‘Do you know who is most at risk? Young gay black men. Men like me. In fact – one in two gay black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if current rates continue’
For the first time in 12 years, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia played host to a speaker who is openly living with HIV.
Daniel D. Driffin is the co-founder of Thrive SS, a non-profit organization that, according to its Facebook page, ‘offers support, advocacy through community mobilization and improved health equity to those living and THRIVING with HIV.’
He is also a co-founder of Undetectables Atlanta, another HIV group for gay/bisexual men, and the co-chair of the Task Force to End AIDS in Fulton County, Georgia.
He addressed the conference yesterday afternoon. Below is a transcript of his speech, and you can also watch it below.
‘Good afternoon. I live in Atlanta, Georgia and I serve as the co-founder of Thrive SS.
‘Together with more than one million Americans, I am living with HIV. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic first emerged in the 1980’s, I was not born yet. It was a mysterious virus, then a deadly one too. It seemed to be picking off gay men one by one, especially Black and Latino.
‘The community spoke out so that policymakers would take notice. And while summoning their voices, Hillary Clinton listened. She advocated for the increased funding for prevention and research as first lady, and then worked to increase the funding in the senate. She defended the Ryan White Care Act and expanded research in testing and education.
‘As secretary of state, Hillary helped to ensure that 6.7 million people around the world got access to antiretroviral therapy. And she cracked down on the stigma around the virus and helped lift the travel ban with the help of the congressional black caucus, which presented people with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.
‘The number of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses is on the decline in the US by nearly 20% over the last decade for certain populations.
‘We know how to prevent the virus now. We know how to diagnose the virus now. We know how to treat it and we know how to suppress it. We have learned all about it within my lifetime. But still, there are many living with HIV.
‘And do you know who is most at risk? Young gay black men. Men like me. In fact —one in two gay black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if current rates continue. If we have enough data, I’m sure black transgender women are more at risk too.
‘What can we do to fight HIV/AIDS today? We invest in research and education; expand treatment and prevention. And we elect Hillary Clinton.
‘With Hillary Clinton as our president, I believe that we can meet our goals of an AIDS free generation. As an organizer, as a black man, as a gay man, and as a man living with HIV, I ask you to go get tested—then go and vote. Thank you.’
Earlier this year, the Centre for Disease Control issued findings of an analysis concluding that if current rates persist, half of all black man who have sex with men will test HIV positive in their lifetime, and one quarter of Latino gay men.
Poz magazine says that the selection of Driffin as a speaker came after HIV activists met with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in May to discuss issues around HIV prevention and treatment.
Activists had previously criticized Clinton for her praise of former First Lady, Nancy Reagan at the time of her death. Clinton had applauded Reagan for her ‘low-key advocacy’ and for helping to start a conversation around AIDS. Clinton later apologized.
‘We have to implement better policies around testing and access to care’
In a statement to GSN, Driffin said, ‘My life is changed!’ when asked how the experience of speaking at the conference had been.
He said he had been nervous for ‘1.5 seconds when the TelePrompTer didn’t move,’ at the beginning of his speech, ‘but I paused and it caught up.
‘I had the chance to speak from my heart about the lives of LGBTQQI people. We have everything we need to end HIV infections in the United States with increased access to ARVs for people living with HIV and PrEP for people at risk for HIV.
‘It is not OK to live in this country and black gay men face a 50% chance of contracting HIV in their lifetime. We have to implement better policies around testing and access to care for those most affected.’