SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders. This week’s question is “what story should the LGBT community pay attention to this week?”
I challenge every gay man in Broward County to visit the World AIDS Museum in Wilton Station during December to become educated about our history related to HIV/AIDS. WAM provides a marvelous and important service to the entire at-risk and affected communities of South Florida. We are fortunate to have it in our backyard.
— David Jobin, executive director
I am so grateful that medical science has come so far that AIDS is not a death sentence anymore. I’ll never forget that so many people died in the search for the treatments and cure.
— Meredith L Ockman, SE Regional Director of NOW; VP Florida NWPC & President of S. Fla Women's Health Foundation
Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS is prohibited by federal law. HIV/AIDS qualifies as a "disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act but unfortunately many employers are still discriminating against persons with HIV/AIDS and many affected by the discriminatory acts do not have the resources or knowledge to fight it. Education should remain a top priority.
— Anthony Timiraos, CEO/President, OUR Fund
On this day, let us not forget Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, who shared the 2008 Nobel Prize along with Luc Montagnier for their 1983 discovery of HIV. Barré-Sinoussi now believes that a ‘functional cure’ – what cancer doctors call long-term remission – is quite possible given some of the latest findings and advances in HIV-AIDS science. We share your optimism and hope for the future, rock On Francoise!
— Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin Republicans Miami
33 years into the epidemic we have a lot to be hopeful for, but also a lot of work to do. One out of 5 Gay men have HIV and half of them don’t know. 60 percent of youth in the U.S. don’t know their status. Education needs to be our number 1 priority. Know HIV=No HIV."
— Lee Rubin, Blogger and Community Organizer
“Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS Free Generation" is not an achievable goal in Florida. Florida Governor Rick Scott is ideologically hell bent on supporting discrimination that promotes stigma and other factors fueling the HIV epidemic in Florida, and Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong has not once been heard to utter the words HIV or AIDS. Furthermore, Armstrong's own communications director Nathan Dunn led the effort to enact a discriminatory constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in Florida. This administration has focused and partnered with ideologues on how to endanger the lives of people living with, or at risk for HIV/AIDS. Where is the dignity and respect for all Floridians?
— Michael Rajner, community activist
We now have more hope than ever for a cure as researchers at Temple University announced a major step forward in the battle against AIDS and the HIV virus by successfully eliminating the HIV virus from cultured human cells for the first time. It is my great hope that this global pandemic which has killed so many be eradicated in the near future.
— Michael C. Gongora, former Vice Mayor of Miami Beach
Tremendous progress has been made in the fight to manage the AIDS virus, and more can be done. More research, better testing, and making medications affordable. We can also rely on our own behaviors to keep the virus in check.
— Noah Kitty, Rabbi and Executive Director of Congregation Etz Chaim
Black people make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, so why do they account for 56 percent of all deaths due to AIDS? On this 26th World AIDS Day, where is the outcry from the GLBT community about this travesty? Where (especially in the South) are the religious leaders of all colors who are willing to speak out about the often faith-driven stigma against people with HIV?
— Lea Brown, Senior Pastor, MCC of the Palm Beaches
The initial response to AIDS around the world was one of denial, shame and stigma. Dampening research efforts for a cure. It slowly crawled into first place as a world epidemic worthy of massive amounts of money to be thrown at it. Sadly, we continue to limp along, still searching for a cure, with many original-funding streams dried up or redirected. Money that once flowed for support services has diminished and the pharmaceutical companies dispense management medications that can cost up to $2,000 a month for one pill a day. HIV no longer the disease da jour is also no longer a death sentence. People live well, but not inexpensively with the disease. People of color and poorer immigrants to this country are hardest hit. They are more likely to contract the disease and less likely to seek or find help in managing it. Science has shown that those out of care and without life saving medications are also more likely to spread the disease than those who follow medical advice and use medications that keep their viral loads suppressed. We have a World AIDS Day, but one day of remembrance is not enough to end this. If we do not stay aware, if we do not continue to fight for the health of everyone in our community we will ultimately lose.
— Mildred Smith, executive producer for Empty Closet Women's Theater
World AIDS Day to me means being thankful. For health, family and friends. They all got me through the worst.
— R. J. Hadley, community activist
With all of the dire issues created by AIDS, this is the least critical to human survival, but attention nevertheless has to be given to the deteriorating Quilt panels. The AIDS quilt is the most significant piece of national folk art, and it beautifully captures the defiant, angry, sorrowful feelings of survivors from the plague of the 1980s and 1990s. It sits rotting.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist
The epidemic is far from over, and we must eradicate HIV stigma by talking about it around the dinner table. At the end of 2013 there were an estimated 102,189 persons known to be living with HIV/AIDS in Florida. Florida ranked second in the nation with 5,100 new HIV infection cases being reported in 2012. Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have been the number 1 and number 2 counties in the country for new HIV infections for the past seven years. We must continue to ensure that everyone gets tested regularly and those infected are linked to ongoing medical care.
— Kristofer Fegenbush, MSW is the Chief Operating Officer at The Pride Center at Equality Park
We remember, we love, and we stand for the cause - you, me, our, us, aware we are. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is a 365 day way of life and cannot be summarized into one day. We have Acquired great strides in immunity; living longer though diseased.
— Sonya Pressley, BLAST Assistant Organizer