Michael Emanuel Rajner

My Humble Hero - Teaching People with HIV to Live and Die with Dignity

Filed By Michael Emanuel Rajner | March 12, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Butch McKay, Florida, Fort Walton Beach, HIV prevention, HIV/AIDS, Okaloosa AIDS Support Informational Services, panhandle

Every March, a diverse community of more than 400 PLWHA's (people living with HIV/AIDS)Positive Living 14 (2).jpg journey from several states, mostly the southeast, and meet up at the annual Positive Living Conference. The conference take place along the Florida's Emerald Coast stretches along 24 miles of pristine sugar white-sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico's emerald-green waters.

I have been attending this jewel of a conference every year since 2006 and value the time to meet up with peers and attend various workshops on HIV-disease management, prevention and advocacy. Even after 30-years of HIV, PLWHA's still struggle, especially in rural communities, to find safe space to dialogue and share their experiences. Positive Living is hosted by Butch McKay and his exceptional staff at Okaloosa AIDS Support & Informational Services.

Back on World AIDS Day 2009, I posted a World AIDS Day message from my humble hero Butch McKay.

Over the years, I have had the incredible honor to call him a friend. In 2006 when Democratic Congressman Jim Davis was running for Florida Governor, Butch stood by my side at a campaign rally when I threatened an ACT UP style demonstration unless Davis signed a pledge to end AIDS at his Fort Lauderdale campaign rally just across the street from the Gay & Lesbian Community Center. Needless to say, Congressman Davis signed the pledge.

Watch my video interview with Butch McKay after the jump:

Butch and his staff go to incredible efforts to find the scarce funding to make certain PLWHA's can attend Positive Living despite their own financial hardship.

In the video below, Butch captures the amazing impact Positive Living has on so many lives.

Butch, thank you for your friendship and commitment to engage and never give up the fight!

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So very nice, Michael, that you chose to highlight and laud the work of Butch McKay and his team there at OASIS. Even nicer, to see that Butch is still going strong and doing the good work he does. I met him and his group about 8 yrs ago when I was a speaker at their conference.
The were very friendly and welcomming of me. It sounds like the Positive Living Conference remains now what it was back then - a gathering of those affected by HIV getting together for mutual support and empowerment. To my thinking, their spirit of dedication is very different from many of the 'AIDS, Inc.' affairs that one might otherwise attend.

As always, this weekend's conference was an amazing experience. I wish I had taken a video of Butch's closing remarks today when he shared why he is so committed to giving others the chance for hope and a better life.

Positive Living Conference makes being HIV positive acceptable to the most important person...YOU!!!
Take it home with you in your heart and know it to be so. Allow your renewed confidence to enlighten others who need that in their life. Lead by example that HIV is a virus, not a shame, not a punishment, and not a situation needing pity. Don't get mad, become ever more empowered to live YOUR life with absolute determination and rightful dignity. Don't be afraid, be informed,
THANKS BUTCH and the OASIS crew for another GREAT POSITIVE LIVING experience.

Rick Sutton | March 14, 2011 8:23 AM

I re-read this today, and I felt the same as I did Saturday: inadequate.

This work is amazing, and the level of commitment is overwhelming.

Godspeed to them all.

It was amazing to be a part of the energy at Positive Living. The people were very empowering and the people who had been before served as wonderful mentors to those who were attending for the first time. It is always a pleasure to serve as host to such an incredible gathering of minds and hearts.

Jeffrey Wells | March 28, 2011 3:58 PM

Thank you
In central fka., now and I intend on gather other poz people to proudly partake in this !
Positive Living Conference is indeed needed