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demetre_david.jpgIn a new video series from the Greater Than AIDS campaign titled #AskTheHIVDoc, longtime HIV physicians Demetre Daskalakis, MD, and David Malebranche, MD, answer questions from gay men about HIV/AIDS and sexual health.

Check out their first introductory video and watch the entire playlist:

Or, you can check out each of the videos here:
Does My Doc Need to Know I'm Gay?
Swab My Butt!
Top or Bottom?
How Would I Know?
Is PrEP Right for Me?
What Does it Mean to Be "Undetectable"?
Let's Do It!
How Often?
Post Hook Up Worries?
Sharing Meds?
HIV Positive? What's Next?
But I Don't Feel Sick...?

By Jennifer Morton (Managing Editor, POZ/AIDSmeds/Hep)

This morning I came across two stories on the topic of sex education. The first was a Huffington Post article about a recent outbreak of chlamydia at a high school in the Crane Independent School District (CISD) in Texas. Sex education is not part of the high school's curriculum, but each fall it offers a three-day course that emphasizes abstinence. According to the CISD student handbook:

State law requires that any instruction related to human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome must:
  • Present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age;
  • Devote more attention to abstinence from sexual activity than to any other behavior;
  • Emphasize that abstinence is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and the emotional trauma associated either [sic] adolescent sexual activity;
  • Direct adolescents to a standard of behavior in which abstinence from sexual activity before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; and
  • If included in the content of the curriculum, each contraception and condom use in terms of human use reality rates instead of theoretical laboratory rates.

The second story was about a post on IMGUR by Jordan Fridman, a young woman in Montreal, which read: "Two years ago today, my then 14-year-old sister got suspended for submitting these answers for her sex-ed class. I'm so proud of her."

Here are her sister's creative responses to the sex-ed questionnaire called "Objections to Condoms":

Mariah Fridman sex ed answers

While it is unclear if her sister, Mariah, was actually suspended (her Facebook page suggests otherwise and any punishment was likely due to the use of explicit language), it's refreshing to see a school asking students to tackle these types of real-life scenarios.

Sex is fun and pleasurable, and many kids are choosing to have it. Instead of pushing abstinence-only sex education in our schools, let's instead empower students with the ability to make their own decisions and provide them with the fact-based knowledge to help them navigate their choices. Just like Mariah Fridman.

By Kate Ferguson (Editor-in-Chief, Real Health / Senior Editor, POZ)

REDPOWER_cover_flyer.jpgWhen I attended the recent Red Pump Project program on Tuesday, March 10th, I was looking forward to listening to the discussion at an event that's held each year on this date. Red Pump Project programs recognize National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Six years ago two women launched Red Pump Project as a social media campaign that eventually blossomed into this nonprofit organization. The mission of the Red Pump Project is to educate women and girls about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and reduce the stigma associated with the virus. The event on this wonderfully, finally snow-free evening was a program that featured a panel of dynamic women who are veteran HIV/AIDS experts, activists and advocates committed to continuing the conversation about a disease that still has yet to be eradicated.

RED PUMP_PANEL.JPGFrom left to right: Deborah Bosier; Aletha Maybank, MD, Chareeah K. Jackson, Hydeia Broadbent, Rowena Johnston, PhD, and Deborah Levine

Watch highlights from the event:

The panel of women included Dr. Aletha Maybank, the assistant commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; HIV/AIDS activist and Ampro ProStyl brand ambassador Hydeia Broadbent; Chareeah K. Jackson, the lifestyle and relationships editor at Essence, Dr. Rowena Johnston, VP of research at amfAR, Debra Bosier, a program manager at Iris House; Deborah Levine, executive director of Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education and communications director of the National Black Women's HIV/AIDS Network; and Lolisa Gibson, an HIV/AIDS advocate and educator.

The event took place at the Time and Life Building in New York City. When you stepped off the elevator on the eighth floor and swept through the doors into a reception area, finger foods, sweets and information about community events beckoned from small tables where they lay waiting. I loaded some of this and that on a plate and scooped up flyers and glossy promo cards then walked into the discussion area. This area was for the panel set up on a stage that faced rows of chairs in a formation that invited open forum-style sharing from the audience. It was the kind of safe, supportive environment that the Red Pump Project strives to create for its programs.

