Ritchie T. Martin Jr.
Founder of the Institute
In life we all have choices! With those choices we must be prepared to inherit the consequences rather they are good or bad. For every choice there is a consequence, rather it be good or bad. In 2013, we are facing those choices.
Rather we realize it or not we each have played some small role, within this pandemic that has taking the lives of many people such as young men and women. So the question that is still rising to this very day is, who is exactly the blame? It is contrary to popular belief that gay men are the blame. When in fact, this is known to not be true. We all are to be blamed rather we live gay/bisexual lives or heterosexual lives. Today, 38 million people are living with HIV. I personally know the faces behind these statistics because I am out on the front lines, with my colleagues preventing/ intervening, linking these faces to treatment and care.
The face of HIV is mostly ALL of Us. The face of HIV is economically productive. The face of HIV represents the worlds' most vital emerging market economies. The face of HIV is you in some shape, form or fashion. The reality of HIV is brutally clear.
This is not a distant threat; it is a present danger. Largely unknown three decades ago, HIV is the third leading killer of young-adult Americans today-but it won't be third for long. Because, unlike other diseases, this one travels. Adolescents don't give each other cancer or heart disease because they believe they are in love. But HIV is different And we have helped it along. We have killed each other-with our ignorance, our prejudice, and our silence.
We may take refuge in our stereotypes but we cannot hide there long. Because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks: Are you human? And this is the right question: Are you human? Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty and they do not deserve meanness. They don't benefit from being isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made: a person. Not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity. People. Ready for support and worthy of compassion.
To the millions of you who are grieving, who are frightened, who have suffered the ravages of HIV firsthand: Have courage and you will find comfort.
To the millions who are strong, I issue this plea: Set aside prejudice and politics to make room for compassion and sound policy.
To all reading these words, I appeal: Learn with me the lessons of history and of grace, so that the future generation will not be afraid to say the word HIV or AIDS when we are gone. Then their children, and yours, may not need to whisper it at all.