VAs a person living with HIV/AIDS for 14+ years, I need to personally thank the FAU NASW Lobby Day Committee for your engagement in advocacy and your leadership to help eliminate the stigma associated with AIDS as you participated in yesterday’s AIDS Walk.
Over the past week, I have traveled nearly 7,000 miles and listened to the stories and struggles of hundreds of people living with AIDS in many parts of the United States. Since October 2007, I have been volunteering with the National Association of People with AIDS to help my peers find their voice and empower their life and more effectively advocate for their needs and to educate and engage with lawmakers.
While co-facilitating Sunday’s town hall meeting in the Florida panhandle, a gentleman shared a horrific story of how in one part of Mississippi if you are found to have been tested reactive for HIV, that a letter was nailed to your front door ordering that you “have 48-hours to report to the Department of Health or a warrant will be issued for your arrest”.
This year’s FAU NASW Lobby Day Committee has inspired me and assured me that today’s youth are preparing to be tomorrow’s effective leaders. As we continue to swing the pendulum forward for social justice, we need to not only work to move the pendulum, but we must also reposition the point from which the pendulum swings to ensure our actions are long-lasting.
Later today, I have the honor to be among the speakers for Equality Florida’s “Rally in Tally” to advocate for the unmet need of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and demand an end to the institutionalized and systematic disenfranchisement of segments of our society. Over 1,000 people are expected to march and rally for equality to follow with several days of meetings with legislators.
Immediately after the rally I will be meeting with the executive staff of Governor Crist to continue in dialogue to encourage the Governor to not accept Title V “Abstinence-Only” funding which is proven to be ineffective and creates a greater need for increased funding of various public health programs. I look forward to update the committee of the meeting’s outcome and encourage the committee to also meet with the Governor’s staff while in Tallahassee to advocate for this issue.
My time at Florida Atlantic University’s School of Social Work has been met with many health-related challenges, it has also been one of the most rewarding experiences in my journey called life. Treasure every experience you are blessed to have and trust it will serve as among your greatest sources of strength despite any adversity as you continue to engage as an advocate and champion for social justice.
Thank you for being an inspiration.
Compassion without Action = Death
Michael Emanuel Rajner
National Community Organizer
National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA)
Cellular: 954 288-1999
View photos of the event here