Photo courtesy of: Pat Kelly
Activist, outreach worker, long-term HIV survivor
Orangeburg, South Carolina
I am a first generation HIV/AIDS survivor, diagnosed in 1985. The current generation is ignorant beyond belief and sometimes I am mystified -- it's like the '80s all over again. They won't speak up, they won't get tested, and if they find out they are positive, they won't get in and stay in care for fear of someone finding out their status, so they die in silence.
We have done a terrible job of prevention and education -- people are still being infected from a preventable disease and still dying in droves in the South. Homophobia, racism, and classism are reasons why we will not move to a level of understanding, compassion, and brotherly love, but this is the Bible Belt!
We did not get here by chance. Societal systems that are set up to fail helped get us here. People with their judgments, ignorance, and bias got us here. It is up to me and others like me to raise our voices for change. This is a human rights crisis and it involves us all.
I will fight and raise Cain until people are no longer afraid of me preparing their food, are no longer afraid of me caring for their child or being their neighbor because I have AIDS. I am here. I am not going anywhere but in your face if I need to, because I am a human being with a chronic disease who's no different than the next person.