At least that's what Vela told a reporter today while participating at a World AIDS Day event in San Juan (Primera Hora currently lists it as their lead story on their web portal and has video of the brief interview as well).
This could have just been a slip of the tongue or some sort of unfortunate brain fart but, even if it was, it shows terrible lack of awareness about HIV/AIDS today of all days!
There has yet to be a statement from Vela or the island's governor explaining her comments. If there is a forthcoming statement, expect the power couple to laugh it off as an unfortunate slip up.
I wasn't planning on writing about World AIDS Day. I know the date is meant to raise awareness about the issue and there is some merit to that. But, as someone who worked at an HIV prevention agency for almost fifteen years of my life, I also find a lot of the World AIDS Day observances to be self serving and - to a surprising degree - homophobic as well - particularly among those agencies that work with communities of color. Agencies will highlight their work with children and women with HIV/AIDS or talk about their faith-based HIV prevention work while downplaying the gay angle to the disease.
And so governments will organize very special ceremonies and mourn the dead very respectfully. And the White House will hang a huge red AIDS ribbon while President Barack Obama addresses the topic in a 45 second video. And corporations will chime in: The Gap resuscitates it's (RED)™ campaign. Stars like Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga - who are as gay friendly as they come - will play dead ans silence their Twitter accounts for a "Keep a Child Alive" campaign that doesn't mention gays at all.
And so, on to Puerto Rico's first lady and her comments. Here is my translation of the interview caught on camera at Primera Hora:
Reporter: This is, eh, the First Lady, your comments, please, regarding this [World AIDS Day] march...Yes, she said it twice.
Lucé Vela: Look, this is the second time that I participate in these marches to create awareness about HIV. We did it last year. We are also present this year and we want, in this way, with all the people who have shown up this morning, to create awareness and that people know that this has a cure. That we can - if detected on time - if we can test people who are at high risk on time - look, that there is a cure for this. That it could be people like the many people who are here with us this morning could be of benefit...
Reporter: Of benefit to society...
Lucé Vela: ...it could be of benefit to society that they get tested to be able to get the necessary treatment to push ahead and be healthy.
What ads insult to injury is that Puerto Rico has such a sorry track record in providing appropriate care to people living with HIV/AIDS in the island.
Three years ago, I was able to assist New York Times reporter Erik Eckholm in translating interviews with HIV positive individuals in Puerto Rico during three-way telephone calls he made as the groundwork for a groundbreaking article titled "Puerto Rico's AIDS Care in Disarray over funds".
In that respect, Lucé Vela should be ashamed of implying people should get tested in order to be cured of AIDS.
One of the persons who blew the whistle on the 2007 scandal featured in the New York Times is José Colón, a longtime hero of mine, who could very well be described as the Larry Kramer of Puerto Rico. He posted the following Spanish-language video on YouTube today in observance of World AIDS Day and I am posting it here just in case the Puerto Rican Governor's Office checks in:
As for Larry Kramer himself, my friend Rex Wockner just alerted me to the fact that he is also none too happy with the Obama administration's World AIDS Day response. You can check out an interview he did with the New York Daily News here.