Member of the
Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS
at the announcement of a new initiative to address
HIV/AIDS in racial and ethnic minorities (The White House, October 28,
we talk about AIDS, we talk a lot about numbers. Numbers that can be overwhelming
or intimidating. But we need to look more closely at the numbers ... until
we begin to see the real lives they represent.
I'd like to share a few personal numbers with you. The first numbers are
13 and 16. I was infected with HIV at 13 and diagnosed at 16. While my
peers were planning their futures, I was being harshly that I would not
live to see 21. That was the year I realized some children die before
they having a chance live.
next number is 3. That's how many years it took for me to get the information
I needed to combat my disease. I didn't learn that HIV was a sexually
transmitted disease until I was almost 20. No one in my community was
willing to talk to someone else's child about sex - or about AIDS. I suffered
greatly with a severe case of unanswered questions. Many youth today are
being tragically diagnosed in the prime of their lives because we are
too timid to talk candidly about AIDS. We are too afraid to keep our children
alive long enough to make healthier choices.
how many pills I take each day to help sustain my health. Pills that are
not easy to take and that leave me feeling nauseated and tired. But they
are all I have right now - and they keep me alive, I am happy to have
them. But they are pills that are not easy to come by. Many of my peers
have no access to the latest medicines. Therefore, they have no access
to the hope experienced by many - with each new improvement. They sit
by and watch people live longer, healthier lives while they still suffer
with preventable infections.
how many hours I sat on a hospital curb in my own urine while trying to
get treatment for an allergy to an AIDS medicine. 5 hours of suffering
when I was only a hundred feet from the source that could alleviate the
fierce itching and burning was ravaging my swollen body. But no one had
the time to help me. It wasn't in anyone's job description to escort a
patient to the pharmacy. Especially an undesirable looking patient like
I was that day. I experienced the same indifference that many people in
my community experience when seeking care. We are not able to walk into
hospitals waving insurance cards or cash. We are not able access the good,
quality healthcare that all human beings deserve. While we muster the
strength and courage to take an active role in our care, we are being
stripped of our dignity by the system that's supposed to help us.
- Look into the eyes of one person being diagnosed with HIV for the 1st
- Tell a homeless young man with HIV that he has to wait one more year
to get housing because the resources are not yet available.
- Tell one young woman that you can't fill her prescription for the medicine
that will give her life - because she has no money.
- Tell one child this his mother won't be coming home anymore because
she died today of AIDS related complications.
one of these things and you will understand what this 156 million dollars
means to black and other minority communities. This initiative is important
because the moneys allocated and the commitments made here today will
positively impact communities in dire need of support services. And just
maybe, not one more of these travesties will occur on my home-front.
number I want to share with you today is Zero. I demand that we be liable
until there are no new infections. That we do what's necessary to save
lifes and not what's popular. Until there are no more people desperately
seeking care only to find the doors closed. Until there are no more people
suffering with AIDS, we have to stay committed. Just as committed as the
President, The Vice President and The Congressional Black Caucus. Just
as committed as Sandra Thurman, Secretary Shalala, Dr. Satcher, The Advisory
Council on AIDS and many others who worked tirelessly on this important
our goal. Because no more can we sit idly by and watch AIDS consume minority
communities. We must maintain the momentum that we have gained today -
because HIV is maintaining its momentum.
addicts needlessly infected with one disease simply because they have
another one. Addicts should have the services AND the tools they need
for effective prevention.
No more lives thrown carelessly aside
No more memorial services
No more screaming mothers
No more broken spirits ... or broken hearts.
No more disparity in minority communities.
No - more - AIDS.