Rede beim High Level Meeting Empfang des Bundesgesundheitsministers und der Schweizer Botschafterin 8.6.2016
Dear Minister Gröhe,
dear Excellency Doussey-Cavassini,
dear Dr. Loures,
dear Excellencies, guests, collegues, friends and fellow activists,
thank you for the opportunity to say a few words here from the perspective of a man living with HIV.
When I was informed about my own test result I had the feeling of traveling back in time. It threw me back to the eighties, and I had all these horrible pictures of AIDS in mind, as they are still so vividly in our minds today. For a second, I felt like I was going to die. Even though I knew it would not happen, for a brief moment I felt that way. 2010. In Germany.
It seems to me that we all live in a permanent time shift. Many people do not know what has happened since the eighties – medically and socially. Many do not know what an „undetectable viral load” means. These differing levels of information lead us to this „nonsimultaneity“. Such experiences we’ve all made HIV-positive, or HIV-negative.
In 2016, HIV is in many places a taboo, even though we are able to keep the virus under control. We can prevent sexual transmission of the virus, we can prevent mother-to child transmission in pregnancy and childbirth and we can control the virus so that people can live normal lives without fear of death or illness because of HIV. So why is this virus still such a taboo?!
Sometimes my time traveling makes me very sad and angry. Especially when I hear: „You’re gay, you knew it would happen.“ It’s too easy to see the world in black and white and divided into „good“ and „bad“. People who are „different“ should not be devalued in this way. The stronger the fear of the other – the different, the greater the devaluation, even so as to reach physical violence.
As a gay man this devaluation is not unknown to me. And as an HIV-positive man I experience discrimination and stigmatization not only in the gay community, but throughout society – every single day. And even among people with HIV, we are divided into „good“ ( for the „undetectable“) and „bad“ (for those not yet taking medication).
Medical advances mean we no longer have to get sick from HIV. But we still suffer the sickness of exclusion, discrimination and stigmatization! Stigma must be fought and stopped if we humans want to take away the fear surrounding HIV because fear is never a good counselor. Fear keeps people from talking honestly about important things. Fear keeps people from taking an HIV test and fear causes people to exclude others and leads to violence against them. Fear is the birthplace of stigma and from there rises the taboo.
So we must learn to accept ourselves as we are, without fear of judgment. The federal government of Germany revised its strategy for dealing with HIV, STIs and hepatitis and stresses the importance of acceptance and the reduction of discrimination and stigma. Because wherever people are forced to be different, not allowed to be themselves, they cannot thrive and there is increasing fear – fear of exclusion and social ostracism.
UNAIDS is an important partner in this fight. For a society with #ZERODISCRIMINATION we must fight fear until the end of stigma. The campaign „ProTestHIV“ is wonderful, because it is not only „pro testing“, but also a protest against discrimination.
But test campaigns are useless if people with HIV don’t have access to treatment. In 2016, in an era of ubiquitous discussions about globalization and TTIP, access to HIV drugs must be a target for all industrialized countries. HIV drugs must be accessable all over the world!
We must not leave anyone behind!
And to overcome non-simultaneity, we need education, we need respect and we need acceptance of all individuals and their lifestyles. Only an educated, respectful and an accepting society in which people with HIV and AIDS are included can meet the challenges of HIV and AIDS successfully.
I am very proud and happy to be here and to share with you these challenges, for a humanity without discrimination; and this way, we will – together – defeat AIDS by 2030.