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January 2011 Archives

AIDS Candy Lady

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Sometimes the stars align. Such was the case with "Southern Discomfort" by Carl Gaines in the January/February 2011 issue of POZ.

I was introduced to Carl when he became the inaugural winner of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) Kay Longcope Scholarship Award, which seeks to further the role of diversity by supporting LGBT students of color who plan a career in journalism. At the time, Carl was a student at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism. He recently graduated.

His final thesis for CUNY was to create a multimedia project about the funding crisis in AIDS Drug Assistance Programs in the Southern United States. Click here to see his project.

We at POZ already had been planning a major story on AIDS in the South, so I was more than happy to work with Carl on having him write our article. It was a great collaboration.

Here's an excerpt:

When Juanita Davis, director of HIV prevention and education for the state of Mississippi, visits church or school groups to teach about the virus, she arrives armed with Mounds bars, 5th Avenue bars and lots of Sugar Babies.

She brings the sweets not to bribe her audiences to pay attention, but rather to help illustrate, with physical analogies, the things she is not allowed to say in the places she visits. Imagine trying to teach HIV prevention without being able to say "penis," "condom" or "semen."

That's where the candy bars come in.

The fact that Davis must use candy as euphemisms for body parts, contraceptives and bodily fluids says much about the environment in which she--and others--are trying to fight the next big wave of HIV/AIDS in America ...

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is raging across the Southern United States like an out-of-control fire.

Because of her innovative approach to HIV prevention, the titles "AIDS lady" and "candy lady" now greet her whenever she gives one of her talks.

Here's a YouTube video of Juanita at work:


In traveling to Mississippi to report on his thesis and our article, Carl conducted face-to-face video interviews with Juanita Davis and others. Click here to watch her interview.

"Southern Discomfort" documents the complex circumstances that fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South, including poverty, funding shortfalls, natural disasters, immigration issues, language barriers, lack of transportation and homophobia.

Although from an admittedly biased source, I encourage everyone to read it. Click here to read the article.
OTM.jpgMy favorite NPR show On The Media recently aired a segment interviewing Lina Ben Mhenni, a blogger in Tunisia. She writes the blog A Tunisian Girl, which was banned in her country. In the wake of the protests, her blog can now be read by her fellow Tunisians.

Here's an excerpt of her interview with OTM co-host Brooke Gladstone:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Have you personally had any direct contact with the Tunisian police?

LINA BEN MHENNI: [LAUGHS] They are following me every day, so yes, yes.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Have they spoken to you?

LINA BEN MHENNI: Yes, they were trying to harass me verbally. For example - this is very funny - one day I was going out to buy some coffee and they, they just want to provoke me, so one looked to the other, two police officers, said, look, this is Lina, she was in the United States, and she's got AIDS.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Sh - they said you had AIDS?

LINA BEN MHENNI: Yes, just to bother me, to drive me crazy. But I never talked to them, I never answered them.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are you experiencing then a sense of freedom now that didn't exist before the protests began earlier this month?

LINA BEN MHENNI: Yes, now journalists are walking more freely. For example, now journalists can take pictures easily in the streets, and even the official medias are now interviewing dissidents, and all the people are invited to speak on Tunisian TVs, on radio stations.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Even you.

LINA BEN MHENNI: [LAUGHS] Even me, yes.

I'm optimistic that her story will have a happy ending. What she happened to reveal, as an aside in an interview, about the use of AIDS as a taunt in Tunisia, however, leaves me feeling quite the opposite of optimistic about the state of HIV stigma around the world.


Catch VD

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catchvd.jpg"Catch VD" is the new ad campaign promoting the new season of The Vampire Diaries on The CW.

Apparently, this is phase one of the campaign with the next step showing the cast in sexy poses.

Whether intentionally or not, The CW has created quite a stir in the blogosphere (hat tip to dlisted).

Advocating people deliberately get a sexually transmitted infection cannot be what they mean, right?

