Blair Henshaw HIV/AIDS Philatelic Collection: Special Collections and Rare Books

Blair Henshaw was a stamp collector, AIDS activist, and the man responsible for successfully lobbying the Canadian federal government to issue an HIV/AIDS stamp. Read about his life and his fight for a Canadian HIV/AIDS stamp, and take a look at a selection of the HIV/AIDS stamps which he collected.

Photograph of Blair Henshaw at his Aids on Stamps exhibit at the Vancouver Public Library in 1996

About Blair

Blair Coldwell Henshaw was born July 2, 1949, in Digby, Nova Scotia. He moved to Vancouver in the 1960s and worked as a letter carrier, a hospital orderly, and as a library assistant with the National Film Board.

Henshaw was a long-time philatelist (stamp collector) and began developing a collection of HIV/AIDS stamps after the world’s first AIDS stamp was released in 1988. He continued collecting until late 2001.

In 1992, seven years after being diagnosed HIV positive, Henshaw began lobbying Canada Post and the Federal Government to produce a Canadian stamp featuring HIV/AIDS in order to raise awareness in Canada and abroad.


Canada’s HIV/AIDS awareness stamp by Joe Average

His efforts were successful with the issuance on May 8, 1996 of Canada’s HIV/AIDS awareness stamp. The stamp was based on an image by Vancouver artist Joe Average.

The image commemorated the 11th International AIDS conference held in Vancouver, which had the theme “One World, One Hope”. The Henshaw collection grew to include postcards, comics, first issues of stamps, and other materials. He died June 15, 2002, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Henshaw collection was auctioned November 8, 2004, at All Nations Stamp and Coin. It was acquired by John Keenlyside and donated to Simon Fraser University Special Collections and Rare Books.


Stamp Out Aids stamp sheet

The stamps

Browse the digitized collection of HIV/AIDS-related stamps, philatelic materials and ephemera collected by Canadian AIDS activist and stamp collector Blair Henshaw (1949-2002). The collection features a selection of the stamps and ephemera he collected during his lifetime.

This site contains a selection of Henshaw's HIV/AIDS philatelic and related materials. Some geographical liberties were taken in an effort to simplify navigation (for example Vanuatu is not part of Asia). If you see errors, please let us know at SFU Special Collections and Rare Books.


Other materials

Included in this collection are other HIV/AID related materials Blair collected, including his exhibit content, first day covers, cinderellas (thematic stamps that are not official postage stamps), post cards, and telephone cards that have not been digitized in full. Please visit Special Collections to view these materials in-person. 

First Day Cover of Canada's AIDS stamp, signed "Blair Henshaw lobbyist"

Canada's first day cover -- signed "Blair Henshaw lobbyist."

Joe Average designed postcard

Postcard designed by Joe Average for the Vancouver AIDS Walk, 2000.  Used with permission. 

Namibia AIDS phone card that states "AIDS: Protect yourself": cinderella stamp that states "AIDS: Don't die of ignorance"

AIDS phone card issued by Namibia and Cinderella stamp produced by the Lions Club of Khumalo, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.