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On a recent episode of The 700 Club, television's premier destination for religious bigotry since 1966, Robertson advised a viewer that while the chances of contracting Ebola in Kenya are slim (the closest the virus has gotten to Kenya is 68 cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an outbreak unrelated to the one in Western Africa), travelers should beware of AIDS-ridden towels. What? Yes.

Lucky for us, Anderson Cooper took him to task on his "RidicuList" segment on Anderson Cooper 360.

The takeaway:

Just to be clear, if you missed all the evidence, all the research, the depth and breadth of all the knowledge garnered about HIV and AIDS over the past three decades: You cannot get HIV if you share towels.

Thanks for being the handsomest voice of reason on cable news, AC.

Self-Determination Inside/Out
Some of the artifacts on display include issues of POZ
Photo credit: Interference Archive


Self-Determination Inside/Out is a new exhibition of cultural materials made by prisoners and their supporters as they struggled for justice within the prison system. The exhibit, which is at Interference Archive in Brooklyn, spans decades of history and sheds new light on both incarceration and the incarcerated. One of the curators is former POZ senior editor Laura Whitehorn, who became an advocate for prisoners while serving a 14-year sentence.

On display are publications, printed materials, and audio, film and video recordings made by people in and out of prison as they advocated for numerous causes, including the struggles of women and transgender people in prison. HIV/AIDS is part of that story, and the exhibit includes a 1988 press release by Mujahid Farid, one of the founders of the Prisoners Education Project on AIDS (PEPA). Farid sent out the press release following the transfer of PEPA co-founder David Gilbert to another prison "to punish him for the crime of helping to organize a prisoner-empowerment group," Whitehorn says. "PEPA was seen by the prison administration as posing a threat of prisoner organizing; after punishing the organizers, the administration eventually adopted the PEPA model, now known as PACE (Prisoners AIDS Counseling and Education)."
SDIO_posterMockUp-142x220.jpg
Also on display are issues of POZ magazine that profile the HIV advocacy work of incarcerated people. "Each [issue] shows some way incarcerated people affect HIV/AIDS work on the outside," says Whitehorn. "A theme of the show is that social justice movements have been affected deeply by struggles in the prisons."

Self-Determination Inside/Out runs through November 16 at Interference Archive, 131 8th Street No. 4 in Brooklyn. The archive, which collects cultural objects created as part of social movements, is open 1 to 9 p.m. Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information on the exhibit and the concurrent educational public programs, including lectures, reading groups, discussions and film screenings, visit the Interference Archive.

wearehere.jpgThe voices of black gay men in the South are being amplified--thanks to the We Are Here blog tour curated by the Counter Narrative Project and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance. Beginning on National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a new post is published daily by a different author who addresses another facet of life through the prism of his identity.

Explains Counter Narrative founder Charles Stephens in his inaugural post: "Our charge, not a simple one but an inspired one, [is] to assemble a diverse group of Black gay men's voices from or in the South, to speak to, provide perspective around, and ultimately bring visibility to our experiences."

The various bloggers take on topics like HIV criminalization, stigma, condom usage, and aging, writing openly about issues that heavily affect their community. University of Michigan grad student Kenneth M. Pass, considering his history of sex without a condom, writes, "We use condomless sex to survive the realities of being whom and what we are, to reassure ourselves that we are not void of love, eroticism, resilience and intimacy, and to exchange that reassurance with other men like us." And Robert Suttle, assistant director of The Sero Project (and a POZ blogger), writes movingly about "the profoundly stigmatizing effect of HIV criminalization" and his own experience being convicted under Louisiana's "Intentional exposure to AIDS virus" statute.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, black men who have sex with men (MSM) represent the second-highest rate of new HIV infections, and cases in the South have increased by 13.7 percent.

Follow the blog tour each weekday to read these unique stories from voices not often heard in the mainstream. Find out more about the Counter Narrative Project here and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance here.

Talk is not cheap. In fact it can save lives. When we talk about HIV, we can educate our peers, end stigma and inspire others. That's why we're excited about a new campaign called #SpeakOutHIV that was launched by Greater Than AIDS. The rate of new HIV infections among young gay men is increasing, and the campaign aims to personalize those stories and encourage everyone affected by the virus to talk about it. At the heart of #SpeakOutHIV is a 25-video series in which men 25 and younger open up about how HIV changed their lives. These young men created their own videos at a digital storytelling workshop in Washington, DC, earlier this month.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) ages 13 to 24 grew by 22 percent from 2008 to 2010. The CDC cites "the high proportion of young MSM (especially young MSM of color) who are unaware of their infection" as a factor contributing to the rise of infection in this population, a factor Greater Than AIDS is taking head-on with #SpeakOutHIV.

