It is 2012, but we again have to gather and march, talk and walk, lighting candles for those who are no longer with us.
As with World AIDS Days past, this Saturday we find ourselves again memorializing the lives of friends and lovers, children and brothers, mothers and fathers, who left us all too soon.
Until we find a cure, we must solemnly recommit our energy and spirit to those who have fallen but are not forgotten.
We have done so with bike rides and AIDS walks, car washes and clothing drives. We have testing centers and mobile vans, but still a pandemic steals our lives. But this is no way to fight a worldwide disease.
Some of us are old enough to remember when AIDS was called GRID- Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and there was no hope. But some of you are too young to understand there was a day with no protease inhibitors, steroid cocktails, or once a day pills.
Some of you are old enough to remember when a kid name Ryan White was booted from his school because he was HIV positive. But some of you are too young to know there was a day when people were afraid to use a public toilet seat for fear of contracting HIV.
Some of us are old enough to remember Pedro Zamora, Rock Hudson, and Freddy Mercury. But for most of us, AIDS is not about celebrities like Magic Johnson who we will never meet. It is about our family members, our friends, and sometimes, ourselves.
There is no shame in living with HIV. There is only shame if we are in a position to help and do nothing; if we are able to educate and do not teach; if we are able to care but turn away.
It falls upon us to challenge those who fight people with AIDS instead of fighting the disease called AIDS.
It falls upon us to respond to apathetic congressmen who look the other way as patients fall off ADAP lists.
It falls upon us to respond to religious leaders who brand HIV patients as second-class citizens.
It falls upon us to remind America we must still care, we must still bother, and we must still persevere, because our friends are still quietly dying, out of the limelight and far from the spotlight.
Because we are called upon not to let our friends pass into a darkness we forget, we cannot let anyone go quietly into the night. So we still light candles, lighting up the night with the memory of those we have lost, reminding ourselves there will come a day when these candles need to burn no more.
If you walk on Saturday night, whether at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors or by the AIDS Memorial on the White Street Pier in Key West, you will not stand alone. By your side is a tall and brave spirit who once stood beside you.
We still gather in 2012 because we owe it to them to say a day will come when we gather to celebrate a cure and not commemorate a loss. That is why we stand. That is why gather. That is why we still bother.
After this somber memorial, there is still much we can all do individually to help each other collectively.
We can be the home health care aides for a patient alone in his home.
We can be the students delivering meals on wheels.
We can be the educators who teach children about HIV.
We can be the readers in hospital rooms for patients who are too ill to see.
We can be the companion who helps with pets.
We can be the parents reuniting with children.
We can be the therapists counseling against fear and the attorneys providing legal aid against discrimination.
We can be the nightclubs and bar owners sponsoring one more party, and yes another fundraiser for HIV facilities.
We can be the caller to a talk show who won’t let an announcer disseminate hate, and we can be the doctors working on new protocols.
For all so many of you have done, there is still so much more we can all do.
If 30 years into the epidemic we still have patients on waiting lines for treatment that is not justice- that is just us being abused.
We cannot let that stand. If we have to take to the streets to let our voices be heard, then so be it, to the streets we must go.
You do not have to make headlines to make a difference. You just have to make headway.
Be a voice for hope instead of an apologist for excuses.
Your presence at a rally this weekend is your testimony and promise that you have not forgotten your friends, and you will fight like hell for your future.