As women milled about, some wandered in to find a seat, or to sit with friends and acquaintances, where they chatted in between bites of food. The evening assumed the air of a mellow, laidback gathering humming with good vibes.

Unfortunately, I didn't wear my red pumps. (Actually, I'm not sure if I even have a pair.) But as the hosts of the event reminded the audience several time, the message of the Red Pump Project is more than about fashion and style. But I sure didn't mind being treated to the fashionable display of interesting red pumps and shoes every which way I looked. (Some even pulled a few unexpected ooohs and aaahs from my mouth.)

HYDEIA_1.JPGHIV/AIDS activist and Ampro ProStyl brand ambassador Hydeia Broadbent

Then the evening kicked off. As the speakers were introduced and spoke, a clear focus emerged: Women should put themselves first and get tested for HIV/AIDS so they know their status. Maybank stressed that this agenda must continue being pushed because there is still so much misinformation and ignorance about the virus. She also warned that women have to regain their sense of being a "collective" by reaching out to other women and girls.

"Some people are thinking if I don't have vaginal sex, they can't get infected," Levine said. She suggested that a supportive approach can be as simple as women and girls sitting around the "kitchen table simply talking about these issues."

Bosier stressed that, at Iris House, her conversation with women is focused on letting them know they do have choices when they need to make decisions. "No glove, no love," she advised. Bosier also said that she works with a lot of younger women and too many of them think they're invulnerable. At Iris House, she said, one of her favorite discussions is the "condom talk" she gives women. "I say to them that prevention is power," Bosier said.

HYDEIA PUMPS.JPGOh yes, we can't forget those red pumps! Hydeia Broadbent rocked these classic cut-out styled heels.

Broadbent and Gibson spoke about their experiences as women living with HIV/AIDS and discussed how the virus has affected their lives. As a single woman living with the virus, Broadbent discussed the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and how she's negotiated relationships and dating. Gibson talked about meeting her husband and how they handled their relationship as a serodiscordant couple. She also discussed becoming a mother and giving birth to an HIV-negative child.

Johnston discussed how antiretroviral treatments have changed during the past few years. She also reiterated the message about the importance of getting tested for HIV. "Get tested and continue getting tested," she said. "Get educated about the virus, and if you're negative stay negative."

She also discussed the role gender inequality plays in the home and at work and how this contributes to the transmission of HIV. Women must make themselves a priority, she said. In addition, she believes it's key for women scientists to do more research on the effects of pre-exposure prophylaxis, a.k.a. PrEP, on women who are HIV-negative.

In general, I thought this annual Red Pump Project event and panel discussion was an exceptional program. But as I looked around the room and on the stage, I thought how great it would be if programs like this one could also include male voices.

When the issue of relationships and HIV are discussed, educating and empowering women are certainly worthwhile goals. But women are just one-half of the equation. Many of us are in relationships with men, so, given that reality, discussions like these seem like missed opportunities when men aren't reflected in the conversation and seemingly aren't actively engaged in sharing the mission to do their part to also raise awareness about the effect of HIV/AIDS on the women and girls in their lives.

Remembering Vinny Allegrini


By Jennifer Morton (Managing Editor, POZ/AIDSmeds/Hep)

POZ is saddened by the loss of our dear friend Vinny Allegrini, who died on March 4, 2015, at age 66. He is survived by his beloved husband of nearly 20 years, Mark de Solla Price. (Mark was a technology consultant for POZ from 1998 to 2006.)

Diagnosed with HIV in 1989, Vinny played a part in the pages of POZ history. In our February/March 2001 issue, Mark chronicled the couple's journey for a liver transplant in the feature "Liver Lovers." After years of living with HIV and chronic hepatitis B, Vinny had developed cirrhosis of the liver and a transplant seemed to be his only option. (At the time, only 13 HIV-positive people had ever received a liver transplant.) His friend Gregory volunteered to donate part of his liver, "Because Vinny is an amazing person."

Gregory Dean (left) with Vinny (seated) and Mark

Amazing indeed. Vinny had a strong soul. Although he ended up not getting the liver transplant, the former hairdresser spent more than 25 years staving off one health condition after another. But Vinny was the true comeback kid: He fell down and then got up again and again and again.

