita (second from the left) was ASAAP’s Board Chair from 2006 to 2008 and has been a tremendous support over the years. During her time on the Board she re-vamped the organizations governance policy package and by-laws. As a staff lawyer with the South Asian Legal AIDS Clinic (SALCO), Anita was a continued and committed partner and collaborated on HIV Prevention workshops, forums and resources to demonstrate the intersections between precarious immigration status, policies and HIV risk. Anita was also a guest blogger for the ASAAP blog and contributed articles on laws pertaining to the HIV/AIDS movement.

Waseem Shek

Waseem (right) was the driving force behind one of ASAAP’s most successful HIV testing campaigns titled ‘Protect Your Love’ , a video campaign that received over 13,000 views in less than three weeks and sparked multiple online conversations about South Asian queer communities, relationships and sexual health. He donated his leadership as director and editor of the video and also supported its outreach by connecting ASAAP to key South Asian media contacts and platforms. Waseem continues to support ASAAP’s media efforts as part of the Communications Working Group. He was also the volunteer emcee at ASAAP 2012 Gala Fundraiser, ‘The Sweetest Taboo’

Derek Yee

Derek is a well respected artist and advocate in the HIV movement in Toronto who has worked with ASAAP and a number of our key partners including Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) and the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT). Derek has facilitated numerous arts-based health and wellness workshops for racialized PHAs and has been an active and engaged facilitator at many of ASAAP’s client retreats. As a member of the Speaker Bureau he has delivered multiple speaking engagements at ASAAP outreach and education forums; as well, he has and continues to support sessions at our volunteer and project specific training events.

Raj Maharaj

Raj has been an avid collaborator in the HIV/AIDS movement for close to 20 years and has been a constant advocate for ASAAP. Raj was an author and contributor to ASAAP’s Forward Looking publication produced in 1999 that captured the organization’s growth in its first 10 years. His work with Sunnybrook Hospital and the Research Ethics Policy and Advisory Committee makes Raj a key partner in ASAAP’s efforts to increase its capacities in Community Based Research.

Nelson Carvahlo

Nelson is one of the founding members of Khush, the queer activist group that played a critical role in making ASAAP happen in 1989 and through the early 90’s. Recognizing Khush as part of ASAAP’s growth is key to us recognizing our history. Nelson continues to be a supporter and well-wisher and more recently a volunteer with ASAAP advising our future fundraising and development activities.

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Congratulations to all of our 25 champions, you’ve paved the way for us all to do this important work!