Friday, December 5, 2008

Coming Full Circle

Keynote at Fairfield University Highlights Hope in Action in Global HIV/AIDS Struggle

It is a presentation I have given three times in the last two weeks. The statistics, key points, and stories flow easily as they come from the research and work I have done over the past year. The names and faces forever planted in the fields of my mind. However, this time it is different. This is my alma mater and I am speaking as the keynote for AIDS Awareness week and as the inaugural speaker for the MLK Jr. Lecture Program. The cozy and tech savvy room is full of students, friends, and former professors.

The goal of the presentation is two-fold and centers on the broader concept of hope. To begin we must draw attention to two key factors that fall into the category of grabbing the attention of the audience. The statistics that come out of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic are more than alarming. They are mind numbing: 33 million infected and 25 million deaths. And if we look at who is getting infected it is frightening – the voiceless, the marginalized, married women and young generations. But attention has two sides. We must remember the long way from which the story started. Although treatment is still not a reality for the majority of people infected, over the past five years people put on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa has increased 40 times over. We are making progress, but it is not time to rest as for every TWO people of treatment FIVE are becoming infected. In every presentation the balance has to be kept in check to instill the second goal – inspiration.

It is usually a person, sometimes an organization, but always people looking to make a difference. It is the tangible sign that action can overcome and inaction is unjust. At each speech I show a clip from the DVD I have produced to give the audience an example of both real life people living with HIV/AIDS and people making a difference in their own way. The reoccurring theme that comes through my voice and the DVD is the power of the individual to impact their community.

This night I focused on the movement already started in Rwanda. A story underreported and seldom told. A movement that sees a government working closely with international and domestic organizations and US PEPFAR officials. My voice speaks to the witness of Partners in Health’s (PIH) work providing healthcare to hundreds of thousands in rural Rwanda who before had no options. It also highlights the combined efforts of over 190 different FACEAIDS chapters across the US to raise funds for PIH and awareness of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

The presentation should show that hope is tangible but requires action. I want to inspire all people to see HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue where all can make a noted difference. I want to call attention to the issues, engender a link for advocacy, and inspire action. All people want to make a difference sometimes it is only the how, the confidence, or the first push that is needed.

Note:
The educational and motivational DVD is compiled mostly of my own photos and highlights stories of individuals and organizations creating hope in their communities. It is meant to challenge and inspire a viewer. Follow yellow texted directions on right panel to learn how to get a copy
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1 comment:

Ben Welch said...

Dear Marco,

I just wanted to let you know how impressed I was with your presentation. It absolutely blew me away. You exceeded all my expectations. It is unbelievable how much you have accomplished in only a few years. I have seen several speakers in that same auditorium at Fairfield discussing similar educational topics. Not one of those speakers came close to captivating the audience as well as you did. As I looked around the room, every person granted you their full attention. If you noticed, no one was talking, texting, or dozing off. I look forward to hearing you again on a much lager stage.