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Limping Into 2015, Literally

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tigersizedcat.JPG
"To survive in this world, sometimes you must
have the eye of the over-sized domesticated cat." - me


My last blog post was on December 4th- I was ending the year of 2014 in arguably the prime of my life: confidant and wearing a moustache for the first time, standing naked in a shower raising money for my friends at the MTV Staying Alive Foundation...

And then it happened. The December Surprise.

It's seems that, every December of every year, there's a medical surprise of some sort. Sometimes big, sometimes small. But always in December. This year's surprise came in the form of a cough, on the evening of Sunday, December 13th. It is now January, 24th and the cough is still here. It's not serious or deadly, just lingering. Rumors of the cough's force had been spreading throughout my community since early Fall, so my immune system did it's best warding it off until December when, apparently, my immune system decides to take some time off to celebrate every religion's holiday season.

Another aspect of the cold winters of Virginia is my left ankle, which has been ravaged due to years of slight bleeding. I swear the cold weather severely aggravates the physical handicap. The cartilage in my left ankle is pretty much gone, leaving bone to bone friction... I know that sounds like the male equivalent of scissoring, and it is just as physically awkward. Most times I get around fine, but when my ankle starts to painin' me, boy does it start to painin' me.

On the bright side, I have acquired a Handicap Parking Pass. One that I promise not to abuse in the times when I can walk fine. In recent years, traveling by plane has become pretty unbearable due to the ankle- after 3 hours flights of being crammed in Coach, my ankle lets me know it isn't happy. Starting a few years ago, there have been times when it's been so bad that Gwenn has had to get a wheelchair and push me through the terminal. The Pass will certainly help on those trips, allowing us to park closer to the Terminal and also closer to where we are speaking when we educate on sprawling college campuses.

Though this blog may make my life out to seem like a heaping pile of shit, I'm actually quite happy. And even optimistic about the year ahead. The ankle is my spirit bone for 2015: take a long-standing problem and apply a solution to it. In about ten years time, science may be able to correct my ankle by regrowing cartilage in the joint. I look forward to resuming my legendary League bowling career in my 50s and joining my brother, father and grandfather as a Decker who has bowled a perfect 300 game in league bowling.

Till then? I'll do what I've always done. I will walk, sometimes limp, forward towards more adventures. I turn 40 this year and I have a feeling it will be the best decade yet. I'm content with who I am, what I've done and am eagerly anticipating the next growth spurt in my life.

But that's long-term. For now, I'll settle for no coughing.

Positively Yours,
Shawn
shawnbiggiveFBprofilepic.jpg
You've seen the moustache... and more of me than you intended to this week... and, well, the time has come... so let's harness the full power of Freddie Mercury together!

The fundraising drive for MTV Staying Alive is live- from now through Saturday you can make a minimum donation of $8 (MTV Staying Alive and the Big Give fund drive is based in London- so a £5.00 donation roughly equates to $8.) Your donation goes towards helping young people fight HIV in their communities around the world. But it also does much more.

For each dollar, Durex will supply 5 free condoms for young educators- meaning that your minimum donation of $8 (£ 5.00) would provide 40 condoms!

What will happen regardless of whether the donation gets doubled?
You'll help vital prevention programs get funded. HIV is a complex problem, but proven strategies combined with a creative approach work in minimizing risk for HIV transmission... and MTV Staying Alive has an incredible track record.

So let's do this! Join me in making a donation today... or I'll post more pictures of me in the shower with this moustache. And yes, the drapes do match the curtains. Don't make me prove it.

We Are All Queen,
Shawn


Shawn is sporting a Freddie Mercury moustache to raise money for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Donations can now be made! $8 (£5.00) minimum through Saturday... for every $1 donated Durex is donating 5 condoms to HIV prevention efforts for MTV Staying Alive! LET'S DO THIS!!

weareallqueensmall.jpg
gwennisclean.JPGThe Freddie Mercury moustache has arrived in style on World AIDS Day thanks to Jack Mackenroth's #weareALLclean social media campaign/fundraiser for Housing Works. It's been so much fun to participate in and donate to this as I prepare to call on friends to donate to my fundraising campaign for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation later this week. (Details below.)