I know that I thought "venereal disease" when I saw this ad. And I also know I'm not alone. However, The CW thinks otherwise.

This is their statement in response to the controversy: "VD simply stands for Vampire Diaries, and anyone who thinks otherwise should probably get themselves checked out."

I admit that, despite my obsession with all things vampires, I have not seen The Vampire Diaries. I guess I'll have to check it out.
nytlogo379x64.gifSometimes I'm amazed at how beautiful a piece of journalism can be. It's not easy to make a nuts-and-bolts article, such as an obituary, zing with poetic virtue. So kudos to "Against All Odds, a Beautiful Life" by Peter Applebome of The New York Times.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

Some things we know for sure -- a little boy dealt a seemingly impossible hand, the two gay men who decided to give him a home and a life, the unlikely spell cast by the only horse in Montclair.

Beyond that, well, it was what you could never quite know as much as what you could that drew 500 people, friends and strangers, to St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Saturday to ponder the lesson in grace and resilience, the parable of good lives and deeds outside the prescribed lines, in the remarkably long and way-too-short life of Maurice Mannion-Vanover, dead at the age of 20 on Jan. 14.

My synopsis: Maurice was born with AIDS. His twin sister died, his birth parents abandoned him. Two gay men adopted Maurice and eventually adopted a second son. Maurice loved horses, so his adopted parents got him one, even though they lived in a dense suburb. Maurice almost died in 1998. The horse got free several times. The gay parents ended their relationship but still lived together with Maurice.

Excerpt continues:

None of that affected Maurice, who became a fixture in his neighborhood and church, a Buddha smile always on his face ... And then on a trip to Toronto in January with Mr. Vanover, he got sick. Then he got sicker. There was pneumonia, sepsis, acute renal failure. "It's time," he said several times, seemingly in his normal, slightly Delphic voice. No one knew quite what he meant, but it didn't occur to anyone it meant that this was all the time he had. But it was.

I'll let you read the article to savor the numerous other details that paint such a vivid picture of the life Maurice lived and the reasons it was remembered.

Perhaps it's easy to write such an article when the life lived was so unique and filled with love. Nonetheless, it would have been easier to write a straightforward narrative.

I submit this article as not only a case study in fair and accurate coverage of LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues, but in doing so with style.

Stigma and discrimination are big reasons to avoid HIV. So are potential physical deterioration due to the virus and potential side effects due to the medications.

However, there are also a plethora of small reasons to avoid HIV. Here's but one of them for you to consider.

I've never been good at making and keeping doctor's appointments. Suffice it to say that there are many reasons for this being the case.

testtube.jpgI'm now at the point where I need to get my blood drawn so that I can get an appointment to see my doctor so that I can get my prescriptions for my meds because I have no more refills left and I'm almost out of pills (whew, wasn't sure if I could keep that sentence running).

I called my doctor last week to fax paperwork to my phlebotomotist so that I can get my blood drawn. Sure, no problem, I'm told. I call my phlebotomist today to see if they received my paperwork. No, we haven't, I'm told.

I spoke to my phlebotomist at 4:05 p.m. My doctor's office stops answering the phones at 4 p.m. I tried to call anyway, but of course no one answered.

It'll all work out, of that I'm sure. But this is the kind of crap that gets overlooked that quite frankly I'm so tired of. And it will never be over as long as I am HIV positive.

Big reasons should be deterrents for HIV, but perhaps it's daylighting the countless small reasons that may actually be more effective.
metropolitanhospital.jpgEffective January 18, 2011, hospitalized LGBT people have the right to designate visitors of their choosing. This is no small victory.

In the 1980s and 1990s, LGBT people with AIDS dying in hospitals without the comfort of their partners were everyday occurrences.

As the number of LGBT people with AIDS dying in hospitals became smaller, so did the pressure to change visitation rights.

However, the issue continued to have enough weight to be used over the years by LGBT advocates as one of the reasons for marriage equality.

