July 31, 2012
Positive Champions Speakers Bureau (PCSB) members and Daytona Beach residents Jeff Allen, Mary Bennefield, Omar Mayes, and Cindy Maldanado traveled to Washington to attend the 19th International AIDS Conference.
On the second day of the conference, the PCSB members were among the thousands who marched outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in support of people living with HIV/AIDS. Allen, one of PCSB's founders, said it was important "to show our officials in Washington that we are a force to be reckoned with, that we have determination, and that our voices are powerful and our vote is strong."
"We are tired of the poor, disenfranchised, and disabled persons being taken advantage of, being unfairly treated as a citizen, and furthering the disparities from within our communities even more," Allen said. "White, African American, Hispanic, Pan-Asian/Asian, Caribbean, Native Americans, all communities banded together with one common theme: We can end AIDS."
Allen said one of his biggest concerns is HIV/AIDS complacency among young people. "We need to teach HIV education within our public school systems, beyond abstinence. The younger generation is seeing people living longer with HIV and therefore don't see it as big a threat as it was in 1981 and shortly thereafter," he noted. "I have been talking to my nephews about HIV since they were nine years old or so."
PCSB members give talks in schools, to businesses, health care professionals and civic organizations, and at detention facilities -- wherever they are asked to provide AIDS education and help address disease-related stigma. For more information about the group, visit www.daytonaspeakersbureau.com.