Evelyn Farha, longtime HIV/AIDS advocate, dead at 92

Evelyn Farha, a well-known advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS, has died at the age of 92.

Foundation in her son's name raised around $10M for the cause over two decades

Evelyn Farha dedicated 25 years of her life to HIV/AIDS activism. (Farha Foundation/Twitter)

Evelyn Farha, who ran the Farha Foundation for HIV/AIDS for more than 20 years, has died at the age of 92.

She died of pneumonia at the Montreal General Hospital Thursday night, her family confirmed.

A well-known advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS, she raised about $10 million for services, prevention and awareness. Farha took over running the organization after her son Ron Farha died in 1993 from AIDS-related complications.

She started an annual charity walk that same year and participated well into her 90s.

"She never gave up," said Linda, Farha's daughter. "When she set her mind to something she did everything she could to reach those goals."

Evelyn Farha, centre, cuts the ribbon at the 20th edition of the foundation's charity walkathon. (CBC)

Ron had started the foundation in 1992, in hopes of funding research to find a cure for HIV/AIDS. Linda described her mother as being driven by her brother's memory and passion for the cause.

"She worked very hard to carry on the mission that Ron had set forth," she said.

The Farha foundation recently merged into the Fondation québécoise du sida. Linda said her mother was still actively involved until about a year ago.

"It was part of her DNA," she said. "She was always talking about it and spreading the word."

The family has received an outpouring of support from the community, with many people reaching out and sharing kind words, said Linda.

"She's a hard act to follow," she said.

Evelyn Farha (centre) is seen at a Farha Foundation charity march in Montreal, Sept. 22, 2002 along with then-mayor Gerald Tremblay (left), former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe (2nd row centre) and former prime minister Paul Martin (right). (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

'She was tireless'

Farha has also been recognized for her work on several occasions. 

In 2002, the Governor General presented Farha with the Golden Jubilee Medal and in 2013, she was the recipient of the Médaille de l'Assemblée nationale. 

"She was tireless," said Ken Monteith, executive director of COCQ-SIDA, a coalition of Quebec community organizations involved in the fight against AIDS.

"She really dedicated the last 25 years of her life to this fight."

He said Farha would insist on walking the full length of the charity walk route, even at 90, "and faster than some of the rest of us."
Alexandra Ieraci remembers her grandmother as the 'life of the party.' (CBC)

Monteith told CBC that he was always impressed by Farha's drive and the way she rallied her entire family to join the struggle.

"What a magnificent tribute to her son," he said.

Farha's granddaughter, 26-year-old Alexandra Ieraci, has participated in every walk for the Farha foundation since she was two years old.

"I was in a carriage for this first one," she said.

Ieraci said she learned a great deal from her grandmother, and admired her energy.

"She was always the life of the party, always having fun," said Ieraci. 

The funeral service will be held Jan. 22 at St. George Orthodox Church on Jean-Talon Street at 11 a.m.

With files from Jay Turnbull