In February 2007, Lisa Pond collapsed and was taken to a Miami hospital, where officials denied her partner and her adopted children from seeing her. Lisa died. That story is now credited with tipping the scales.

Add a sympathetic White House to the mix and the result was President Obama issuing a presidential memorandum in April 2010 to the Department of Health and Human Services to develop new regulations.

HHS published for comments in May 2010 a draft directing hospitals that receive Medicaid and Medicare to allow patients to determine who can visit them. The final rule was published in November 2010. The new regulations take effect 60 days after publishing of the final rule, which is today.

I mention all the steps because it's important to remember that changes take time, but they do happen.

I am forever grateful that I got the chance to see Michael in the hospital before he died. The idea that a hospital could have denied my visit to Michael makes me sick.

Enforcement of these new regulations is key, but let's celebrate another box being checked off from the LGBT civil rights to-do list.

Click here to learn more from the Human Rights Campaign about the new regulations.
I love Margaret Cho. There, I said it. I'm a fan. She's funny and smart. I'm always eager to hear her new stand-up comedy shows and never get tired of hearing her old routines.

So I'm familiar with the stories of her parents and their bookstore in San Francisco, but I was surprised to find out they closed the bookstore as a result of the AIDS epidemic.

In this video interview with CNN, Cho shares the details:

 

Cho shared her "deciding moment" (an initiative of the "Greater Than AIDS" campaign) as one of the many celebrities being interviewed by Anderson Cooper for his one-hour special reflecting on 30 years since the first AIDS diagnosis.

The show airs tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Click here for more details. To read her Q&A with CNN, click here.
postcards13.jpgVisual AIDS held its 13th annual "Postcards From the Edge" fundraiser. The preview party was Friday, Jan. 7. The benefit sale was on Saturday, Jan. 8, and Sunday, Jan. 9. I couldn't make the preview, but I did attend on Sunday.

As their promotional material says: "Over 1,500 original postcard-sized artworks by established and emerging artists." All proceeds benefited Visual AIDS, which supports HIV-positive artists and preserves AIDS-inspired art.

There were so many interesting pieces that it was difficult to choose, but I eventually picked up a few items. One of them is sitting in my office at work. For such a small thing, it gives me such a big feeling. All in a day's work for AIDS-inspired art.

Go to visualaids.org for more information.

"The HIV of Bananas"

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Did you hear Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, plan to repeal health care reform and cut discretionary spending (most likely from places like the National Institutes of Health)?

Well, as a result I suppose for the time being (at least until the 2012 election) we'll have to rely on ourselves a bit more  when it comes to our health, like, you know, eating more fruit.

Alas, it seems that one of my most beloved fruits -- bananas -- are under attack by a fungus known as Tropical Race 4, a.k.a. "the HIV of bananas." First health care, now bananas. What next?

Stephen Colbert has some suggestions:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Yellowline International, Inc.
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

LGBT Bloggers on 2010

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Much happened in LGBT news in 2010 and LGBT bloggers have weighed in. Here's a very subjective wrap-up of the 2010 LGBT wrap-ups that I found interesting:

  • Advocate.com identified its "Newsmakers of the Year" with a list including Rep. Patrick Murphy (Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal), Constance McMillen (denied high school prom), Dan Savage and Joel Burns ("It Gets Better" videos).
  • Guest blogger Nathaniel Rogers on Towleroad listed movies with the "best" LGBT characters of 2010, including characters in Black Swan, I Love You Phillip Morris and The Kids Are All Right.
  • Guest blogger Rev. Patrick Cheng on Pam's House Blend gave a religious perspective on the LGBT news of 2010, including many biblical references for anti-LGBT Christians to ponder.
  • And last but certainly not least, Bil Browning at The Bilerico Project ranks the top 10 LGBT news stories of 2010, including the failure of ENDA, the Uganda "Kill the Gays" bill and same-sex marriage in D.C. (you'll have to read it to find out what was ranked No. 1).


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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