“I grew up in Hong Kong in a family where my grandmother and mom are devout Buddhists. Being a queer person, I was drawn to buddhist philosophy as it actively promotes compassion and loving-kindness. While the term Buddha is used to describe those who have gained ultimate truth and realization, bodhisattvas refer to those whose goal is to liberate all sentient beings. As an East Asian settler living with HIV and an AIDS activist, I wanted my portrait to capture not only who I am, but that it pays homage to the bodhisattvas of the HIV/AIDS response: the global community of warriors who have championed Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U), and a tribute to my late friend and mentor, Derek Yee.
I wear the purple bandana with pride as it is a memento from the Global Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) Summit in Montreal, Canada 2023. U=U is grounded in the science that people living with HIV on effective treatment with suppressed viral loads cannot pass on HIV sexually. Since 2016, the community-led U=U global grassroots movement has been endorsed by 1050 organizations in over 105 countries globally. Given that HIV is preventable and sexual health a shared responsibility for all, please learn more about the science of U=U at www.preventionacess.org and let others know about this revolutionary game changer in the global HIV/AIDS response.
The hand-carved wooden statue of the Buddha is a precious keepsake I inherited from the estate of the late Poz BIPOC activist Derek Yee. The relic represents the light and aura which Derek shared with his fellow peers living with HIV. Despite being a well-connected community activist and a long-time volunteer at Casey House, the world’s HIV-specialty hospital, he was denied admission to the hospital due to institutional policies ahead of the Easter Long Weekend in 2021. Unfortunately, Derek passed away on Easter Monday evening. In response to the injustice faced by Derek, members of the Poz BIPOC community created the award-winning short documentary, “Walking In These Shoes” as a tribute to his legacy. The film is also a call to action to Casey House to ensure that Poz BIPOC people can have coordinated access to 24/7/365 services and care.”