President Obama spoke at a White House reception for the community on July 13 commemorating the release of the national HIV/AIDS strategy.

For more details about the strategy,
click here.

During his speech, Obama commended three advocates by name as outstanding members of the HIV/AIDS community: Ben Banks, Craig Washington and Linda Scruggs.

Here is an excerpt of the president’s remarks:

“We’re here because of the extraordinary men and women whose stories compel us to stop this scourge. I’m going to call out a few people here—people like Benjamin Banks, who right now is completing a master’s degree in public health, planning a family with his wife, and deciding whether to run another half-marathon. Ben has also been HIV-positive for 29 years—a virus he contracted during cancer surgery as a child. So inspiring others to fight the disease has become his mission.

“We’re here because of people like Craig Washington, who after seeing what was happening in his community—friends passing away; life stories sanitized, as he put it, at funerals; homophobia, all the discrimination that surrounded the disease—Craig got tested, disclosed his status, with the support of his partner and his family, and took up the movement for prevention and awareness in which he is a leader today.

“We’re here because of people like Linda Scruggs. Linda learned she was HIV-positive about two decades ago when she went in for prenatal care. Then and there, she decided to turn her life around, and she left a life of substance abuse behind, she became an advocate for women, she empowered them to break free from what she calls the bondage of secrecy. She inspired her son, who was born healthy, to become an AIDS activist himself.

“We’re here because of Linda and Craig and Ben, and because of over 1 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS and the nearly 600,000 Americans who’ve lost their lives to the disease.”

To read more of the president’s remarks,
click here.

For more about Banks, Washington and Scruggs, we offer the following excerpts, in their own words, telling us how they discovered they were HIV positive:

Ben Banks

Ambassador, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF)

“I came home from school to see my mother crying on the edge of her bed. I walked up to her and asked innocently, ‘Why are you crying?’ She responded with tears streaming down her face, ‘The doctor called. You are HIV-positive.

“I froze. I became dizzy. My body went numb and I collapsed into my mother’s arms. She held me, rubbed my head and told me, ‘Everything is going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay.

“I had to face the reality that the blood that saved my life from cancer 10 years earlier gave me HIV … I have been very lucky. I have had access to care and treatment.”

To read more of Banks’ story at, click here.

Craig Washington

Prevention Programs Manager, AID Atlanta

“In 1985, I developed classic early symptoms of HIV disease and assumed that I was HIV positive. I began to write about AIDS but refrained from disclosing my status … In 1991, I met ‘L’ and soon after we started dating, he encouraged me to get tested. The result confirmed what I had already known …

“ [In 1993] I was faced with my first AIDS defining illness. Were it not for the care of my former partner ‘L’ and the support of my closest friends, I know I would not have made it … Each day I rise to give, buy, accept what life demands.”

To read more of Washington’s story at, click here.

Linda Scruggs

Director of Programs, AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families

“When I tested positive, I had been in recovery for two years. In my first post-recovery relationship, I got pregnant. At a prenatal appointment they told me I was HIV positive. They said I could terminate the pregnancy and probably live for five years, that if I had the baby I’d probably be dead in three.

“I decided to have the baby. My son is 19 now, and he is negative. Between him being born and me trying to figure out how to die, I figured out instead how to live.”

To read more of Scruggs’ story at, click here.