Thursday, December 2, 2010

Norm Kent's World AIDS Day Address 12-1-2010

By Norm Kent, Publisher

South Florida Gay News

The following is the full text of the address SFGN Publisher Norm Kent will delivered this evening to the World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil in Wilton Manors sponsored by Broward House.

We find ourselves tonight, again talking and walking, marching and speaking; lighting candles for those who are no longer with us, memorializing the lives of friends and lovers, children and brothers, mothers and fathers, who left us all too soon.

We come here solemnly to recommit our energy and our spirit, so those who have fallen are never forgotten; to shed a tear, and say a prayer for our departed. But we come with souls forged in iron to fight like hell for the living.

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 librarian with HIV was fired from his job at a Broward County library, but some of you are too young to know there was a day when the people were afraid to use a public toilet seat for fear of contracting HIV.

Some of us are old enough to remember Pedro Zamora, Ryan White 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, however, in living with HIV.

Albert Einstein once wrote that the things we do for ourselves die with us; but the things we do for others is immortal and lives forever. There is only shame if in a time of AIDS we do not come to the aid of those living with it. There is only shame if we are in a position to help and do nothing; be in a position to educate and do not teach; be in a position to give and care and fail to care or give.

It falls upon us to 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, we must still persevere, because our friends are still quietly dying, out of the limelight and far from the spotlight. We cannot let anyone go quietly into the night.

So we still light candles, and we light up the night with the love of those we have lost, saying there will come a day when these candles need to burn no more. Tonight, you can see again you do not stand alone. Tonight, you can be proud, because by your side is a tall and brave spirit who once stood beside you, standing where we now stand. That person, whose memory you this evening cherish, once also said yes to hope, and yes to life.

Tonight, 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.

If we cannot yet find a cure, we can still cure poor treatments and advance better care. We can find ways to partner with others, to embrace compassion, as so many of you have already.

Many organizations, from food banks to pet partners, have reached out to groups. But there is much we can do individually.

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, yes another fund raiser 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. As we give, so do we receive.

The bottom line here is that if 30 years into the epidemic we have patients on waiting lines for treatment that is not justice- that is just us being abused. And 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. You just have to bother, to care, to gather, and to be a voice for hope instead of an apologist for excuses.

Your presence here tonight is testimony again that we shall be visible, not invisible. We shall prevail, not fail, and we shall one day overcome. It may or may not be within our lifetime, but when you fight an illness you become a champion for life. It does not matter how many miles there are too go. Your cause is just, your goals are righteous, and your heart and soul is in the right place at the right time.

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