Doreen Millman's speech
at the 11th International
AIDS Conference in Vancouver, 1996.
Photo: Doreen Millman with son Paul Millman, photo from Michelle Valberg's book,
Look Beyond The Faces & Stories of People with HIV/AIDS.
Photo Credit and Copyright: Michelle Valberg - www.valbergimaging.com
“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 many ways.
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 future identical.
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 well.
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 to do.”
by Doreen Millman
"Reproduced with permission - Doreen Millman"
The crowd went wild with cheers and applause!
In Loving Memory of Doreen Millman