That efforts of yours could seem all small and unnoticeable. But never relent. It may look like no one notices, soon the constant dropping of these efforts will accumulate and become an ocean. Before then, one has to realize that there is nothing done for humanity that will go unrewarded, whoever you are, wherever you live or even however you live, have nothing to do with being humane.
This exactly is Greg’s story…
One of the world’s most esteemed HIV doctors, Professor Sheena McCormack – whose life’s work as an epidemiologist has been to track and fight the virus – picked up the phone to deliver a message that would make headline news: In the space of 12 months, the number of gay men in London being diagnosed with HIV had dropped by 40%. Across England it was down by a third.
No British doctor has been able to report a fall this steep in more than 35 years of the virus. It is the kind of figure that in medical circles is so large as to look jarring, even false; and yet it was true.
Behind this story lay a series of secret meetings and a network of people with one man at the centre who, unknown to the public, helped change medical history. His name is Greg Owen. He was the man McCormack phoned. Today his story is told in full for the first time.
Owen sits in an echoing meeting room in the BuzzFeed News office recalling that conversation, and what it was that McCormack really wanted to convey to him about those figures.
“She said, ‘Don’t look at the percentage; I want you to look at this another way. There are thousands of people who didn’t become HIV-positive this year because of you.’”
Owen started to cry. And after that call, he says, he used to cry every day.
“I knew I was doing something of substance, but I didn’t know what. It feels really good but it’s really overwhelming because how many people in my position get to do what I did?”
The man McCormack credited with this unprecedented reduction in HIV transmissions was not a fellow doctor, nor the head of a charity, nor even a politician. Owen is unemployed, a former sex worker, and homeless.