The entire 25 videos will be posted on YouTube on Saturday, September 27, in honor of National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Watch them at youtube.com/greaterthanaids. Share your own story using #SpeakOutHIV on social media from now through National Coming Out Day, October 11.

As you look back on the comedian's outrageous remarks, don't forget about her courageous work for HIV/AIDS causes.

Joan Rivers
Can we talk? Joan Rivers was loved and loathed for her mean-spirited humor. But her crass jokes often overshadowed her charity work for HIV/AIDS. Just turn to page 13 of our recent July/August issue and you'll find her. She's wearing a hairnet and apron because, as the write-up explains, she was helping "prepare the 15th million meal for God's Love We Deliver, which provides much-needed meals for New Yorkers living with severe illnesses, including HIV/AIDS." (Read our POZ web exclusive on the event here.)

Rivers, who died on Thursday, September 4, at age 81, was as comfortable working for HIV causes as she was working the red carpet. A 20-year board member of God's Love We Deliver and an even longer time supporter, she famously won $250,000 for that charity when she won Celebrity Apprentice in 2009.

In the early years of the epidemic, she was one of the first celebrities to headline in AIDS fundraisers. This was during the height of the AIDS panic, when fear and misinformation ruled the day and the virus was synonymous with homosexuality. Joan didn't care. She was fearless, she was smart, she was a gay icon.

While researching our September POZ Planet item on Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical (about the disco legend Sylvester), we came across this amazing YouTube clip of Sylvester on The Tonight Show, circa 1987, when Rivers was hosting. The two of them, along with Charles Nelson Reilly, reminisce about their early AIDS fundraisers and even chat about gay marriage. Can we talk--about trailblazers?

 

Rivers's AIDS advocacy is also covered over at Joe.My.God., with this amazing photo and post:

Joan+Rivers+1984.jpgFrom Karen Ocamb at Frontiers Magazine: "Joan Rivers was not only pro-gay - she was out in front raising money for people with AIDS very early on - when many were still terrified of the disease. She was featured on the cover of Frontiers Magazine promoting an AIDS fundraiser at Studio One in March 1984 that raised $45,000 for APLA, L.A. Shanti and Aid for AIDS."
While most folks will be remembering the comedian for her recent antics on Fashion Police and reality TV, let's not forget that under all the bitchiness and Botox, there beat the generous heart of a true ally for the HIV community.

We miss her so much already.
Morgan Molthrop
Photo credit: Brandon Willis

Morgan Molthrop, a former Wall Street executive, had the words "HIV Positive / Bipolar / Recovering Addict" tattooed on chest to disclose his bipolar disorder, addiction and HIV.

He had a portrait made of his tattoos, which he shared with POZ. He then asked us to help him spread the word about his disclosure -- and we agreed.

In his own words:

"As a former Wall Street executive with a law degree who taught Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure at New York University, I know something about disclosing bad news. I was one of the first openly gay people on Wall Street, back in the 1980s, when gay was equated with HIV.

"I didn't acquire HIV until later, during a period of bad judgement caused by drug addiction. It was the addiction that ultimately made it increasingly difficult for me to hide. Disclosing all of this to colleagues, family and friends over the years has been no picnic. I had to find a way to deal with treating the addiction at the same time I was disclosing it, which only compounded the complexity.

"When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it was the toughest fact to disclose and not made much easier even when I understood my addiction was in part a self-medicating effort to 'get ahead of my manic swings.' Mental illness is as, if not more, stigmatizing than many other stigmas. But my doctor said by stopping the drugs and alcohol, we could work on my brain, which he called "Touched With Fire," the title of a book by Kay Jamison about bipolarity and creativity that has had a big influence on me.

"Eventually we stabilized my mood swings with medication and therapy. The fear -- that I would lose my drive and creativity -- was counterbalanced by the fact that my life had fallen apart to such a degree, it was at a point where things could only get better. And it has. This year, I have two books coming out: Artist Spaces (UL Press 2014) and Jackson's Playbook, which will be serialized on Facebook.

"Today, I am honest with all brokers, as they say. I'm a proponent of full disclosure, but in a safe and supervised environment. I hope my story can help others understand that ignorant stigmatization should not derail you from your aspirations."


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