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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."
Let's get real. This is not the first time Nash Grier-the 16-year-old viral Vine sensation--has made waves for his less-than-tactful presence on social media. But this time, it seems LGBT advocates and the HIV communities have had enough of the sexist, now apparently homophobic/AIDSphobic teen.

Grier's latest scandal started in April, TMZ reports, when the North Carolina teen (who boasts more than 8.7 million followers on Vine, making him the most popular account on the video-sharing app), decided to post up a video featuring a snippet from a commercial for the HIV test OraQuick.

In the commercial, two men say (rightfully so, may we add): "Testing for HIV. It's not a gay thing."

Then, the Vine video quickly cuts to Grier, who hurls out this homophobic slur straight into the camera: "Yes it is, F**!"

Grier apparently deleted the post shortly after it went up. But fortunately, the Internet never forgets. Somewhere along the line, Vine user MuneralsFab got a hold of the slur and re-posted it, Gawker reports. Soon after, it was re-shared by another online star: LGBT YouTube advocate, Tyler Oakley, who was appalled enough by the Vine to send out a massive Twitter blast against Grier.

Below is Oakley's tweet and Grier's now-infamous video:

Oakley's blast made its rounds across social media over the holiday weekend, prompting a Twitter apology from the now-infamous teen. But HIV advocates have joined in on the fight against the Grier's message. HIV Equal, an anti-stigma social media campaign, recently made this official statement about the debacle:
"HIV is not just a gay thing. It's a woman thing, it's an African-American thing, it's a Latino thing--it's something that affects everyone in every community," said Gary Blick, MD, the co-founder of HIV Equal.

"Our youth need to be made aware that stigma against a disease or a community of people is not something that we, as a society, will tolerate," said Tyler Curry, senior editor of HIV Equal online. The organization has also been blasting back against the teen by posting their own anti-stigma messaging to help raise awareness about the truth around HIV/AIDS.


Yes, it's true that men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for 63 percent of new infections in 2010--according to the latest stats available from the CDC--with most of those infections occurring among MSM of color between ages 13 and 24. But for those of you who are confused about why Grier's Vine created so much uproar (aside from the F word), here are some other real facts about HIV/AIDS in the United States:

  • Women accounted for nearly 20 percent of new HIV infections in 2010.
  • 84 percent of HIV infections among women are through heterosexual contact.
  • 24 percent of people living with HIV in 2009 were women.
  • Since the beginning of the epidemic, almost 85,000 people who contracted HIV through heterosexual sex have died.

No news is not good news. In all of 2013 and the first quarter of this year, "cable evening news shows devoted scant time to covering...HIV/AIDS," writes Media Matters. An analysis by the watchdog group found that CNN featured 11 segments on the topic in 2013, while Fox and MSNBC each aired four--and less than half featured expert commentary.

It wasn't always so. For a contrast, go to YouTube and watch the hour-long "1982--1992 News Clips on HIV/AIDS (the First Ten Years)." It's one of many compilations by SuchIsLifeVideos, a.k.a. Dave Evans, who is always searching the Internet for relevant clips and then posting his findings so we can all enjoy them.

His SuchIsLifeVideos channel on YouTube includes much more than HIV/AIDS. You'll discover fascinating clips about bullying, activism, hate groups and gay history, to name a few topics.

In fact, we've spent many a lunch hour engrossed in SuchisLifeVideos. They're entertaining, inspiring and educational. In the process, we started to wonder what compels Evans to do this time-consuming work. So we contacted him and asked a few questions:

What inspires you to find, compile and post these videos?
Growing up in the '70s and '80s in a conservative town, I didn't know or want to know what was going on in the gay community. I was painfully in the closet, and AIDS kept me there until 1992. I'm embarrassed to say it wasn't until I saw President George W. Bush preempt a TV program [in 2004] with his speech against same-sex marriage that I really started to pay attention. California's Prop 8 [when voters in 2008 repealed marriage equality] was when I really became almost obsessed with politics and started my YouTube channel.
For three years I uploaded every hateful thing that someone said on TV about the gay community. The blogs ate them up, but it took a toll on me and I stopped for about a year. My true interest became the history of gay rights. I wanted to know what life was like for other generations. I watched countless movies and documentaries, and I thought, "I'm going to do what little I can to keep the stories alive." I guess I've developed a talent for finding clips that weren't already on YouTube.

