At 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.
Paul 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.
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?