HIV/AIDS victim says, ‘I am one who lucked out’

York alumnus James Kreppner (LLB ‘89, BA ‘96) was featured in the Toronto Star Aug. 15 in its series of short stories profiling people in Toronto who are living with HIV and AIDS.

“One of the advantages of having AIDS is that you can eat as much as you want.” That is James Kreppner talking over a lunch of deep-fried dim sum. Activist, lawyer and AIDS survivor of 20 years, Kreppner has pretty much seen it all. “I remember being in St. Mike’s hospital,” Kreppner said, “I was just about to be discharged when a nurse came up to me and said, ‘You’re a hemophiliac.’ I said, ‘That’s right’.” Kreppner suspects he was infected in 1985. Part of a high-risk group, he was tested almost immediately and learned, at age 24, that he had HIV.

He kept moving, graduating from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School before becoming so sick in the early ‘90s that his illness progressed to the weakened state associated with AIDS. “Most of my friends didn’t hang on. I am one of the people who lucked out, but I barely made it.” He used his legal training to help the Canadian Hemophilia Society lobby the Province of Ontario for a compensation package. The province acquiesced, and Kreppner volunteered with a clinical trials network, to research drugs, to stay alive.

Kreppner is now 44, surviving years beyond many of those who were infected from that early batch of tainted blood. No longer taking powerful HIV drugs, Kreppner mostly relies on antibiotics. He says his wife Antonia Swann has kept him alive with her love and her daily insistence that he eat. Lunch is over and as the waiter brings Kreppner a dim sum takeout bag, he grins: “I like to tell my friends, ‘Only the good die young’.”

Study says religion a factor in unprotected sex

A York University study of risky sexual behaviour shows that, when it comes to predicting who will have unprotected sex, religion plays a factor, reported Toronto news radio station 680 on its Web site Aug. 14. The study found that among sexually active students, Catholics, other Christians and Jews were more likely than non-religious students to have engaged in unprotected sex within the past six months. Five-hundred undergraduate students at York were surveyed. Lead researcher, Trevor Hart, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, says the study should be of interest to religious leaders, whatever the faith’s teachings about sex, when they’re trying to deliver messages that will protect their followers.

Children under 12 can’t predict consequences, Pepler says

Justice Minister Vic Toews says the Youth Criminal Justice Act may need to be changed so children as young as 10 and 11 who “run afoul of the law” can be brought to court, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 15. Speaking to members of the Canadian Bar Association at their annual meeting in Toronto, Toews said he is considering amending the legislation to give judges authority over alleged young offenders at a much earlier stage than allowed currently. The act now applies to youths between 12 and 18. Debra Pepler, a professor of clinical developmental psychology in York’s Faculty of Health and a Hospital for Sick Children psychologist, said cogitative development should be considered before this change is made because children under 12 can’t think into the future. “They aren’t able to predict what the consequences of their behaviour will be,” said Pepler.

York too far to go for archives research, says reader

To lose the Ontario archives from downtown Toronto would be a disaster, wrote Vera Burness in a letter to the Toronto Star Aug. 15. Many genealogists and family members spend their lunch hour searching materials at the Grenville Street location [downtown]. Union Station would be more central for all who do research there and transportation-wise it is even easier to get to than the present Grenville Street location. To have to go to York University is far out of the way for most, especially those without a car and time to make the trip to York.

Angel fosters community spirit

Someday, there may be a job description for what Angel Freedman does, wrote the Richmond Hill Liberal Aug. 15. “I have a passion to have people walk out of their homes and know their neighbours,” says the Richmond Hill resident, wife, mother, York University student and enthusiastic citizen. As a member of the Westbrook Residents’ Association executive, Freedman has for nine years helped organize events ranging from the community’s huge Victoria Day fireworks to a talk by a parenting expert to the annual neighbourhood garage sale, when all residents hold sales the same day.

“I love to encourage others. Our mandate is to help other neighbourhoods see how wonderful it is. You can’t just complain about the traffic and think it’s going to change. You need to have a coffee with your local councillor every now and then. The police can’t be here 24 hours a day. It takes people like us to be vigilant.”

Children are a large part of the reason for the Westbrook association. They also provided the motivation for another of Freedman’s projects, the Parenting Book club, which she started four years ago. The club, currently on hold because of her school demands – she’s a second-year social work student at York University – has three branches, two in Richmond Hill and one in Toronto.

Vigilantes can be rational, too

Recent vigilante acts on Grand Manan, NB, don’t meet the criteria of traditional frontier justice, wrote the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal Aug. 15. The island of 2,600 residents is of course part of New Brunswick, and Canada, governed by municipal, provincial and federal rules, regulations and laws. But according to York University Professor J. Paul Grayson, if people perceive that there is no, or there is inadequate, law and order then they may feel they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

“Vigilantism can be very rational,” said Grayson in a telephone interview from his Toronto office in York’s Atkinson School of Social Sciences. “There might not have been an original intention to burn the place down but, in a crowd situation, there can be social support and sanction for the kind of behaviour they were engaging in.” Grayson was referring to the mob of 40 angry residents who stormed a suspected crack house in the island’s Castalia community, and burned the place to the ground. To date, five men have been charged in connection with the incident and several others have been arrested and released with a promise to appear in court at a later date.

Similar acts of vigilantism occurred in the United States more than a decade ago, notes Grayson, who says that crack houses were burned by angry residents in Detroit and Chicago ghettos in the 1990s. When a group, usually young men, resort to these kind of dramatic gestures, it is because they feel they are acting on general community values, says Grayson, adding that people were likely aware of the existence of the crack house for some time, and were asking themselves and each other why nothing had been done to put a stop to drug trafficking. “Under the circumstances, the action makes sense,” he notes. “They were simply acting in conformity with (perceived) community norms.

Film festival something to sing about

Community involvement and films paired with live performances are part of the mix for the 2006 Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film, reported the Owen Sound Sun Times Aug. 15. This year, three Ontario filmmakers have been commissioned to create films for the repertoire of three local choral groups. Filmmaker Luo Li is in the film program in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Several of his films explore the theme of birds and flight. Since Li feels his work has an affinity with the repertoire of classical western music, he’s been paired with the festival chorus – a local ensemble put together for his work.

On air

  • Fred Lazar, a business professor at York’s Schulich School of Business who specializes in the airline industry, spoke about growing demand for private jets in the wake of recent alleged terrorist plots using commercial airlines on CBC Radios’ “Metro Morning” Aug. 14.