So many campaigns and so little time each year to have eyes and hearts on this issue. I'm so thankful to be here and to be a part of a community that is fighting back against this epidemic in wonderful ways that change lives for the better. I hope you all are having a happy and safe World AIDS Day.

We Will Rock AIDS,
Shawn

UPDATE: Gwenn took a shower selfie this morning to join in the fun! So thankful to have such a loving partner.
---------------------------------------------

Shawn is sporting a Freddie Mercury moustache to raise money for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Donations can now be made! $8 (£5.00) minimum through Saturday... for every $1 donated Durex is donating 5 condoms to HIV prevention efforts for MTV Staying Alive! LET'S DO THIS!!
Shawn is sporting a Freddie Mercury moustache to raise money for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Donations can now be made! $8 (£5.00) minimum through Saturday... for every $1 donated Durex is donating 5 condoms to HIV prevention efforts for MTV Staying Alive! LET'S DO THIS!!



"Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?"

"Another One Bites the Dust" - Queen

My facial hair is complying- the power of Freddie Mercury's moustache is taking hold as World AIDS Day approaches, now less than one week away. I was wondering just how I'd reveal such an iconic moustache... and then I read about Jack Mackenroth and (the app) Moovz's #weareALLclean campaign to benefit Housing Works.

It's all about the word "clean" and how it's used to imply that anyone with HIV- or any other STI, is somehow dirty by proxy.

So yes, I'd love for you to support me in my World AIDS Day campaign by donating money on December 4, 5 and 6, (starting at 5 am EST on December 4th!!!) when donation amounts are doubled. But it would also be great to get as many people as possible to join in on the #weareALLclean movement on World AIDS Day. Use the hashtag- you don't have to post a shower selfie, either, if you aren't quite as bold as, say, Freddie Mercury, then don't worry: you can vocalize your support for the community and reinforce the idea that a positive test result doesn't mean someone is no longer sexually or emotionally attractive.

We are HIV positive. We are clean. And we are the champions of the world.

Positively Yours,
Shawn



Shawn is sporting a Freddie Mercury moustache to raise money for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Donations can now be made! $8 (£5.00) minimum through Saturday... for every $1 donated Durex is donating 5 condoms to HIV prevention efforts for MTV Staying Alive! LET'S DO THIS!!
Shawn is sporting a Freddie Mercury moustache to raise money for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Donations can now be made! $8 (£5.00) minimum through Saturday... for every $1 donated Durex is donating 5 condoms to HIV prevention efforts for MTV Staying Alive! LET'S DO THIS!!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  shawnbiggiveFBprofilepic.jpgI'm in the process of doing something I've never done before... I'm growing a Freddie Mercury moustache.

I'm revealing the moustache on World AIDS Day, December 1. Then, with your help we will, WE WILL rock AIDS together for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Because on December 4, 5 and 6 donations to this organization are doubled! So a generous donation of $10 will count as $20. (Don't worry, I'm not going to insult you by giving any more examples.)

I'm proud to be a board member for MTV Staying Alive- they support incredible work around the world and make a true difference in peoples' lives by funding community members to address the specific HIV needs where they live. And a little money goes a long way.
shawnfreddiegrowth.jpgI'll have details on how you can help very soon (UPDATE: now posted at top and bottom of this post), and will be posting growth progress. Right now it's a bit patchy, dawg. But with your good vibes I'm sure I'll be able to grow a stache that Freddie would endorse. And with your help, we will grow a moustache that harnesses the same kind of power that Freddie used to rock audiences.

