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I'm happy to highlight an NPR interview featuring two very deserving HIV/AIDS advocates -- Mark S. King (a POZ blogger and a 2011 POZ 100 honoree) and Guy Anthony (a POZ blogger and a 2014 POZ 100 honoree).

In the wake of the recent HIV outbreak in Indiana (click here for an in-depth article by former POZ editor-in-chief Walter Armstrong on the aftermath of that outbreak), NPR wanted to get an update on the epidemic in general.

Mark, as a long-term survivor, and Guy, as someone diagnosed two decades after Mark, offer their respective insights. It comes as no surprise to me that both cite stigma as a persistent obstacle for people living with the virus.

From the interview:

"It's my firm belief that as medications have improved, and as the lives of those of us with HIV have improved, social stigma has risen," King says. "In the early years, we were doing everything we could just to help the dying, and there was no time to point fingers or blame or judge people ...

"Now, if you were to test positive today, how did that happen? What a disappointment you are. Why weren't you listening to all these prevention messages that we've been giving you all these years? You must be a terrible person."

That rings true for Anthony.

"I was more so afraid of the stigma attached to the disease than the actual disease," he says. "You know, because every day I have to sort of wake up and deal with the fact that I am a black gay man in America. And that's difficult in itself. So, to add, HIV positive serostatus onto that, it can be a lot."

Please listen to the full interview.

The September 2015 issue of POZ magazine is online.

Here's an excerpt from my editor's letter:

Fighting for justice was and still is what superheroes represent.

Despite not really knowing the source material, I did love watching Saturday morning cartoons, especially Super Friends, which featured Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. Their aggression was trumped by their teamwork (and their skintight outfits).

The Undetectables--a new program from New York City's Housing Works that helps participants reduce their viral loads--taps into that superhero spirit. The program uses a comic book series to educate participants about HIV treatment adherence. That series was the inspiration for our cover.

The Undetectables comic books include fictional characters, but our cover and the accompanying feature article include real participants in the program. Click here to read how London Gray, Benjamin Ball, Adonis Porch and Ervin Rogers are lowering their viral loads without superpowers.
To read my complete letter from the editor, click here.
The July/August 2015 issue of POZ magazine is online.

Here's an excerpt from my editor's letter:

So I admire people who take the heat--literally and figuratively--every day in the Southern United States, the hot spot domestically for HIV/AIDS. It is no exaggeration to say that the South, on virtually any bad HIV/AIDS statistic you can think of, is sadly at or near the top of the list.

Despite the heat, there are bright spots in the fight against the virus in the South. A peer-to-peer program at AIDS Alabama called Living Well is one excellent example. The program employs HIV-positive advocates to help break down barriers to care and treatment for fellow HIV-positive people.

Three of these peer advocates grace our cover--Andrew Ballard, Debra Richards and Tommy Williams. Their journeys living with the virus are in themselves inspiring, but their commitment to helping others with HIV/AIDS is uplifting. Click here to read more on them and the Living Well program.
To read my complete letter from the editor, click here.
The June 2015 issue of POZ magazine is online.

Here's an excerpt from my editor's letter:

So it is with coming out that the things you disclose often aren't as terrible as you feared, yet the unburdening is even more freeing than you imagined. Such was the case for our cover gals, Whitney Joiner and Alysia Abbott. Each lost her gay dad to AIDS in 1992--and Whitney didn't know anyone else who had lost a parent to the virus until she met Alysia about 15 years ago.

They stayed in touch, but the years passed by. Then, in 2014, an event co-sponsored by Visual AIDS about the children of parents lost to AIDS spurred Whitney and Alysia to launch the Recollectors, a group dedicated to remembering parents lost to the virus. Click here to read more about the Recollectors and remembrances of their loved ones.
To read my complete letter from the editor, click here.
signorile_savage.jpgOn Monday, May 11, I had the privilege of moderating a conversation between Michelangelo Signorile and Dan Savage. The talk was engaging (if I do say so myself, but others have told me the same!), which was not unexpected. After all, both men have been at the forefront of LGBT issues for decades.

The event was co-hosted by the New York chapter of NLGJA: The Association of LGBT Journalists and its student chapter at The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism (CUNY J School). Full disclosure: I'm a longtime member of NLGJA, so many thanks to them for the opportunity.

The conversation was prompted by the publication of Signorile's new book titled It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality. We discussed the premise of the book (extremely briefly: victory blindness is dangerous), as well as the themes in Savage's most recent book titled American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics.

In addition to many of the issues you might think of -- like fighting for full civil rights, combating violence, challenging media coverage, confronting deep-seated homophobia -- we do get into other issues, such as the idea of HIV interrupting the victory narrative.

If you have some time, please watch. The first half is the conversation, the last half is the Q&A session with questions from Twitter and from the live audience. We had some audio trouble in the first few minutes, but the audio is mostly fine after that. Enjoy!

The April/May 2015 issue of POZ magazine is online.

Here's an excerpt from my editor's letter:

The power of art to inspire--and even heal--was wielded quite well during the 1980s and '90s at the heights of the AIDS crisis. The efforts of HIV activists were arguably enhanced by the widespread adoption of the pink triangle and the red ribbon as symbols of the fight.

Countless artists during those years were lost to AIDS. The absence of an entire generation of painters, photographers, actors, dancers, singers, designers and other creative people is just too large to comprehend. As they left us, the once seemingly omnipresent voices of artists in the HIV fight grew quieter.

This distancing has manifested not only in the art itself, but also in institutional support from the arts for HIV/AIDS. However, the partnership between the arts and the fight against the virus is far from dead. This special issue on art and wellness explores the connections between creativity and health.

Artist and long-term survivor Eric Rhein embodies these connections. His ongoing
Leaves piece--a collection started in 1996 of leaf portraits memorializing over 200 people lost to the virus--combines memory and activism, which hopefully provides healing in the process for Rhein and the rest of us.

The 2012 death of activist Spencer Cox was a reminder for many long-term survivors across the country of the ongoing costs of their collective achievements. In response, Rhein created a leaf for Cox. That leaf graces our cover. Click here to read more about how Rhein continues to expand his art.
To read my complete letter from the editor, click here.


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