Positive Living is an annual three day educational conference for PLWHA held on Fort Walton Beach, FL. during the early weeks of March. 2012 saw 438 PLWHA's and our allies from 22 States gather in a casual and social setting. Butch MacKay and his very small staff at Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational Services (OASIS) have been making the impossible happen for these last 15 years.
This year Positive Living brought to the table young and promising leaders in fighting the struggles that plague the HIV/AIDS community. The issues that these leaders brought to the table concern all of us infected with this virus. Stigma as viewed through the eyes of a younger generation of people living with HIV/AIDS: conundrums both at the social level as well at the legislative level. With the perseverance of achieving equality in the form of eliminating disparities due to sheer discrimination as their only objective, these young leaders come to the table with sincere hearts. Mature leaders need to take heed to their plea and help in the fight for social justice, without interrupting advocacy efforts for the medical advances that have been achieved in these last 15 years.
Robert Suttle’s presentation of” HIV is not a Crime” brought to the forefront the criminalization of our viral infections. Each and every one of us is personally affected by the existence of disclosure laws present in 36 of Our States. The very hatred that these laws perpetuates towards those who have taken responsibility to hold themselves to a higher standard of living and seek knowledge of their sero status, affects each and every one of us in a very personal manner. The violation of basic human dignity that these laws promulgate is in violation of basic Human Rights. We all are victimized by these laws.
Our basic human commonality must unite us in this fight for basic civil rights at par with all other human beings and the laws they embody in legislative bodies and sessions. The arbitrary application of these laws at the whim of ignorance is the horror that we all face, and that persecutes us into the hatred of stigma.
The warning that comes out from Robert Suttle is that “it could be you”. This year’s Positive Living was the year I took to heart Sean Strub’s passionate advocacy effort through his Center for HIV Law and Policy as presented last year at Positive Living 14. Positive Living is about great hearts and great minds coming together, the very embodiment of Martin Delaney’s “We organized ourselves so we could teach ourselves” as he expressed it in his Declaration of March 2008.
A personal note of thanks goes to Robert Breining of PozIam.com for bringing up this issue during his radio show and educating a large online audience. An even more personal note of thanks goes to Kevin Maloney of RiseUpto HIV.com for showing me the integrity with which we must approach our advocacy efforts.
For additional reviews of Positive Living 15, see Robert Breining’s blog on ThePositivePitch.com and David Fawcett’s on TheBody.com For additional information on HIV and the Law, please visit Sean Strub’s hivlawandpolicy.org