We Are the Champions,
Shawn
___________________________________________________________________
Shawn is sporting a Freddie Mercury moustache to raise money for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Donations can now be made! $8 (£5.00) minimum through Saturday... for every $1 donated Durex is donating 5 condoms to HIV prevention efforts for MTV Staying Alive! LET'S DO THIS!!
bobbowerscouplestherapy.jpgLast month I posted a critical observation of VH1's reality TV show, Couples Therapy. The post was in regard to how castmember Evel Dick's HIV disclosure (in episode 5, "The Truth is Out There") was handled. Two weeks ago, however, the show really stepped up when they brought in long-time HIV advocate and AIDS asskicker Bob Bowers to give Dick some words of encouragement. (You can watch full episodes here- but the one referenced in this blog, "Meatball Problems", won't be available until Dec 4.)

bobbowersPOZcover.jpgBob has been living with HIV for three decades and has a no-nonsense approach to HIV education. He wears his heart on his sleeve, which is an impressive sleeve of ink I must say. I really admire his work, and I applaud Couples Therapy for giving Dick the opportunity to connect with Bob, who casually told his own story, offered his ear to Dick's concerns and also informed Dick about the facts about HIV transmission for those who take their HIV medications regularly and acquire an undetectable viral load.

I'm sure it was a revelation for Dick- and the issue of transmission, spoken in such detail in a relaxed manner, isn't something you see on TV very often.

Kudos to Bob, Dick, Dr. Jenn and VH1 for giving people the opportunity to learn more about HIV and how it affects people and their relationships.

Positively Yours,
Shawn




Pedro Zamora, Half A Lifetime Ago

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Today marks 20 years since Pedro Zamora passed. That's half my lifetime ago, but the loss still resonates with me because of Pedro's influence on my life and my work as an educator. His relationship with Sean Sasser on MTV's Real World showed me that a loving, healthy relationship with HIV was possible. Pedro's roommates reactions to his status were mixed in the beginning, but the solid friendships that grew (particularly with Judd Winick) made me realize how cool my friends would probably be if I ever spoke about HIV.

See, half my lifetime ago, when I "met" Pedro through his appearance on my television, I was a year and a half away from talking about my HIV status. At that time, in 1994, I'd spent pretty close to half my lifetime living with HIV... yet I'd never openly discussed my status, only when backed into a corner by my parents or at a doctor's appointment. Or when someone ratted me out to a girlfriend.

Pedro showed me that you can disclose on your terms. That HIV can just be an extension of who you are. If someone has a problem with your status, it's not your fault it's their ignorance that is the reason for the uneasiness.

His educational style was more straightforward and less laid back than the one that I would adopt after I spoke out; but in the pre-protease era, that's how you needed to reach people. I loved watching him educate on The Real World, then simply live his private life in public as he fell in love with Sean Sasser and shared laughs with Judd and his other roommates over silly, mundane things.

As I was watching from my parent's house where I was living at the time, my now-partner, Gwenn, was also tuning in. Her thoughts on Pedro:
"I remember watching the San Francisco season of the Real World between my freshman and sophomore year of college at my friend's house each week. When I went back to school that fall I also remember the day that Pedro Zamora passed. It was very soon after that I heard a young woman speak at my school who was HIV positive and that is where my journey to becoming an activist began. It's been 20 years today since Pedro's death and although I didn't know it at the time it was the precursor to my work."

When Pedro passed in the fall of 1994- the same day that the last episode of his season of the Real World aired, I was devastated. All of my fears of my own mortality, which I'd mistakenly thought I'd come to terms with, bubbled up. Throughout Pedro's journey, I was making baby steps towards a future I didn't think was for me: being open about my HIV status. But after he died I just wanted to go back to never thinking about HIV again, and I hated it for taking my new hero so abruptly.

Ironically, Pedro was a hero I couldn't even say was my hero: half my lifetime ago I was still so quiet about my HIV status.

