• Robert Trow, 23 Nov 1948–21 Oct 2002

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Robert was a tireless advocate for the gay and HIV community his entire adult life. He was part of the foundation upon which the Hassle Free Clinic was built. The following pictures and comments are from some of Robert’s friends and colleagues.

From remarks delivered by Frank McGee during A Celebration of Life, Hart House Theatre, 27 October 2002:

Robert will always be identified as one of the pioneering advocates and providers of anonymous HIV Testing. In 1990, the newly elected NDP government decided it was time to implement anonymous HIV testing in Ontario. The new AIDS Bureau, under the direction of Jay Browne, had the overwhelming task of developing law, policy and program guidelines for what was at that time still considered a radical idea. We struck a committee and ensured that Robert was involved.

Robert and his colleagues from the Hassle Free Clinic generously lent us their guidelines and protocols and Ontario became one of the first jurisdictions in North America to offer anonymous HIV testing. This was due in large part to Robert’s thinking and leadership.

In 1991 Robert was invited by then Health Minister Frances Lankin to become a member of the Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS. He has served on that committee until his death, providing advice to more than seven Ministers of Health.

Robert participated in all issues discussed and debated at the advisory committee, and served on countless working groups. He assisted in the development of policy recommendations related to palliative care and end of life, and more recently he was a key member of a working group that explored options relating to the accessibility of non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis.

Robert was a powerful intellect. His viewpoints were always based on an acute understanding of human behaviour combined with a gentle empathy. Robert always presented his views in a quiet, respectful manner. When he didn’t agree with someone’s viewpoint, he tried to understand it, and it was common to hear Robert asking questions that clarified what he didn’t agree with.

Robert’s thinking and ideas were also recognized on a national level. Just four weeks before his death I was sitting with Robert on a national committee discussing the complex issue of those who are unwilling or unable to prevent the transmission of HIV.
Of course he offered much more than just policy wisdom. He was well known across the province through the countless training workshops he provided on HIV test counselling and of course by hundreds of people who learned to take control of their illness through his Body Positive workshops.

However, most importantly to all of us at the AIDS Bureau, Robert was our friend. We looked forward to his humour and a delicious piece of gossip he wanted to share or hear. He offered support and friendship generously. He cannot be replaced.

From an article by Gerald Hannon that first appeared in Xtra!, 28 November 2002:

I’m sitting at his desk, at Hassle Free Clinic. It’s tidy. Not at all the way it would have been in real life, when Robert Trow sat there, as he did, at one desk or another at this community health clinic, for 26 of his 53 years.

He could be sprawlingly messy. There would have been a cup of coffee, growing cold. Part of his lunch. Scattered memoranda and reports. Notes kept on tiny scraps of paper anyone else would have tossed in the garbage (I have a birthday message from him, written on a ragged scrap of paper an inch square, with a piece of yellowing scotch tape stuck to the back). An ash tray for sure, at least back in the old days (he never stopped smoking, but the clinic did). Perhaps a ratty pair of slippers under the desk. Perhaps a ratty cardigan nearby, insurance against the inevitable drafts.

I’m sitting at his desk, and I’m facing Jane Greer, with whom he worked for the last 13 years. We alternately talk of him and weep. Robert Trow died October 21, of a brain aneurysm. She lost a much loved co-worker. I lost a best friend, and the love of my life. The city, the province, the community lost its most ardent, zany and irreverent crusader for people with HIV and AIDS. Xtra’s publisher, Pink Triangle Press, lost part of its history. He is survivived by his partner of nine years, Denis Fontaine.

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