“I’m marked with a red iron”

Yannick Wistaff’s life changed forever on the night of December 23-24, 1999.

While working at a gay sauna in Sherbrooke, the then 21-year-old was visited by a client who claimed that the lamp in a room he had rented had burned out. Once there, the employee realized that was not the case. Two other clients appeared out of nowhere and – under gun threat – Yannick was beaten and sexually assaulted.

During this attack the victim was infected with the HIV virus. A doctor confirmed his fear in February 2000.

“I was the victim of a heinous criminal act and I was stigmatized for life,” Yannick Wistaff told the Journal. In my head, I had flashes for a long time. »

A life turned upside down

The life of the man who now lives in Montreal began to revolve. He lost his partner a few months after telling her he was HIV positive.

“I did not tell him about the attack,” he says. I hid this for a long time. »

“He no longer wanted to take the same razors as me and we were sleeping apart. »

Yannick also took two months to inform his mother that he was infected with HIV. “She was taken aback. We were talking, but there was a distance. She wanted to know why and how, but I did not want to explain everything. »

To escape

After receiving his diagnosis, Yannick felt the need to escape for several years. Downtown Montreal had become his second home.

“The clock was gone,” he says. I felt I had one Deadline. So I lived fully. I did not drink to get drunk, but I had to be on the dance floor. »

Yannick Wistaff addressed his aggression in 2006 with his new wife. It was the first time he had talked about it since the event.

But it really was not a concession, he said.

“To say we were sexually assaulted is better for a woman than for a gay man,” he said. Some gay boys would say, “Wow, what a beautiful fantasy, to be hit by three handsome boys!” But it is not a donkey ride; it is aggression. »

As for her mother, she learned what had actually happened in 2009 in an article in a local Terrebonne newspaper. “It fell on his face,” says Yannick.


Following his diagnosis, Yannick Wistaff was also registered as a person with “severe employment restrictions”, according to the criteria of the Government of Quebec.

Yannick continued to work at the Sherbrooke sauna after his attack. But since leaving in 2000, he has been unable to find work elsewhere. According to him, no company wants to hire him because of insurance for his drugs.

His anti-HIV (triple therapy) drugs cost him $ 1,200 to $ 1,500 a month. However, a large part of the costs are borne by the government.

He also learned three months ago that he had type 1 diabetes.

“I would like to work, I would like to get out of it, but there are no doors that open,” he laments. I learned to pick up the mace and do what I can. »

Despite the many obstacles that fill his path, it’s not all black in Yannick Wistaff’s life. He has been in a relationship for 10 years now.

Complaints to the police

Although Yannick Wistaff filed a complaint with the Sherbrooke Police Service (SPS) the night after the events, his attackers were never brought to justice. Martin Carrier, from SPS, says that his research did not make it possible to find this file because it dates back to 1999, when an old system was in operation.

The police officer confirms, however, that Yannick Wistaff did indeed run for office at the Sûreté du Québec in Lavaltrie in 2012 to file a complaint about a sexual assault that occurred in the late 1990s in Sherbrooke.

“We could not follow up on the complaint because the complainant’s contact information (telephone, address, etc.) was no longer in service,” explains Mr. Carrier.

“But Mr Wistaff can come back to see us to make a complaint even if almost 20 years have passed,” police said. There is no time limit for conducting an investigation. There are victims who report it after a few years. »

Yannick Wistaff mentions that he left Sherbrooke quickly after the events and that he did not have the psychological strength to continue the legal process.

HIV in Canada

  • Every day, six Canadians become infected with HIV.
  • Among new HIV infections, one in four affects one woman.
  • 14% of people living with HIV in Canada do not know they are infected.
  • How is the virus currently transmitted in Canada? 53% through sex between men, 33% through heterosexual sex, 11% through the use of injecting drug use and 3% through sex between men or injecting drug use.

Source: CATIE, the pan-Canadian information organization on HIV and hepatitis C.

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