“I didn’t do too bad, did I?”
— The last words of Tommy Sexton (July 3rd, 1959-Dec. 13, 1993), as related by his mother. I spoke with 88-year-old Sarah Sexton Sunday evening during the 28th annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at the Tommy Sexton Centre in St. John’s.
“Oh Tommy, you did great.”
— Sarah Sexton’s response to her son.
The following is the text of my address to the Candlelight Memorial.
No one — least of all a politician — needs to tell anyone here this evening that both HIV and AIDS can be devastating.
This service — the 28th annual AIDS candlelight memorial — is held to remember those who we have lost from AIDS and those living with HIV/AIDS.
And we do remember — it’s so important to remember.
When I give a speech, or say a few words, I like to be prepared — to do my homework.
So a week or so ago I invited John Baker, outreach co-ordinator with the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, to my Mount Pearl office.
I wanted to talk about the work of the AIDS committee and the Tommy Sexton Centre.
I wanted to meet John Baker himself, to hear his story — which he was good enough to share with me.
I also wanted to hear what the issues are these days, where the concerns lie.
I’ve heard that the biggest fear for the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador is a loss of funding.
Year after year it’s the same: the AIDS committee never really knows whether the funding will be there — until it IS there.
And there hasn’t been an increase in the amount of funding in years.
I’m told that the AIDS committee receives about $250,000 a year from the federal government, with more coming each year from the province.
It’s one thing to go year after year NOT knowing if your funding is going to be renewed — that’s hard enough, that’s stressful enough.
But there are other concerns these days.
The Harper administration is in cutting mode.
Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has promised to find $4 billion a year in annual savings.
Will the Public Health Agency of Canada feel the budget knife?
Will the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador feel the knife?
Will the Tommy Sexton Centre feel the knife?
I certainly hope not, but I don’t know.
We’ll have to be vigilant, and pro-active.
I told John Baker when he came to my office that I would help lobby for funding for the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador.
And I will.
The ACNL is too important to those with HIV/AIDS to lose its funding.
Enough people — enough of our families and friends — have been devastated.
We'll have to be vigilant.