In 2006, the Irish Aid Father Michael Kelly World AIDS Day Event was created, to honour Father Michael’s achievements. At the time, stigma and discrimination were heavily exerting their negative influence on those living with HIV, as they still are today. In June of that year, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN High-level Meeting on AIDS, pledging Ireland’s ongoing and increased commitment to reducing the spread of HIV. The 16th International AIDS Conference took place in Canada, the proceedings of which were released with the support of Irish Aid, and focused on the theme of ‘Lifting the Veil: Shedding Light on HIV Stigma and Discrimination’. The Taoiseach commented:
The persistence of HIV-related stigma shows us that in Ireland, in Europe and throughout the world we have not done enough to collectively meet the full needs of people living with the virus. More must be done – more than providing for the medical needs of those affected by HIV; and more than protecting vulnerable people from infection. But tackling HIV stigma head-on – and the social, practical and political challenges that it generates – cannot be done by anyone alone. It requires a spirit of openness and an equitable partnership that begins with the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV and AIDS. We welcome this insightful and timely collection of essays bringing to the forefront issues of stigma and HIV from many perspectives and countries including Ireland.
Later that year, the National Campaign to Tackle HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination was launched. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa also spoke at the campaign’s launch.
Set against this backdrop of renewed action against the deleterious effects of stigma and discrimination, Father Michael delivered his call to action.