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A Decade of Positive Faces: Jim Wakeford

Summer 2011

Jim Wakeford

Jim Wakeford, 66
Sechelt, BC
Diagnosed with HIV in 1989
CD4: 500
VL: undetectable

"While racing the virus, beating back illness and defying death, I helped create Casey House Hospice, brought the AIDS Quilt to Toronto and launched two constitutional court challenges. Now I am reinventing myself."

How would you describe your health?

Apart from elevated triglycerides and degenerative discs in my spine, my physical health is good.

Are you experiencing any specific issues around HIV or your treatment?

Haunted by horrors experienced and witnessed early in the epidemic and plagued by memories of the arrests and criminal narcotics charges laid against me by the federal government in 2001 (later dropped in 2002), for trying to grow marijuana collectively with other PHAs [people with HIV/AIDS], I am in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The focus of your article in the Spring/Summer 2002 issue was your health and medicinal marijuana. Do you still use marijuana?

When I can find marijuana grown organically for medicinal purposes and can afford it, I use indica strains for pain and as an alternative to sleeping pills. Sativa strains help with anxiety and appetite. I also used marijuana to stop smoking cigarettes a few years ago.

How goes the fight for legal medicinal-grade marijuana?

The federal government has failed to provide a meaningful remedy to the right to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The product it produces and sells is of inferior quality, with little if any medicinal benefit. The government reneged on its promise of clinical trials and without research, the federal program is of questionable benefit.

I wish I were part of a group of PHAs working on medicinal marijuana issues but I am isolated and at odds with AIDS organizations that support compassion clubs. Medicinal-grade marijuana should be available to PHAs regardless of their ability to pay and it should be safe and free from contaminants, something the clubs cannot guarantee. They sell whatever their black market growers sell them at hugely inflated prices. I don't understand why the government came down so hard on me and my efforts to change the law and the clubs continue to operate in open defiance of the law. (I can be reached at for more information.)

In one word, describe this moment in AIDS.


In 10 years ...

Dare I hope to be cured of HIV infection? Dare I hope for research on medicinal marijuana?

What song is the soundtrack of your life?

"Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan.

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This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. It is a part of the publication The Positive Side. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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