Michael Emanuel Rajner

Uncensored: The Collective History of HIV/AIDS

Filed By Michael Emanuel Rajner | May 16, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: ADAP, Butch McKay, gay cancer, HIV/AIDS, Martin Delaney, Michael Callen, NAPWA, National Association of People with AIDS, National Minority AIDS Council, NMAC, Paul Kawata, United States Conference on AIDS, USCA

This past March, I shared a video message from Butch McKay on the annual Positive Living Conference in Fort Walton Beach, Florida hosted by the the Okaloosa AIDS Support & Informational Services, Inc. (OASIS). Each year, this conference serves as a safe haven for hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS who get to escape the isolation and stigma related to HIV/AIDS. It's a place where people living with HIV/AIDS gather in community with their peers to learn and share of their successes and struggles for a fuller life. For many people, the journey to this conference is no easy undertaking.

Paul Kawata at PL14 (2).jpgAt this year's Positive Living 14 Conference, Butch McKay and his staff invited Paul Kawata, Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) to deliver the keynote on "The State of AIDS". Paul took us back in time to remind us of our collective history, The Denver Principles, and the importance of community. I really appreciated hearing Paul's reflection given I was not very aware or engaged in the early days of GRID and AIDS. It surfaced a memory from when I was 14 or 15, scarred deep in my memory, an outburst from my older brother while my family sat in the living room and watched the evening news. A story on AIDS was being reported when my brother burst out with, "Finally, there's something to get rid of the faggots." Ironically, about 10 years later, this faggot was diagnosed with HIV and a short time later, the "gay cancer" - AIDS.

While Paul spoke, he reminded some of us of our history, while also educating the younger generation of people now living with HIV/AIDS.

Continue after the jump to watch Paul's speech at Positive Living 14

Anyone who has attended the United States Conference on AIDS have listened to Paul speak in a formal and scripted tone. At Positive Living, Paul, the self-proclaimed "tired old queen" let his hair down and spoke uncensored. He spoke directly to us in a language that resonated with the nearly 400 people, almost exclusively living with HIV/AIDS, at the conference. People tired of struggling with HIV/AIDS. People tired of the struggle to access care, treatment and supportive services. People, who are angry, exhausted and fatigued from fighting every day for life.

After 30 years of AIDS, we find ourselves faced with incredible growing challenges with no solutions in sight. People living with HIV/AIDS need to hear uncensored messages like Paul's. It assures us that our organizational leaders are willing to speak out and release their anger on a broken system. It also helps inspire us to continue to engage in the never-ending fight for dignity.

Martin Delaney.jpgPaul paid tribute to AIDS activists like Martin Delaney and Michael Callen who have both gone to their rest. Martin Delaney founded Project Inform and was a regular, until his death, at Positive Living delivering a treatment update and worked tirelessly to help people living with HIV/AIDS understand everything someone needs to know about HIV-medications.

Michael Callen, a singer, songwriter, composer, author and AIDS activist, died at age 38 and was one of thirty-three people who founded the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA). Delaney's and Callen's contributions in the fight against AIDS are beyond measure.Callen, Micael.jpg

As you watch the videos below, please be mindful that I'm a novice with using video. The quality is poor; however, you can still listen to the wonderful and empowering message. NMAC provided me with a Sony Bloggie to film stories of people living with HIV/AIDS on AIDS Drug Assistance Program wait lists and it was the very first time I used the camera.

Having slight neuropathy doesn't help any either. At one point I accidentally placed my finger over the microphone causing the audio to drop to a very low level, so make certain your volume is turned all the way up. A quick word of caution for anyone who is easily offended by language. I felt it important to share the entire experience with you, unedited and uncensored.

When you are done listening to Paul's message, please share how it affected you. After 30 years of HIV/AIDS, what are you going to do to end AIDS?

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

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What a fantastic seminar, Michael. Thanks for sharing it with us!

I have attended this conference for the past several years and continue to be moved with how powerful this conference is for people who live in isolation in the more rural parts of our country.

Thank you, Michael. I loved Paul Kawata's entire presentation. We should all have his courage.

It is so important for us to continue to teach and learn about our nation's history when it comes to HIV/AIDS and other issue of grave social injustice. I listened to recording several times yesterday preparing the blog and found myself in deep reflection.

It was a privilege for OASIS to host Paul as our keynote speaker at Positive Living 14. I have known and loved Paul for years and finally was pleased to have him at Positive Living. I am hopeful he can attend future conferences as he can excite, move and motivate an audience. Thanks Michael for this post and thank you Paul for being so wonderful.

Janet Kitchen | May 18, 2011 6:19 PM

Thank you so much I attend this conference and was so moved by Paul's presentation. I am so pleased that it was was captured. I can now use this as an education empowerment for my fellow brothers and sister that are living with HIV/AIDS. What a moving moment when Paul spoke. I am grateful for people like Paul and all those that stood and died before me. I will forever be an advocate for those living with and surviving of HIV/AIDS. THANK YOU THANK YOU

twinkie1cat | May 31, 2011 1:18 PM

Around 1983 the CDC was following about 30 men who had the condition that until recently had been called GRID. My friend's doctor sent them some blood because he was a gay man who had been having problems with lymphadenopathy. Here is what the CDC told us: "Your blood is similar to people with AIDS but not as bad. But you cannot have it because your are under 35 and you are not white." How times have changed! They did not know how it spread, but could have learned right then because Nathaniel preferred white men. He died on Mother's Day 1986 of Cryptococcus at the age of 25 in Savannah Georgia. I raised much heck about how he was treated---isolation etc., but the crowning glory was when I was given a lecture by the Director of Nursing about how he was contagious and I, who was staying with him 24/7 could "catch" it. I told her that we ate off the same plate, that I washed his clothes, and that we sometimes slept in the bed together, but did not have sex. I told her that I had already been tested and I was negative. (He was fully gay, a bottom.) That was how it was then, just a few months after Charles Stanley, President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of 1st Baptist Atlanta said that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality in The Advocate. We surrounded his church, a couple thousand of us, and the AIDS advocacy community in Atlanta Georgia began. The demonstration was lead by another Baptist preacher and activist, A.B. Short. About 2000 mad folks were out there. That summer the route of Atlanta Pride was changed so it would pass 1st Baptist at noon, right when they were released from church.

This might not have anything to do with the conference, but look how far we have come!