Doreen Millman's speech at the 11th International AIDS Conference in Vancouver, 1996.
"I'm one of the millions of people
around the world living with HIV. I know many of you are probably
asking yourselves how I got infected-you're wondering how
a 63 year old grandmother could have been exposed to HIV. Well
the answer is simple. IT JUST DOESN''T MATTER!
It doesn't matter how anyone became infected.
I want to explain that all people living with HIV/AIDS have the
same rights, we all do; we deserve and demand to be treated as
equals with dignity; we are all people worthy of respect and compassion.
The only thing that makes us different from anyone else is that
we are living with a virus that is challenging the world in so
Like millions of people, I know and experience the
challenge of living with HIV. But also like millions of people,
I know the heartache it is to have a loved one with HIV. You see
my son is also HIV positive. In fact, we learned within three
weeks of each other that we were both positive. Since that time,
our struggles have been the same; our needs and hopes for the
More than anything else, my son and I hope for prevention
and we hope for a cure. We believe that researchers, politicians,
Health care workers and people living with HIV must work together
towards these ends. I personally participated in several research
studies and I consider it my obligation to do so-because each
study takes us one step closer to our goal. Many of my HIV positive
friends and acquaintances choose to participate in many different
ways. Some sit on expert committees to review study proposals.
Some work with their community groups to teach people how to protect
themselves. Some take part in support groups to give each other
hope. Whatever means we all choose to be a part of this process,
we must be willing to work together to find the answers. That
means that you must also be willing to listen and to hear what
we have to say.
I am not ashamed of who I am. I feel that I am helping-
that I am making a difference. And that gives me great strength
to carry on. When I first learned that I was HIV positive, my
family and I struggled with whether we should make this widely
known. Sadly, this is a struggle that many people know all to
Like millions of people living with HIV around
the world, we were terrified of the stigma, we were frightened
by intolerance. We were very afraid. In the end, I could not remain
silent. We told our wider family and we told our friends. I cannot
tell you how much their outpouring of acceptance and support and
love has meant to me.
A day does not go by that I do not appreciate having
them around me. Because I am one of the lucky ones. While some
like me have support and love of family and friends, many live
alone and in isolation. While some like me have access to the
best care and treatments available, many have nothing. While some
like me can speak out without fear, many live in terror- of loosing
their jobs, their housing, their security, even their freedom.
It seems to me AIDS is a disease feared by people
who don't know much about it. Ignorance breeds intolerance.
Intolerance breeds hate. If my thoughts can help to break this
terrible cycle, then it is the least I can do-and will continue
The crowd went wild with cheers
In Loving Memory of Doreen Millman