Vinny was also featured in the August 2006 POZ article "Vital Signs," which highlighted individuals who had survived the odds despite great adversity. Vinny had this to say about his long-term survival:

"Giving up has never entered my mind. More than once, my doctors have said, 'Your chances aren't good.' Each time, I've said, 'I'm not going to let this get in my way. One day at a time,' I say. Today was a good day. Tomorrow's another day. I dream each day of returning to my passion of cutting hair."

Vinny Allegrini 2

Vinny lived his life filled with passion, and his survival was an inspiration to many. When I saw him at various events over the years, I was always amazed by his strength. And amazed by the tales of his latest health battle.

Luckily, Vinny had another amazing person by his side: his husband, Mark. The couple got married before gay marriage was legal, and then did it again when they could make it official. They wrote their vows in Central Park's Strawberry Fields. They supported each other in sickness and in health--and dealt with a heck of a lot along the way. But their love for each other only grew stronger over the years. Mark and Vinny shared their touching love story in our January/February 2013 article "Heart to Heart."

But Vinny's best moment in POZ history probably had to be when he bared it all on our May 2004 cover. For our 10th anniversary issue, POZ asked the artist Spencer Tunick--known for his large installations of naked people--to create an image for our cover featuring HIV-positive individuals. Vinny and Mark (along with 78 others) gathered at Florent restaurant in the West Village on a cold, February morning and dared to reveal it all. Not only was the moment captured on our cover, HBO made a documentary film about the event, Positively Naked, in which Mark and Vinny were one of the featured couples.

And that was just one of Vinny's many adventures. He truly lived a wonderful life.

Rest in peace, Vinny. Your struggle is over.

A Celebration of the Life of Vinny Allegrini
Sunday, March 22, 2015, at 3 p.m.
First Unitarian Universal Congressional Society of Brooklyn Heights
48 Monroe Place
, Brooklyn
For more information, click here.

Let There Be Love


By Jennifer Morton (Managing Editor, POZ/AIDSmeds/Hep)

artists at LPW event-2.JPG

A couple of weeks ago I attended one of three papermaking valentine workshops in New York City hosted by Visual AIDS, the Fire Island Artist Residency, Dieu Donné and the International Community of Women Living With HIV (ICW). Last week, more than 100 handmade valentines were sent to women with living with HIV around the word as part of an ongoing project called LOVE POSITIVE WOMEN (LPW).

artists at LPW event-1.JPG

LPW was created in 2013 by Jessica Lynn Whitbread, an HIV artist and activist who is also the community relations and mobilization manager of ICW. 
The project is an international series of grassroots events that uses Valentine's Day as a backdrop, creating a platform for individuals and communities to engage in public and private acts of love and caring for women living with HIV.

artists at LPW event-3.JPG

This year the theme of LPW is "Romance Starts at Home" and the ICW is encouraging individuals and organizations to publicly show how they love positive women. Here are some suggestions:

  • Host a valentine-making event and send them to women living with HIV.

  • Host a potluck dinner and movie night for positive women.

  • Record a video message declaring your love for positive women and put it on YouTube.

  • Make an e-Valentine for positive women and post it on Facebook.

  • Bake cupcakes and take them to your local AIDS service organization.

  • Make a donation to ICW.

LPW poster.jpeg

The annual project is a call to action to show how women living with HIV can practice self-love, support and care, and also how allies can show their love and support for HIV-positive women on Valentine's Day.

"Taking the time to do something for someone else is really beneficial to society as a whole," says Whitbread. "Don't underestimate the value in something as simple as sending a valentine to a stranger."

jennifer at LPW event.JPG

So spread some love this Valentine's Day. I know how good it felt to make those paper valentines.

To find out more about the campaign, visit LPW on Facebook.

By Casey Halter

On Friday, February 6, POZ checked out the opening of Lust for Life, a new HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaign celebrating NYC street artists.

Put together by ONE Condoms, Urban Outfitters and renowned graffiti artist Billi Kid, the exhibit features 22 artists who have been working hard over the last few weeks to transform replica stop signs into powerful messages about HIV prevention and safer sex.

