his address during the closing session of the International AIDS Conference
2008, young Mexican gay rights and AIDS activist Rodrigo Olin spoke
in Spanish, his native language, so that his fellow people of Mexico
would hear and understand his message. During his several minutes
on stage, he took the opportunity to challenge the country of Mexico
to do better in its fight against HIV and AIDS and all the social inequities
that fuel the epidemic.
began his speech by noting that the people of Mexico must hold the government
accountable to meeting goals, in particular, universal access to prevention
information, treatment, and care. After all, while it has been an incredible
accomplishment for the country of Mexico to host the International AIDS
Conference, "after the conference ends, almost all of the delegates,
organizations, and people from around the world will leave, and Mexicans
will remain." Rodrigo emphasized that although the countries
of Latin America had come together to sign the agreement to provide
comprehensive sexuality education to young people, the test now will
be in the effective implementation of this agreement.
a country so rich and with so many natural resources," he said, "it
is a crime that organizations and individuals that fight homophobia
and discrimination do not receive the support from the government that
they need." Rodrigo’s words particularly resonated with me,
as I am both a young gay man and one of those returning home to another
country, also rich in wealth and natural resources. In my case, I return
to the United States, where I advocate for better policies surrounding
HIV and AIDS both within the U.S. and in internationally under my country’s
global AIDS policy.
charge to his fellow Mexicans was a charge to all of us sitting in the
audience to hold our governments accountable to the promises they make
toward achieving better outcomes in the fight against the AIDS pandemic.
The disturbing rise in HIV infections in my own country is a theme that
was highlighted throughout the International AIDS Conference and a cause
for a sense of urgency. Moreover, in the case of the United States
which controls the purse strings for many other countries’ funding
in the fight against global HIV and AIDS, we must also hold our government
accountable to the needs of the people whose lives depend on whether
or not that funding supports evidence-based programs, best practices,
and most importantly, human rights.
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the Bush Administration, the United States continues to support failed
abstinence-until-marriage programs for young people at home and abroad.
Numerous reports have documented the limitations of these programs in
helping to curb the rate of new infections domestically or globally
versus more effective prevention programs for young people that include
information about and access to condoms. The expectation that people
of my generation have is that educational systems around the world will
normalize sexuality and provide young people with the information they
need to make healthy and informed decisions about their sexuality. In
fact, the end of the HIV/AIDS pandemic may well depend on it.