A year after his passing, there was a Real World Reunion. Judd, Puck, Pam, Sean and the rest of the cast were there. Everyone except Pedro. Judd teared up and asked viewers to "do something" about HIV, anything. It was a desperate plea not only for himself, still grief-stricken, but also a call to arms that his friend, Pedro, would have given had he been there. I was in a lingering depression, one that would last a couple more months- 1994 had been tough, I lost pop culture heroes in Pedro and Kurt Cobain and was also blindsided by a hepatitis C diagnosis.

At the beginning of 1996, I was ready to answer Judd's call. I posted a website, outing my status once and for all. I began to hone my craft as a writer and develop an educational style that, like Pedro's, was just an extension of who I was.

And now it's a half a lifetime later. Pedro's not here in the physical sense, but his influence has stayed with me over the years. I have the love and the life I dreamed of when I was watching him and learning about his life; a journey he unselfishly shared. 

I'll never forget the doors he helped to open up for me in my own journey.

Positively Yours,
Shawn
At a recent amfAR fundraiser, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna showed up in risque and boob-revealing outfits. Which is the same thing as saying that President Obama showed up to a State of the Union address wearing a tie. Some people may have been put off- but the outfits turned heads and made headlines, thus making many fans of both artists aware that their heroes support the HIV/AIDS cause.

What's even better than that? The fact that Miley and Rihanna's hearts didn't just hide behind those breasts. Anyone who was upset by their appearance were quickly silenced by the generous donations that both stars made at the event, which helped amfAR raise over $3 million.

Being a rockstar isn't just about singing the songs, playing the shows, making the mad money or looking the part; being a rockstar is ultimately about rocking the world. And contributing money and raising awareness about the need for continued research for a cure for HIV is about as rockin' as it gets. I've been living with HIV since I was 11, a time when I fell in love with Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven on Earth" album. I want to live to see the day when HIV is cured- so myself and others can live the healthiest lives possible.

Now that's heaven on Earth, right?

Thanks again, Miley and RiRi. Big HIV-positive hugs to you both!

Positively Yours,
Shawn
thetoweling.jpgGary lays naked on his bed in his modest NYC apartment in the East Village. The window is cracked open and a breeze comes in as he channel surfs. He shouts towards the cracked bathroom door that is several feet from the bed. "Save some hot water for me!" Gary tugs the sheet with his toes, managing to cover his knees without the use of either hand. "Don't pretend you can't hear me... ACE?" A loud laugh echoes from the shower. "You jackass," Gary says as he sighs, speeding through the channels before landing on a friendly face. "Oh, Anderson- now we're talking."

The water stops.

"Alright Gary, it's all yours-"

"Shhhhhhhhhh," Gary yells out. "It's the Coop!"

"Then pause that shit, Gary." Ace grabs a toothbrush, squeezes some paste onto it and hurriedly begins to brush as Gary bursts into laughter.  "Whash sho funny?" No answer. Just more laughing.  "Paush it, Gauwee!!!" Ace spits into the sink and rushes to the bedroom, which is the living room as well. Gary manages to shift his attention from Anderson to Ace. "Sorry, you took too long, missed all the good parts." Gary says teasingly as Ace stands beside him, dripping wet and still naked.

"Back it up- I want to see something funny." Ace demands.

"I guess it's only fair that we both get to see something funny right now," Gary says, prompting Ace to suck in his stomach before making a play for control of the remote. They wrestle for it until Gary agrees to Ace's demands. "Alright, alright, I'll back it up, geesh... but shut up because you gotta hear this." 

Anderson Cooper throws to a clip of Pat Robertson from The 700 Club: "You might get AIDS in Kenya. The people have AIDS in Kenya. The towels could have AIDS."

"Oh my God, he didn't," Ace says, stunned.
"I know, right?"
"Back it up, I gotta hear that again," Ace says.
"Are you sure?" Gary asks with a smirk.
"Why not?"
"Because it looks like you're already too scared to use my AIDS towels."
"Oh shit," Ace says, looking down at the puddle of water at his feet. "sorry..."

