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Be the Change: A Solidarity Speech

International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, Manila, Philippines, May 27, 2011

June 29, 2011

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International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, Manila, Philippines, May 27, 2011. Photo credit: Laurindo Garcia.

International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, Manila, Philippines, May 27, 2011. Photo credit: Laurindo Garcia.

Now, I have to admit, it's easy for me to stand here and point my finger at the problem.

It's easy for us all to blame the government for our woes.

It's easy for us to condemn society for the social norms that stigmatize and discriminate against people whose sexual orientation and gender identity do not fit the heterosexual status quo.

But in doing so we are absolving ourselves of responsibility. By continually diverting attention to external factors out of our control, we deny ourselves a role in making change happen.

It's time for this style thinking to end. It's obsolete, and it's nothing but a disservice to our region, our country, our communities, families, friends and loved ones.

It's time for us to see ourselves as part of the solution.

It's time for the community to come together, and demand sustainable health, livelihood and acceptance in society

If we don't do this for ourselves -- if we don't take the lead in this fight -- then no one will do it for us.

The policies of our land will not change unless, our community groups and leaders set aside their differences, come together in a unified voice and demand equal rights and protection under the constitution.

The government will not put their money whether their mouth is, unless we the people hold them accountable to delivering their promises with clear, measurable, time-bound, and well-resourced implementation plans.

Law enforcement practices will not change until, we actively seek Police participation at the discussion table when it comes time to talk about HIV prevention strategies.

Our family and friends will not see the light if we continue to hide our true selves from the people we love.

So on an important day of remembrance like today, we must also remember that the HIV epidemic will not shift, while people living with HIV refrain from having the loudest voice in the room, and remind decision makers that effective prevention strategies start with 100% treatment coverage for people living with the virus.

I mentioned earlier that burden of HIV infections is carried by gay, bisexual men and transgender people, and yet there are so few openly gay, bisexual men and transgender people living with HIV who are willing to share their story and dispel the myth that people like me are akin to lepers, and clearly, we are NOT.

Nothing will change unless more people living with HIV, especially gay men living with HIV, are ready to stand beside me and lead by example.

The choice lies with all of us to take this first step towards social change, and I am confident that once we do, many others will follow.




One of my favorite quotes of all time, is one from Gandhi where he challenged us to "BE the change we want to see in the world."

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We should be actively making ourselves part of the solution.

We should be harnessing this frustration and anger that we collectively feel, and transform this into action that benefits all our communities.

We should recognize our own ability to change people's hearts and minds and proactively challenge them to think differently.

We should stand up for our brothers, cousins, uncles, friends and co-workers who would otherwise think that their sexual orientation or gender identity is a source of shame.

We should be brave enough to be comfortable in our own skin, no matter what which way you were born, or whatever your HIV status may be.

If we can take this action into our own hands, THEN we may finally be on the right path to fight HIV in our country, and in our region.

Thank you.

Laurindo is the current coordinator for two regional MSM and transgender community networks in Asia, and led the community team behind the successful multi-country MSM and transgender initiative in Round 10. He has had a diverse background in media, public service, private sector and activism and is now in the process of starting up a new regional social enterprise seeking social change through communication and technology. He can be reached at laurindo@b-change.org.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 
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