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December 2009 Archives

freyredibello.jpgThe HIV-positive gay couple in Argentina that was supposed to get married on World AIDS Day were finally married on December 28, the Buenos Aires Herald reports.

Alex Freye, 39, and Jose Maria di Bello, 41, won the right to marry in November. However, a judge later postponed the ceremony.

It took place in Ushuaia, the capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego, where the governor allowed the ceremony to take place.

"As a couple, we have been dreaming with getting married for a long time," said Freye after the ceremony.

According to the article, a marriage request made in 2007 by two women will be resolved in 2010 by the country's supreme court.
FF_COVER_GREATESTHITS.jpgIn matters big and small, I've learned that life isn't neat and clean. Since I was diagnosed with HIV in 1992, I've encountered that truth over and over again.

Well, chalk this matter up as small yet significant to me: I still like the Foo Fighters and I love their new single "Wheels" so much, in fact, that I bought their "Greatest Hits" album.

The witty among you have already judged me for my (lack of) taste in music, although I assure you that my rock credentials are solid since my favorite rock group is Led Zeppelin.

No, my problem is not the Foo Fighters music, it's their politics. Specifically, their past support of AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore, who died about a year ago.

Mother Jones reports that in 2000 the Foo Fighters bassist Nate Mendel helped organize a sold-out benefit concert for Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives, an AIDS denialist group founded by Maggiore.

These excerpts from the article disturb me:

"Foo fans were treated to a speech by Alive and Well founder Christine Maggiore, who believes AIDS may be caused by HIV-related medications, anal sex, stress, and drug use, and implies that people should not get tested for HIV nor take medications to counter the virus. Free copies of Maggiore's self-published book, "What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?," in which she declares "there is no proof that HIV causes AIDS," were also passed out to the concert-goers ... Mendel says he was won over by Maggiore's book, and passed it around to the rest of the band, which includes former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. Mendel says that he would steer anyone considering an HIV antibody test toward Maggiore's group."
The band used to have a link to the Alive and Well website from their official site, but that link no longer exists. Apparently that link was active until a few years ago, so their support of Maggiore seems to have been serious.

I don't know if they've had a genuine change of heart or if they're just being savvy in selling their new album, but the fact that they're no longer linking to Alive and Well in either circumstance is welcome news.

I don't know if that's enough to forgive them their past support of an AIDS denialist. What I do know is that I'd feel a heck of a lot better with an explanation from the Foo Fighters as to their current beliefs on HIV/AIDS. What I also know is that I just can't get that "Wheels" song out of my head.
dennis_deleon.jpgDennis deLeon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, died of heart failure December 14, 2009. He was 61. I had the honor of knowing Dennis, if only professionally.

I met him a few times while I worked at LGNY (a now-defunct LGBT weekly newspaper in New York City reborn as Gay City News) and reconnected when I started working at POZ.

The reaction from the HIV/AIDS community to his death has been overwhelmingly supportive. In particular, POZ founder Sean Strub wrote a touching memorial.

In 1998 and 1999, Dennis wrote three first-person stories for POZ on his views on living with HIV. Sharing his stories, in his own words, is the best tribute I can make for Dennis.

May 1998 - "Life: Good Pill Hunting"

These past years when there was no hope, meds were like life rafts on the Titanic. But after being sweet-talked into believing that protease combos are a path to the future, I have come to learn that this new car may break down in the middle of a desert ...

The clear-minded Dennis knows that we're at the iron-lung stage of HIV, subjecting our bodies to heavy-handed therapies while awaiting a Jonas Salk. The good, grateful, nonwhiny Dennis knows that he wouldn't be around to taste his mother's huevos rancheros without the new treatments.

July 1998 - "In the Blood"
And because my tenacity in fighting HIV is learned from [my mother], I want to help her to see the hope that comes from speaking your mind, challenging medical authorities ... I want to remind her how to kick ass.
March 1999 - "Life After Legacy"
Before AIDS, I was one of the world's many lawyer-careerists extraordinaire, always building that résumé for the future and never burning a bridge. I relished making money and playing a lawyer's behind-the-scenes role as much as I did giving advice to clients.

All of this changed when I tested positive in 1986. While I had many reactions, one main concern shifted to leaving a legacy ... As I eventually came to understand, it's not how many clippings you accumulate, but how many lives you touch.
otm_logo.jpgNew York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was interviewed for the December 11 edition of NPR's On the Media. Most of the interview focuses on an article titled "Nicholas Kristof's Advice for Saving the World" that he wrote for Outside.

