MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Laurindo Garcia, a gay man living with HIV in the Philippines offered a moving conclusion to the opening plenary In Melbourne on Thursday, speaking to gay and transgender communities’ limited access to lifesaving services. In his own country, a policy move is afoot to mandate HIV testing and to criminalize HIV transmission.
“We are supposed to be living in an age with more options than ever before. Yet in close to 80 countries, the response is to beat us up and throw us in jail. What good are these interventions if we have to live like we have a gun to our heads?” he said.
Speaking of a global epidemic of hate, he called for a vaccine against intolerance, “to be dispensed to every politician, bureaucrat and religious leader on their first day of work” and the development of a “violence condom” to protect the communities he represents.
He called on health care workers to “help protect us from harm and ensure access to treatment,” and appealed for “more empathy from everyone.”