Job Title: Community Education Facilitator, HIV Edmonton
Why He’s Top 40: He’s helping erase the stigma of HIV while advocating for the wellbeing of gay and bisexual men.
Greatest Fear: “I would hate to just lead a normal life. Buy the condo, get the government job and save for retirement.”
Scroll to the bottom of hivtonight.com, HIV Edmonton’s fun but NSWF educational page for gay and bisexual men, and you’ll see Brook Biggin’s smiling face and a button daring you to ask him anything. The community education facilitator fields a lot of questions about the virus, including from someone who suffered a mosquito bite and worried about infection. As a “poz” guy – someone who is HIV-positive – Biggin knows exactly the importance of sex-positive teachings.
“You can talk about HIV and sexual health in a way that frees people,” says Biggin. He is a living example of what a shame-free HIV education can do for a person, allowing one to live a completely fulfilling and successful life, unburdened by humiliation or misery. Even before his HIV-sector career and diagnoses, he volunteered with the 32-year-old organization for which he now works, so he owes much of his resiliency to this attitude.
Today, Biggin, who was awarded the Edmonton Pride Certificate this year, creates programs and workshops specifically for men who have sex with men – a group disproportionately affected by HIV. He also oversaw the analysis and distribution of Edmonton’s largest wealth of survey data regarding LGBTQ people. He founded the Edmonton Men’s Health Collective, an organization advocating for the wellbeing of gay, bi and trans men. “After people stopped dying of AIDS in Canada,” he explains of their necessities, “community organizing within the queer community kind of disappeared.”
Biggin’s “thirst for justice” comes from an unlikely place. Just six years ago he was studying to be a missionary at a Pentecostal bible college-someone, as they said, “who struggled with homosexuality.” The struggle ended when Biggin was elected to give a sermon in the school chapel. “I’m Christian and I’m gay,” he announced to the anger and shock of many.
Now he asserts his poz status with the same confidence by frequently appearing in media to speak on sexual health. Not one to be identified with the virus, Biggins wants people to see someone who’s empowered and successful – and who also just happens to be living with HIV.