As Timothy Ray Brown Faces Death, a Great Love Endures

Tim Hoeffgen did a quick google search of his Scruff date as he headed over to meet him. Tim was living in Nevada in early 2013, and the guy he had been chatting with on the dating app looked a lot like the man who was on the cover of the LGBTQ newspaper in Las Vegas that week. When the door opened, Tim realized his hunch was correct. Greeting him was Timothy Ray Brown, the first man in history cured of HIV and the intense focus of scientific and public fascination around the world.  “I was charmed immediately by his personality,” Tim […]

COVID-19? Blame the Fire Island Gays

The judgment of the social media gods, decreed Monday morning, was withering and furious: the buff gay men on the Fire Island beach over the holiday weekend were nothing less than suicide bombers. Virtuous gays everywhere watched the video posts of these gurls gone wild and gagged on their signature Hamilton cocktails. Long-term HIV survivors rushed to their keyboards to elbow themselves into the outrage, aghast at our short memories of the dangerous AIDS crisis years which, to be fair, happened before most of this set of revelers were born. Let’s all inhale a deep, healing breath, shall we? Now […]

I Am Racist, and That’s a Good Place to Start

There is a fact I have always wanted to argue. I thought I was different from those other white men. If you just had let me explain, just let me tell you about me, me, me, then you would surely see the real truth for yourself, proven by my decades as an HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ activist. The truth, as it turns out and as it has always been, is that I am racist. It has been beyond question all along. None of us raised white in this country can escape the fact we benefit from this system and are socialized […]

I Am Freaked Out and I Want My Mom

The first time it happened, a couple of weeks ago, I was waking up from a nap. My eyes were moist. The dream began to fade but the emotion lingered, and so did the central image. Mom was standing in the kitchen, looking at me fondly, saying something reassuring. It doesn’t matter what. It was Mom. She died three year ago. The memory of her aches. Especially now. Even though I keep saying I am fine during this isolation, even with the privileges I enjoy, the house and the stocked fridge and the attentive husband, my dreams know better. They tell […]

Nursing Student Faces COVID-19 at Work and Fears at Home

There are trials by fire, and then there are trials by wildfire. Nursing student Brian Thomas never imagined his on-the-job education would transform into fighting on the very front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, or that he would be forced to take extreme safety precautions each time he arrived home from his internship at a large medical institution in Baltimore. “I walk into my house and strip down to my underwear at the door,” said Brian, who lives with his boyfriend and two roommates. “I leave my shoes outside, use Lysol on everything I touch, and walk to the laundry room to […]

The Very Best of Humanity is Coming. So is the Worst.

The flyer was in my mailbox, folded and placed by an unknown neighbor. “NEED CORONAVIRUS HELP?” it read, explaining a local “Self-Quarantine Response Team” was here to support those “with compromised immune systems, those in quarantine – or even those who must work or have kids or feel isolated due to social distancing. Please retain this sheet,” it went on, “in the event you need help in the future and don’t hesitate to reach out!” I stood on my doorstep reading it, marveling at how quickly people who lived nearby had organized in the very first days of this growing […]

Stop Comparing Coronavirus to Early HIV/AIDS. Just Stop.

People ask me if our lives today feel like the early years of HIV/AIDS, and I want to scream.  There is no comparison. Just stop. No one cared about people dying of AIDS in the early years of the pandemic. The stock market didn’t budge. The President didn’t hold news conferences. Billions of dollars were not spent. In the early 1980’s, AIDS was killing all the right people. Homosexuals and drug addicts and Black men and women. There is no comparison to a new viral outbreak that might kill people society actually values, like your grandmother and her friends in […]

NMAC Changes Conference Name from AIDS to HIV…

First things first. I dont believe the national HIV agency,the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), acted thoughtlessly toward people living with AIDS  only one of the accusations leveled against them  when NMAC decided to change the name of their annual conference from The US Conference on AIDS to The US Conference on HIV. The announcement this week of the conference name change produced some visceral reactions, however, including the charge that NMAC had, in one fell swoop, increased exponentially the stigma faced by people living with AIDS. And it is that word, AIDS, tacked there at the end of the […]

How Dare Leo Herrera Pretend AIDS Never Existed?

What would the lives of gay men be like today if AIDS never happened? Filmmaker Leo Herrera’s answer to that question is a genre-busting web series “The Fathers Project.” A dreamlike mix of actual historical information and clever wish-fulfilment – with plenty of sex for good measure – Herrera’s series takes us on quite a fantastical journey (the complete series is included in one video, below). “Fathers” also gave me a strange pang of discomfort. As someone who has chronicled the epidemic since it began, there was a small but persistent voice in my head as I watched the series, […]

Italians Honored World AIDS Day

WHAT A DISTINCT PLEASURE to be in the company of spirited Italians for the week of World AIDS Day in early December. I was honored to be the guest of Plus Onlus, their national coalition of gay men living with HIV and their allies, and on Saturday, November 30th, they joined forces with Komos, the Bologna gay men’s chorus, for a night of music and advocacy that I will not soon forget. My role was to present three segments to the audience which filled the Teatro Testoni to the rafters: the past, present, and future of the HIV epidemic. I […]