Ace starts heading to the bathroom; but Gary stops him just long enough to grab a condom, wrapper and stack of tissues from the nightstand, plopping them into Ace's hand. Gary grabs Ace's elbow. "And don't forget to take your prep." "I never do," Ace replies.
 
"Any side effects?"
"No- two months in and I don't notice anything..."
"You know, Ace," Gary begins. "I'm undetectable, we use condoms... you don't have to-" "Shush, Gary," Ace says. "I'm not scared and don't mind. It's more for the guys out there who don't know their status, anyway, they're the ones I'm worried about."
"Well, you shouldn't be worrying about them at all," Gary says.
"Oh, ready to lock this down are we?" Ace asks.

Ace leans into Gary for a quick kiss before heading to the bathroom, where he discards the sex paraphernalia into the trash can before gazing into the mirror, shaking his head and smiling to himself. Ace flicks open the mirrored  cabinet door and retrieves a prescription bottle. Before he opens it, he looks around for a towel but doesn't see one. "Please don't tell me you are out of clean towels," he whispers to himself before squatting down to check the cabinets underneath the sink.

Nothing. 

"Gary, where are the--- Gary?"

As Ace emerges from the bathroom he sees Gary laying on the bed, only now he has a white towel over his face. "You goof, playing peek-a-boo with yourself?" Ace asks as he walks toward Gary. "Give me that-"

Before he can finish his sentence, the towel flies up from Gary's face and floats above the bed. Gary's eyes are open, but are lifeless and white. Ace stumbles back towards the bathroom, reaching behind him for the doorway as the towel floating above the bed takes on the form and physical characteristics of a bat, flapping its wings. Through the cracked window several more towels fly in and head straight for Ace, knocking him into the bathroom and sending him spiraling through the shower curtain and causing him to fall into the bathtub.

The bathroom door closes. The only sounds to be heard throughout Gary's apartment now is the crackle of city life on the streets below and Anderson Cooper sarcastically taking Pat Roberston's warning to task: "Overseas... everything overseas is bacteria... you just can't even imagine. I'm starting to think that we'd be better off not traveling at all."

-------------------------------------------------------
I want to thank everyone who made The Toweling possible, including my friend and horror author, Andy Deane. Andy generously donated $5 to my cause when I posted that my towels had AIDS on Facebook in a desperate attempt to swindle his Friends out of money. Without his contribution this story would not have been possible. Please repay him by buying his music (new Bella Morte album, Exorcisms is out NOW on CD and vinyl!) and real horror books (including The Sticks!).

I'd also like to thank Pat Robertson and Anderson Cooper for their roles. Without Pat's imagination stories like The Toweling would not be possible.

---- Check out the POZ Staff Blog to see video clips of Anderson Cooper and Pat Robertson discussing AIDS towels----


My Hep Story

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When people think of my medical conditions there tends to be a pecking order... HIV gets top-billing, then hemophilia (raise your voices, my fellow thinbloods!)... and at the end of the line is poor ol' hepatitis. Hep allowed me to share my story about how hepatitis has affected my life on their Hep Stories page.

It's been an interesting journey. As a kid, I forgot I even had hepatitis B because hemophilia cast a much bigger shadow on life. Then, as an adult living with HIV and dipping my toes into combination therapy, hepatitis C influenced my decision to take it easy on my liver and do a week on/week off schedule with my HIV medications. (Though I've been taking my HIV meds continuously and without interruption since 2013, I wrote about my week on/off strategy for POZ in 2009.)

See, there I go again. Linking to an article about HIV when this is supposed to be hepatitis's time to shine. I better wrap this blog entry before hemophilia starts to get jealous, causing a spontaneous nosebleed or an erection that lasts for more than 4 hours.

Positively Yours,
Shawn


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Since 2000, Shawn and Gwenn have been speaking about sexual health together, sharing their personal story and empowering others to be safe. If you are interested in having them speak at your event, fill out the Contact Us form.
 

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