(AP) Jorge Saavedra’s moment of truth came in the middle of an impassioned speech to 5,000 people about the paltry amount of money being spent to stop the spread of AIDS among gay men.
The Mexican federal official paused, then said publicly for the first time that he was gay.
As he held up a photo of himself with his partner, the crowd applauded wildly. Afterward, men from Africa and India congratulated him with tears in their eyes.
"They told me that I was a hero, and that they wished they could do the same in their countries," said Saavedra, who is infected with HIV and also heads the AIDS prevention program in a country where many gay men live in denial.
Saavedra’s coming out on Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference sent a powerful message to the world: Homophobia must be stamped out if AIDS is to be controlled.
Fewer people are dying from AIDS, but new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in many countries are rising at alarming rates.