According to media records and the personal account of Ed Gilbert, a founder and the first Executive Director of ACSC, the organization evolved out of a support group for people infected with and affected by HIV. This support group, called Jericho, was started in 1989 by Father Richard Newland, an Anglican priest at the time and Linda Bell. Linda’s son David was diagnosed with HIV in 1986 when he was 15 years old. David died two years later as a result of a vehicle accident. After his death, she felt very alone and needed to be able to talk with others about her grief and the experience, her son’s and her own, of being infected with and affected by HIV. At this time, little was known about the illness and stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs surrounding HIV left many people feeling isolated and alone while attempting to cope with a disease that was considered fatal at the time.
It is this support group that by 1989 had evolved into the AIDS Committee of Simcoe County. By 1992, ACSC has more than 40 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 84. These volunteers operated a county-wide telephone support line, conducted public awareness and education activities, and provided care and comfort for people living with HIV and their loved ones. ACSC volunteers also led fundraising initiatives to raise the funds necessary to carry out this important work.
In October 1995, ACSC was incorporated as a registered not for profit and received charitable tax status. In this year, the organization received limited funding from the Province of Ontario to support the organization’s mission across Simcoe County. 1998 and 1999 were very successful years for fundraising and grant application. The 1998 AIDS Walk drew out 200 supporters and raised $14,000. In 1999, ACSC received a two-year, $60,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to increase support programming for people living with HIV. The United Way funded the youth-led theatre troupe called H.O.P.E. (Holding On through Peer Education), and Huronia CARES, a third-party fundraiser raised funds and community profile for ACSC.
The programs and services of ACSC have varied over the years depending on the state of the epidemic, financial and human resources, and external relationships. However, our commitment to addressing the root causes of HIV vulnerability, risk, and impact has remained steadfast.