Four seasons after party. Photography by George Pimentel

The Toronto gala scene came bouncing back on Nov. 25 with Bloor Street Entertains, an annual fundraiser for the Canadian Foundation for Aids Research (CANFAR). Last year’s event was a virtual one, like many charity fundraisers over the past 20 months. But the CANFAR team carefully plotted to ensure that this year’s 25th anniversary edition was a safe in-person soirée.

More than 850 guests gathered in a range of locations on or near Bloor Street and at several after-party spots further afield.

CANFAR ambassadors appeared at each venue to share the story of how their lives have been impacted by the virus. “I was born with full-blown Aids,” 23-year-old Ashley Rose Murphy told a rapt crowd at Tiffany & Co. Her early years were filled with hospital visits – “I thought all kids did that,” she shared. But when she was seven, her adoptive parents told her the real reason for all the doctor appointments. Thanks to advances in treatment and one pill a day, Murphy lives a relatively normal life, though not without stigma. “A bunch of parents at my school got together and told the principal they wanted me out because of my health status,” she recalls. “That principal stood up for me and told them their kids could leave; I was staying.”

Fighting stigma is one effort the $1.1 million raised will go towards. Another is spreading the word about self-testing kits, which became available in Canada last year. More than 65,000 Canadians are living with HIV, though 14 per cent aren’t aware of their status. CANFAR’s goal is to eliminate new HIV transmissions in Canada by 2025 through increased prevention.

Click through to see photos from the event.

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