The Democratic National Convention stage was last graced by an openly HIV-positive individual in 2004 — a trend that was broken Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Daniel Driffin, the openly gay co-chair of the Task Force to End AIDS in Georgia, addressed the tens of thousands assembled at the convention hall for the DNC’s third night.
Driffin detailed Hillary Clinton’s HIV/AIDS advances while as First Lady, in the Senate and as Secretary of State, saying her work in part helped decrease the rate of new infections.
However, he noted the work that still remains.
“Who is most at risk? Young, black gay men. Men like me,” Driffin said.
Expanded research and education, as well as advances in treatment and prevention, coupled with a Clinton presidency, can move us toward an AIDS-free generation, Driffin said.
The last time the DNC featured an HIV-positive speaker was in 2004, when Denise Stokes addressed the Boston convention.
Driffin’s participation came after a coalition of national HIV/AIDS advocates was tapped by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to offer a speaker recommendation.
Driffin, who is starting a graduate program in public-health administration at Morehouse School this fall, is the Youth HIV Policy Advisor for Georgia Equality and founder of Undetectables and THRIVE SS Inc., two groups for gay and bisexual HIV-positive men.
ACT UP Philadelphia members Jose DeMarco and Max Ray-Riek were among the coalition members who nominated Driffin.
DeMarco noted that the majority of new HIV infections are in men of color who have sex with men, making Driffin, a gay man of color, an important figure to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic
“Daniel’s reflective of the population where we’re seeing most of the new infections,” he said. “There’s also a great deal of stigma in the South around HIV/AIDS so I think he’s the perfect candidate to talk about this. Hopefully folks living with HIV/AIDS in the South and who are stigmatized, as well as all people who are living with HIV/AIDS, will see a little hope and see that they’re not alone, that there’s someone representing them and speaking for them.
Moving forward, DeMarco noted that ACT UP plans to keep pressing Clinton to make a public pledge to end AIDS and also to follow through on her 2008 campaign promise to have 30 million HIV-positive people on treatment within two years.