A Teenage Girl Made a Film

When Ella Johnson made a video documentary about Greg Louganis for her National History Day project, she knew most of her fellow students would be shocked. Ella is a high school freshman in Whitehall, a very small town of the west coast of Michigan. It’s not a bastion of progressive thinking. Ella was right. Her classmates were not exactly enthralled by her choice of topic. But she’s used to it. “My video was met with the usual ‘stupid liberal’ comments,” Ella told me, “but my teachers were very impressed.” Ella has a thick skin for a 15-year-old. She has attended the Women’s March and proudly sports […]

A Medicare Change……

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, there were no medications to treat it. Not one. I never imagined that the medical community would achieve the advancements in HIV treatment and prevention we see today. In fact, President Trump actually proposed a plan in his State of the Union address to end the HIV epidemic in America by 2030. This lofty goal would be thwarted, however, by proposed changes to Medicare Part D that jeopardize the advancements we’ve made in the fight against HIV. I have lived with HIV for almost 35 years. I’ve dealt with more doctors, stubborn […]

Trump’s Cynical HIV Plan

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, so let’s hear it for the Trump USA team behind his master race plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. I’ve even included an actual photo of their meeting on January 6th with a diverse group of stakeholders. Oh, wait. Scratch that. I’m sure the people of color are in the room somewhere. Pouring coffee, perhaps? “Meeting today at HHS with the principal architects of the Administration’s plan to end HIV,” says the Facebook post with the photo from Carl Schmid, the hapless new co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). You remember PACHA. The council that […]

Ryan White Confab

“A Trump appointee walks into an AIDS conference” sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, doesn’t it? Just wait until you hear the punchline. It’ll kill you. The sight of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar standing before more than 4,000 public health and community-based providers of HIV services is shocking enough. Ludicrous is the word that comes to mind. Secretary Azar is one of the lesser-known names in the rogues’ gallery of Trump appointees, given that no outrageous charges of personal or professional corruption have maimed his tenure, at least not yet. He may actually […]

Once, When We Were Heroes

Each year, in honor of World AIDS Day on December 1st, I share my piece “Once, When We Were Heroes.” I will never, ever capture the early days of AIDS any better than this. I’m proud of it, yes, but it’s strange because I feel like I channeled it rather than wrote it. I think some old friends might have helped me with this one. Thanks for reading and for sharing this. MY BROTHER RICHARD smiles a lot. He has an easy laugh. But there was a time, years ago, when he held a poisonous drink in his hands and […]

What 5,000 Sex Phone Calls…… Taught me about gay men

The number might be a little low. Over the course of my “phone fantasy” career in the 1980s, I spoke to as many as ten customers in a given day, numbering in the many thousands over the years. That’s a lot of heavy breathing. It began when I was a struggling actor in Los Angeles and needed income. I went to work for a gay phone sex company, the kind that doesn’t really exist anymore, that predates hook-up apps or even the internet. Customers responded to ads in the gay skin magazines and, for what we would now consider an […]

This Drag Queen Will Steal Your Heart…

The Kinsey Sicks have been at this a long time. The a cappella singing group of gay men in drag are celebrating 25 years of performing shows that are equal parts camp comedy and very of-the-moment political humor. Benjamin Schatz is an original member of the group, appearing as his drag alter ego Rachel, a character with a penchant for putdowns and a lust for the spotlight. But there’s political humor and then there is true, mortal heartbreak. Benjamin, who writes much of the shows and lyrics, had something important to say, something that had weighed on his mind for many years. He […]

How HIV Activists Helped Create the Jeff Flake Elevator Moment

Very little happens by accident. The most iconic moments in HIV/AIDS activism – the appearance of the early SILENCE=DEATH meme, the footage of AIDS activist Peter Staley being peeled from a building during a protest, the photos of Sen. Jesse Helms’s home wrapped in an enormous condom – were the product of weeks of careful planning and design. So, too, were HIV activists involved in the soul-gutting footage of women confronting Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. It’s a fascinating story. At the recent “We, the Positive” summit in Jackson, Mississippi (hosted by the Mississippi Positive Network and My Brother’s Keeper), […]

Furor Over Int’l AIDS Confab Set for US

 It is every bit as absurd as it sounds. The International AIDS Society (IAS) plans to hold their global AIDS 2020 conference in San Francisco – an insanely expensive and privileged city located in a country that has become dangerously inhospitable to the very populations the IAS claims to serve. Thank goodness for a growing army of activists and organizations (under the banner of #AIDS2020forAll) who are demanding that the IAS remove the conference from the US. Maybe this all looks like inside baseball to you, a ruckus between factions, but I am here to tell you that this has everything to do with our […]

Five Takeaways from the 2018 US Conference on AIDS

The 2018 US Conference on AIDS (USCA) – the HIV advocacy, education and networking behemoth produced by the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) – is the benevolent and wealthy grandfather of the HIV conference scene. We adore him sincerely, we marvel at his station in the world and the fortitude that got him there, and we tread carefully. And sometimes, to our delight or to our chagrin, Grandpa does the damnedest things. The recent USCA in Orlando was no exception. Thousands of community HIV advocates converged in Orlando on September 6th to 9th for a highly professional event rich with corporate sponsors […]