Seeing Prince Harry and Elton John (plus 16,000 others) in Amsterdam
This past July, my partner Richard and I traveled to Amsterdam to attend the 22nd International AIDS Conference.
Over 16,000 people attended this world gathering. Imagine the electricity and vibrancy of people from all corners of the world coming together to end the scourge of AIDS.
The message from the conference was clear:
Although advances have been made, AIDS continues to ravage the world, hitting hardest in vulnerable communities, countries and continental regions.
And unfortunately, as I learned at the conference, there is a concerted and coordinated effort in different parts of the world to stop and dismantle the gains that have been made:
- Laws are popping up that criminalize HIV, where people are being accused, arrested, prosecuted and/or convicted simply because people are living with HIV.
- Far right-wing forces are pushing governments to defund and demolish non-profit organizations that are the only ones in their countries fighting against AIDS.
- Cultural views reinforce the stigma of living with HIV, which pushes people to not seek testing, information and treatment, forcing people into further isolation.
In the midst of all this disheartening news, however, people shared stories of resilience despite all odds and highlighted innovative efforts to end AIDS.
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and Elton John announced they were joining forces to launch the MenStar coalition, a one billion dollar initiative aimed at targeting and preventing HIV infection in men, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Actress Charlize Theron spoke about her work with the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, South Africa, and highlighted the impact of AIDS on women and girls: “Most of us now know and understand that HIV is not just about sex or sexuality…We know it is linked to the second-class status of women and girls worldwide.” (source: https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/health-and-sex/2018-07-24-hiv-is-linked-to-the-second-class-status-of-women-charlize-theron/)
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke about the need to address both HIV and tuberculosis, which is the number one killer of people with HIV, particularly in India (which has the highest TB burden).
Omar Sharif, Jr., the grandson of the famous actor Omar Sharif, spoke about being widely condemned after he came out as gay in his home country of Egypt.
“At the height of the Arab Spring, I became the first Arabic public figure to come out openly as gay and question the Egyptian government’s commitment to basic human rights and equality,” Sharif shared. “My announcement immediately went viral and I was met with widespread criticism, threats of violence, and death threats. I think a lot of people in this room know exactly how that feels. I left the country and I have not been home since. In my region of the world — the Middle East and north Africa — talking about LGBTQ issues, and certainly talking about HIV are incredibly risky. Just starting a conversation takes courage.” (source: https://www.hivplusmag.com/activism/2018/7/26/omar-sharif-calls-out-trump-aids2018)
As all these celebrities and noted luminaries spoke, I thought about how each one of them is using their status and their platform to bring greater attention and resources to this issue.
And I realized, they’re not the only ones who have a platform.
These days, every person has a platform, including you.
Especially in this time of social media that connects us all, every person has the ability to reach and connect with others.
Whether you have 100 friends on Facebook or 10,000 followers on Twitter, or whether you belong to a spiritual community of 200 people or have an extended family of 50 people, you already have a platform.
You have the ability to reach people, with your own message if you so choose, right where you are.
And so here I am asking you today: How are you using your platform? Are you taking a stand for what you believe in?
At the conference, I ran into my friend Brian Pearls who I haven’t seen for a few years. Brian is using his platform to do amazing work as an LGBQ activist in Kenya.
This week, my partner Richard is in Orlando, Florida, for the United States Conference on AIDS. He’s one of the main speakers for the opening plenary session, along with David Hogg, activist and survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter. Each one of them is using their platforms in their own work, and this week they’re joining their platforms to connect the intersections between movements for social justice and the HIV community.
And you don’t only have to have political or social causes be your platform. As my sister Marie de Luna posts photos and videos of food, travel and fun on her Facebook feed, she is using her platform to take a stand for the deliciousness and beauty of life itself, that is always available to each one of us.
So, for your coaching assignment this week, take stock of your life to answer these questions:
- What is important to you? What do you care about? What brings joy in your heart or lights your passion?
- What platforms do you have available? What platforms can you create and grow?
- How are you using your platform? Are you taking a stand for what you believe in? How are you sharing your message with the world?
At the heart of today’s teaching is a spiritual truth embodied in this quote by David Viscott (although some have said it was coined by William Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso, but regardless it’s still a great quote):
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
In other words, the world needs more of you. How can you give more of you today?
Abundant Blessings and Namaste.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s post. Please leave a comment below. Feel free to give some “claps” while you’re at it!
If you’d like to receive these blog posts in your email, you’re welcome to sign up for my weekly newsletter where you can also find out about upcoming workshops and classes. You can sign up for the newsletter by clicking here.
Note: This article was originally published at www.AbundantGood.com.