George Ashiotis started going blind when he was 5 years old. When he was a teenager, he worked at Lighthouse as an assistant counselor, helping younger visually impaired teens. After helping his sister dye her hair black, he ended up going to work with black fingernails, leading to his first experience of homophobia.
During the spring semester of 2002, while I was teaching my creative-writing class at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, a student finally shared and read aloud a poem that he had just written. And after he read, our jaws dropped with amazement, our eyes widened with shock, our brows curled with concern, our hearts stopped with empathy, and our bodies froze with fear.
A decade-long public health partnership between the U.S. and African countries should have clarified, by words, actions and example, that human rights are critical to success in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the world, particularly in those countries hardest hit by the epidemic. Any new public health partnerships must make this a priority.