The topic of HIV/AIDS was the central theme of the Palm Beach County Democratic Women’s Club meeting Saturday, Oct. 3, in Lake Worth.
AIDS activist Aaron Darr spoke to the group, giving his personal story and sharing some concerning numbers about HIV infection in Florida.
“AIDS does not discriminate,” Darr said. Florida, Darr said, leads the nation in teenagers being infected with HIV and is second in pediatric cases.
“This is extremely concerning and the reason why we need Florida’s future public servants to invest in sex education,” Darr said.
In his speech, Darr, 24, read an excerpt from his yet to be released book, “A Man For All Seasons,” in which he describes the process of learning his HIV diagnosis as a junior in high school. Now a candidate for Largo City Commission in Pinellas County, Darr would be the first openly HIV positive elected official in Florida. He is making sex education a focus of his campaign and people are responding to his words.
“When someone has lived this then it’s a message,” said Mary Wescott Higgins. “It’s not a story or a speech – it’s a message.”
Higgins, a social worker who has helped coordinate Ryan White programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, is campaigning for the Florida House of Representatives in District 82, which includes parts of Palm Beach and Martin Counties. After listening to Darr speak in Tallahassee and again on Saturday in Lake Worth, Higgins said the young man was capable of moving people to action.
“It’s really important that Aaron break through because he can reach people in a different way,” Higgins said.
During his speech, Darr expressed disappointment the federal budget for HIV/AIDS has not been increased during President Barack Obama’s seven years in the White House.
“Health care should not be a partisan issue,” Darr said. “Democrats and Republicans alike, we all get sick.”
Also attending the program, held at Lupitas Tex Mex, a small business in Lake Worth, were Virginia Savietto, candidate for Florida House in District 87, and Lawrence Gordon, Commissioner for the Town of Haverhill and candidate for Palm Beach County Commissioner District 7, Takeata King Pang, candidate for Palm Beach Gardens City Council and Carly Cass, a member of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.