In the area of infectious disease control, Canadian research efforts to address the HIV epidemic in Vancouver's Downtown East Side neighbourhood have fueled the development of harm reduction and health equity perspectives worldwide. These research efforts have, in turn, reshaped the field of public health approaches to HIV prevention and control. As a result of the intensive and sustained research initiatives led by Canadian scientists Drs. Thomas Kerr and Evan Wood, the 'HIV problem' and public health responses to it have been radically reconceptualized - shifting from an exclusive focus on individual choice towards asking fundamental questions about our society and the structural features that put people at risk for contracting HIV. Their research on harm reduction and health equity related to HIV vulnerability and outcomes has informed and shaped: (1) the establishment of North America's first supervised injection facility, Insite, located in Vancouver's Downtown East Side neighbourhood; (2) dramatic changes to Vancouver's needle exchange policies; (3) HIV treatment approaches among injection drug using populations (IDU). By drawing attention to the ways in which Canadian health care policies and programs can be restructured to better support the health of vulnerable populations, the work of Drs. Kerr and Wood represents a uniquely Canadian public health milestone.