Scarlet Alliance

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Sharleen Spiteri

We remember SHARLEEN SPITERI RIP 22 October 2005

The theme for this year's World Aids Day is HIV, Lets talk about it. I remember all too well the "talk" of the 80's. Rather it was Scream or Screech rather than talk. It was scary to open a paper, because you never knew just what the latest headline would be, or how HIV/AIDS would be featured in the Banner headlines. Nor would we all know just what the latest vilification for people living with HIV/AIDS would be. How frightened we all were lest a name escape the network of confidentiality we were so careful about. The fear of discrimination still is very real, but there are more support systems in place, more services, more places where you can be free and open, where you can talk with confidence, knowing your words will be recieved with respect and you HIV status accepted, and you will not become an outcast. Let's talk now about Sharleen, and with your stories, your anecdotes, your memories, we can pay tribute to her and to all who came through those hideous times. In some way we have all been scarred by those events, those times. We are strong because of those who support us, who walk with us, and who we support and love. Sister Margaret

Euology for Sharleen presented by Julie Bates

At late notice I was asked to speak today but I fear my few rushed words will do little justice to the spirit of Sharleen. However, for those who truly knew and understood Sharleen and her circumstances the notice in today’s SSO says it all – Sharleen Spiteri Released at Last.

My name is Julie Bates and I have known Sharleen for it seem now over 20 years – where has the time gone and I ask, what have we achieved in terms of freedom of speech and the treatment of those less able to speak or advocate for themselves and Sharleen was one such individual.

I have seen the best and worst of Sharleen and I have seen the best and worst of those services and government officials who were supposedly there to support her.

Sharleen was challenged from the day she was born and somewhere very early along the road of life she inherited the tag of “naughty girl” and eventually, after many years of physical, emotional and bureaucratic assaults not only upon her psyche but also upon her physical body, Sharleen became the embodiment of that naughty girl. And, in so surviving, she challenged the welfare and public health systems often to her own further disadvantage. Some of us know how difficult that was for Sharleen and her true supporters.

Sharleen had two great loves in her life – her son David and her partner and lover Graham. The taking away of her beloved son left her empty and longing and when the news of Graham’s death came to Sharleen while she was in prison she was further devastated and not being allowed to view his body sat with Sharleen to the day she died. Even last week when visiting her, we looked at the photo of her and Graham and she once more said to me “why wouldn’t they let me out to see his body”.

One ray of light entered Sharleen’s life about 2 years ago when the author of Learning to Trust an AIDS chronicle allowed Sharleen to correct the record – not to be just spoken about as that “naughty girl” but to try and right some of the wrongs that had been written and spoken about her. She proudly displayed to all that would listen, her personally autographed copy with an inscription from the author thanking her for her contribution to the book. But there was a lot more to be said and we both enjoyed the possibility of one day being able to tell the full story. I’m only sorry Sharleen is not here to help – she had a better memory than me.

Run free Sharleen - the bureaucratic bonds that tied you for so long have finally been broken. No more the HIV Whipping Girl.

Love you , Julie Bates

updated 26 November 2005