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A community gathering to commemorate World AIDS Day at the RI State House



Over two dozen people gathered on the south steps of the Rhode Island State House to commemorate the 30th World AIDS Day, an “international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.”

The event was organized by George Marley, who opened with a few words and a moment of silence.

“Since the start of this epidemic, 35.4 million people have been lost,” said Marley, “So our brothers, sisters, lovers, we’ve lost along the way… There’s a saying that when all hope is lost all we have is grace. I don’t like that. I like to say that when all hope is lost, we have to fight. Until every person living with AIDS has access to clean and hospitable living environments, we can’t stop fighting. Until every person living with HIV can find support and love, and not be stigmatized by their status, we can’t stop fighting. Until every person living with HIV has access to health care and life saving medications, we can’t stop fighting. Until every person is treated with the same unalienable rights, we can’t stop fighting.

“On a personal note: We can’t stop fighting until our Speaker of the House is no longer Speaker of the House,” continued Marley, referring to Rhode Island State Representative Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston). “He is a danger to health car in the State of Rhode Island. Several years ago he stopped funding for the state’s only syringe exchange. Fortunately the [Rhode Island] Department of Health was able to pick up the slack, where Nicholas Mattiello failed us all…”

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“I just want to start off this speech by saying thank god George Bush Senior is finally fucking dead,” said Rhode Island Pride’s Miss Gay Rhode Island 2018 Yolandi Fizzure. “That is something we can all be thankful for on this World AIDS Day. It’s incredible to stand here and know that one of the people that was so responsible for killing so many of us is now gone from this planet and cannot do us harm any longer.”

See: It’s a Disgrace to Celebrate George H.W. Bush on World AIDS Day

Fizzure was diagnosed with HIV when she was 18, and “in the throes of meth addiction.”

12 years later, the crisis of meth in the gay community is still a cause for alarm, but there is little acknowledgement of it. “We’re not talking about it openly and honestly,” said Fizzure. “It is something that very much contributes to HIV rates.”

Imani has been HIV positive for almost 11 years now. “I’ve found that stigma is a big reason that people suffer with HIV,” she said. “It’s sad that people think HIV is not that important, or prevalent, until people get HIV and then they want to make noise.

“Prevention is more important that treatment and cure,” continued Imani, who is very open about her status. “I thought HIV was a homosexual thing and only gay people get it. And I was young, but when I got HIV I realized that’s not true. A lot of people have HIV and I literally thought that I was the only straight black woman who contracted HIV through her partner who lied to them. That was so not true and it took me a long time to realize tat this happens all the time.”

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.


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