The deck sums up the article very well: "What would happen if aid organizations and other philanthropists embraced the dark arts of marketing spin and psychological persuasion used on Madison Avenue? We'd save millions more lives."

Here's an excerpt from the interview with insights on media coverage of HIV/AIDS and the concept of advocacy journalism:

OTM: Before you had your public relations revelation [as described in your Outside article], what do you think is the greatest opportunity that you missed?
Kristof: Writing about AIDS. I was often frustrated that I'd write about AIDS in Africa and, you know, it just disappeared into the pond without a ripple. And I think that, in retrospect, if I had managed to, along side all the horrors of people dying young, if I'd found some examples where success is possible, I think that maybe those columns would've had more effect.

OTM: You said that you flinch when you get called an advocacy journalist, but when you sit down to write a column, what is it that you're trying to achieve?
Kristof: Well, I'm advocating. (Laughs.) But I'm reluctant to be called out on it. My career was as a reporter and there's an uncomfortable tension there because one of the reason's that I became a journalist is, frankly, that I wanted to make a difference. And yet, at the same time, there is sometimes a perception that an advocate is somebody who goes out and finds evidence to buttress their pre-existing convictions. And that's why I flinch.

OTM: But you can tell the truth and still want to spark a particular action.
Kristof: Yes, absolutely. That is one of the great perks of journalism. There are a lot of problems in the world and that we carry a spotlight. What I want to do is shine my light to illuminate that problem, but I don't want to tinker with the evidence. I just want to galvanize people by showing them what is out there.
marknelson.jpgNext Magazine is the reigning (and only) gay nightlife weekly guide to New York City.

Mostly a mix of party listings, theater and dining recommendations with a dose of escort advertising, to its credit the publication often includes substantive feature articles.

The cover story of the November 27 issue in advance of World AIDS Day is a case in point. "Where Have All the Ribbons Gone?" spotlights three HIV-positive gay men.

On the cover is Mark Nelson, a well-known party promoter; also included are Luna Legacy, a community health specialist at GMHC and Mike Cavanaugh, founder of GayLifeNYC.org.

The tone of the five-page article is set by the deck: "Almost 30 years after it changed the face of our community, have we forgotten about AIDS?"

Here's an excerpt:

"To live with AIDS in 2009 is scary for a whole different reason: the feeling that, to the gay community, AIDS is no longer their issue. In 2007, The New York Department of Health released a shocking statement: HIV rates in New York City had actually increased 33% among men under 30 since 2001. 'My belief is that [new people contracting the virus] have never seen the destruction of AIDS,' explains Nelson. 'They think by going on the Internet and saying they will only have sex with [drug- and disease-free] guys, they can practice unsafe habits.'"
Another excerpt that grabbed me:

"Perhaps what has also distanced the gay community from HIV/AIDS over the last decade or more is that the focus has shifted. 'The face of AIDS is no longer the gay man,' Mark Nelson points out. 'It is an African child, which makes some feel the disease is not here.' As well, the largest increases in New York have not been amongst the photogenic Chelsea boys but instead the ethnic minorities of the outer boroughs, a fact that allows some in the community to dissociate themselves from the disease and focus their energy on more attractive social issues."
Kudos to Next Magazine for taking on HIV/AIDS and to Mark Nelson, Luna Legacy and Mike Cavanaugh for putting a face to the disease for the LGBT community.

I also hope that Next Magazine (as well as the rest of the LGBT media and mainstream media) will include such coverage outside of World AIDS Day.
freyre_dibello.jpgThe HIV-positive gay couple in Argentina that was supposed to get married on World AIDS Day was barred from doing so, the Buenos Aires Herald reports.

It would have been the first marriage of a same-sex couple in Latin America.

After a judge ruled in favor of the couple, another court ordered a stop to the wedding because it was under federal jurisdiction.

The first judge asked the mayor of Buenos Aires to give the couple a marriage license, but the mayor refused.

Now the couple must wait for the country's supreme court to weigh in, unless the mayor changes his mind.

An LGBT organization has asked the courts to consider whether the mayor can be found guilty of "resisting or disobeying a court ruling."

More details to come as they are available.



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