The striking works of one-of-a-kind art are being auctioned off online to benefit Lifebeat, a national nonprofit organization that provides HIV outreach and support to young people in urban communities. ONE Condoms is also using the designs to launch a new condom line that will be sold across the country to benefit HIV outreach.

lustforlife1.JPGLust for Life's kickoff party took place in the heart of Manhattan's Herald Square and featured live graffiti art, turntable beats, and free beer from local distillery Brooklyn Brewery. While navigating the crowds at the very hip, very crowded event, we caught up with the exhibit's main artist, curator, and idea man, Billi Kid, to talk about the campaign:

 POZ: How did you get involved in HIV/AIDS awareness and this project with ONE Condoms?

Kid: It goes back to my years in school here in New York. I went to Parsons and I was good friends with Ali Gertz. She was a wonderful designer, very smart, very affluent girl and she was one of the first women activists to talk about HIV/AIDS. At the time it was a gay disease, and she was one of the first activists to kind of promote the idea that HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. That was kind of my first introduction to this terrible disease. And then throughout the years in New York and my career in advertising post-Parsons, I've had many friends and colleagues who have succumbed to HIV/AIDS.

I've done my part wherever I can, contributing either at work or with money, but I've never done something where I took initiative. This project came out when I met ONE Condoms and decided that there was still one pocket that needed awareness, which is the urban community. I'm a curator, I'm a street artist and I work with a lot of other street artists. Our concept was that if we created a peer-to-peer program, we might cut through the clutter of communication and actually make a difference.

POZ: How did you curate the group of artists who are contributing to the show today?

Kid: Most of them are based in New York. These are the artists that I come to time and time again: great friends, super-talented people that can take a concept and actually run with it.

[The line-up of artists who contributed to the Lust for Life campaign include Shiro, Skewville, Street Grapes, URNY, Veng RWK, Cope2, ChrisRWK, Col Wallnuts, The Dude Company, Chris Stain, Joe Lurato, Gumshoe, El Sol 25, Chris Uphues, Fumero, Raquel Echanique, Peat Wallaeger, Cake, Cern, David Cooper, and Elle]

POZ: What types of messages are you guys trying to put out with these stop signs?

Kid: In a lot of the work that I do as a curator, I like to provide the same canvas to the artists: I love to see what the outcome is when everyone is given the same assignment, the same blank paper. In this case it's a stop sign, and I think that symbolism, in itself, already has a message. So I didn't want them to focus on a particular "Stop AIDS" message, but instead, really focus on their art and then use social media and their social networking skills to get it out to their peers. I think the main goal of it is that if you succeed in reaching these people, then maybe the stop sign will take a different symbol. Next time, perhaps when you see a stop sign, you'll think of this program.

POZ: Why street art? What's the benefit of using this medium to help raise AIDS awareness?

Kid: In terms of urban communities, this is one area that really hasn't been well-marketed to in terms of safe sex and sex messaging. There's still a stigma around the use of condoms and I think our use of creative talent in the urban communities creates a new peer-to-peer program, so it's basically talking to our younger brothers and sisters.

POZ: How can people, both in NYC and elsewhere, get involved with Lust for Life? 

Kid: One of the great things that our partner, ONE Condoms, is doing is that it took some of the artwork and created condom packaging with it. Those will be distributed across the nation at urban clinics, along with safe-sex messaging. Our hope is that if the campaign grows--and it's already getting a lot of buzz on social media--that other partners will come into the fold and we can follow suit in other cities, San Francisco perhaps, or Chicago, and then to go beyond Life Beats and reach out to other organizations that cater to HIV/AIDS awareness in the urban communities.

lustforlife4.JPGThe Lust for Life stop signs will be on display at the Urban Outfitters store in NYC's Herald Square through Friday, February 20. The online auction for the signs ends that day at 5 p.m. Visitors to the store are encouraged to post photos of the artwork on social media using #LustforLife #DonateOne and @onecondoms. For every post, one condom will be donated to an urban HIV outreach program.

For more information about the HIV/AIDS awareness initiative, check out ONE Condoms' Lust for Life campaign on the web.


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