How do you find the content?
As I learn about our history, I search for certain people or events on news sites or I purchase shows from many collectors. Filmmaker David Weissman [We Were Here] sent me a message saying I have amazing footage and asked how I got it. I'm always scouring the Internet basically.

What have you learned by compiling these clips?
I learned the names and faces of many activists who paved the way for the rest of us. I learned of the sacrifices. Without knowing them personally, I still have a great affection and appreciation for them.

Here's the hourlong compilation of HIV/AIDS news clips from 1982-1992.

And in honor of Gay Pride--this June marked the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots--here is a compilation of LGBT news clips from the 1970s.

By Benjamin Ryan (Editor-at-Large, POZ/AIDSmeds/Hep)

bares2014image.jpgYou may recognize my byline from articles in POZ,, and With the official title of editor-at-large, I'm the science guy at the Smart + Strong publishing company, reporting on all the emerging research about HIV and hepatitis C.

I've been working or volunteering in the HIV field for just under two decades now. I started out as an intern at the Northwest AIDS Foundation (now Lifelong AIDS Alliance) in my native Seattle, and then was an HIV test counselor during my undergrad at Columbia University. For the past 13 years, I've covered the HIV epidemic as a reporter.

I also have a side life as a dancer, unusual as that may seem. I started studying jazz and theater dance 10 years ago and switched over to ballet seven years back. I recently spent a year studying intensively with Gelsey Kirkland's ballet studio here in Manhattan (while juggling duties at POZ--which was intense to say the least).

The highlight of my experience with dance has been the opportunity to perform in Broadway Bares, which is a lavish, glittering Broadway-style burlesque revue in New York City that benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Once a year a couple hundred dancers come together with hundreds of other choreographers, set and costume designers, and other crew members who all donate their time to create a one-night-only show unlike any other.

During my six years in Broadway Bares, the dancers have shown not just their astonishing talent, but their heart as well. They've become as passionate about fighting for the cause as they are about giving their all (and baring all) onstage. Leading up to the performance day, we participate in what is known as the "Stripathon," collecting donations for the cause. This year we raked in a record $430,000 toward the event's grand total of nearly $1.4 million.

As I was growing up, my parents--my father was a surgeon and my mother a teacher and academic--taught me two important qualities by their own example. One was to work as hard as you could on behalf of others' health and well-being, and the other was to jump at the chance to volunteer your time. Performing in Broadway Bares is uniquely meaningful to me because it dovetails my working and volunteering in the HIV arena with my passion for dance.

I took the following pictures backstage and during the dress rehearsals for Broadway Bares XXIV: Rock Hard!, which went down on June 22 at Hammerstein Ballroom and had a rock 'n' roll theme, taking audience members on a tour of classic artists such as Prince, Queen, Elvis, Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin--but with a naughty edge!


Ben Ryan backstage as a naughty beefeater from the Queen number

Chondra Profit as a "Black Cat" in the Janet Jackson number

Former Marine Alex Minsky in the Aerosmith number

Brandon Rubendall as Elvis

Casey Lee Ross in the Metallica number

Matthew Saldivar, Joey Taranto and the cast of the opening number, "Rock Hard!"

John Grant
John Grant
Gay singer-songwriter John Grant famous for his 2013 hit song "Pale Green" has teamed up with indie band Hercules & Love Affair to create a new track that delves deep into Grant's HIV-positive diagnosis.

The three-minute-long dark-pop dance track "I Try to Talk To You" isn't completely forthcoming with its hidden theme, but contains lyrics like "You didn't have to go / You didn't have to add this to the mix" and "You let them use you good / Then they turn around and say you're sick" that can help you figure it out.

According to the Joe.My.God blog, Andy Butler of Hercules & Love Affair said: "He tackled the story of becoming HIV positive, and while I mentioned to him that he did not need to go there if he was not comfortable, in that beautifully punky, spirited and courageous way he has about him, he told me that was what the song was going to be about."

Take a listen and tell us what you think:


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  • Joe Hardy: I work at Walt Disney World and had the honor read more
  • Michael Johnson: Rest in Peace Joan. I miss her so much already. read more
  • Vic Russell: I find this whole thing to be a bit beyond read more
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  • Morgan Molthrop: Dear William, Teresa, David and Jamie - Thanks for your read more
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