By Jake Glaser
Jake Glaser here.
I’d like to share with you an amazing experience I had this past weekend. I was honored to join a group of outstanding individuals at a UNAIDS-hosted event called Uniting for an AIDS-Free Generation. Held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the event kicked off this year’s International AIDS Conference.
This year marks the first time the conference has been on U.S. soil in 22 years, which made this event even more moving for me. For the past two decades, a travel ban has been in place that disallowed anyone with HIV from entering the United States or to seek a green card. WOW!!!!!! That’s kind of shocking.
My thanks to Congresswoman Barbara Lee, President Obama, and countless others who fought for the HIV community and our human rights by working to overturn this ban. Their work, an amazing moral initiative, started in 2007 with Congresswoman Lee, and came to a head in 2010 when President Obama ended the travel ban for HIV-positive individuals entering the U.S.
Saturday night was filled with amazing words, music, dance, and emotion. A true expression of life and a reaffirmation of our inherent connection as human beings and our passion to love, live, and save lives. I was honored to take the stage as a member of the next generation of advocates, alongside Barbara Bush – President George W. Bush’s daughter – and Kweku Mandela – Nelson Mandela’s grandson.
It was the first time I had met both Barbara and Kweku, and what an honor it was. Barbara is the CEO and co-founder of the Global Health Corps, a nonprofit that places young leaders with organizations working on the front lines of global health. EGPAF was one of the first groups to partner with GHC, placing fellows with our programs in Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia. And Kweku is a film producer and director, carrying on his family’s legacy by shedding light on many important issues.
It was a pleasure to share my thoughts and hear theirs while uniting at such an amazing event. As the three of us stood together, I felt a deep feeling in my heart.
We are the next generation. This is our fight now. This is our inheritance from those who came before us.
It’s time to take what we have learned from those who came before us, and apply it with new vision for the future.
My fellow generation, this is our time to make our stamp on history.
HIV/AIDS has given us an opportunity to show our bravery, to embrace our fear, and witness our courage. It is our duty to become one, join hands, work together, and let our potential shine.
When I look at this epidemic and the 27 years I’ve been on this planet, I am brought back to an ideal I hold dear to my heart.
Whether it’s curing HIV, saving the environment, or supporting our local communities through social focus, these issues teach us to learn and grow. They motivate us to make change, and remind us that fear is not something to be afraid of.
Fear is a tool that gives us the opportunity to mature and become more conscious in our lives, as a community together. These moments are in front of us every day, and it is up to us to make the choice and turn our dreams into reality.
The end of AIDS can be in our lifetime if we make that choice.