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 […]

We Must Talk About Having Diarrhea

I am the least likely person to be writing about diarrhea. Just typing the word is mortifying. I needed spell check just to get it right. It’s the double “r” that trips me up. My discomfort discussing anything butt-related is well documented, but this is important. Here’s why. One in five people living with HIV suffers from chronic diarrhea. That’s too many, and I happen to be one of them. Many of us figure that if the meds are working and we’re healthy, then gastrointestinal problems simply come with the territory. Remember the HIV drug Kaletra? What a nightmare. When […]

Candidate Kevin Mack Opens Up about Life with HIV

The garden party fund-raising event last month in Montgomery County, Maryland, had all the usual markers of a political candidate on the rise. Well-dressed children frolicked on the lawn of the stately home while guests helped themselves to finger foods and glasses of wine. Several elected officials made appearances. There was even an iconic Olympic athlete in attendance, good-naturedly taking selfies with fans. But something that might have been unthinkable only a few years ago was about to happen. Kevin Mack, an openly gay candidate running for the Maryland House of Delegates in the 15th District, has a personal story […]

Surviving Life Itself

I am a 57-year-old gay man. I have survived things. In the decades since AIDS began murdering my friends, I have faced a host of perilous circumstances apart from my own HIV infection, including a car crash, drug addiction, serious medical procedures, and weapons pointed in my direction. Like everyone else, positive and negative alike, I am a survivor of life itself. My status as a long-term HIV survivor does not make me a champion or a museum piece to be examined and admired. I am a man in the prime of his life. My age and maturity guide me, […]

Redemption After Meth Addiction Catching up with revered AIDS doctor Gabriel Torres

The article appeared in New York magazine in 2008. I remember it quite distinctly. Titled “Another AIDS Casualty” and written by David France, the profile of once-famous New York AIDS physician Dr. Ramon “Gabriel” Torres was a heart-wrenching read. The story outlined a horrifying downward spiral brought on by Torres’s meth addiction, a habit he had picked up in the mid-1990s just as new HIV medications were calming the mortal tidal waves that Torres had been fighting for years in his role as director of AIDS programs at St Vincent’s Medical Center in New York City. Torres fell from a high perch, having […]

I Wrote ‘The Truth About the 7,000’ What now?

  It began with a death and a lingering question. After a friend – an advocate who knew what to do to stay alive – died of an AIDS-related cause a few months ago, I was left wondering why. Together with other deaths in the news of people “unexpectedly” dying the same way, it felt like a tragic trend. Fortunately, Poz magazine editor Oriol Gutierrez encouraged my instincts that there might be a larger story here. I wanted to know who the 7,000 people are who die of AIDS-related causes in the USA each year, and why it happens. In […]

Racquetball as an Exercise in Humility

  My friend Jon is a gracious winner, as well he should be. He’s had a lot of practice. During the months we have been playing racquetball together, I have never won a game. Not one. I hate Jon so much. I like to play games I can win, which is why I have a ping-pong table in the basement and will invite anyone who visits to play a game. I’m a great ping-pong player. If you say you haven’t played in years or that you aren’t very good, I will talk you into a friendly game anyway and yes, […]

An AIDS Survivor, Barely Surviving

Sam Cooper, a shell-shocked gay veteran of the 1980s, has invited Braeden, a much younger man, out for a hamburger after their sexual tryst. Braeden has been mindlessly chattering about his life and friends and how he negotiates casual sex outside his relationship. Hookups carry no more weight for Braeden than the phone he uses to find them. When he was younger, Sam pointedly responds to the pleasant but unequipped Braeden, all of Sam’s friends were dying. He went to funerals twice a week. Sam delivers these facts with a satisfied but weary glare across the table toward his companion. Braeden looks […]

Hooray! HIV Stigma is Over!

Oh, to be a Hollywood producer. High-powered meetings and mimosas. Swimming pools. Movie stars. And as far as the eye can see, not a single person living with HIV experiencing stigma. That’s the candy-colored scenario presented by Brad Simpson, one of the executive producers of the FX series “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” as part of a radio interview on NPR’s “Here and Now” on Wednesday, January 31st. Simpson and co-producer Nina Jacobson were being asked about the objections of the Versace family to their fictionalized account of the last days of Gianni Versace, including the suggestion that Versace was HIV-positive. Brad Simpson defended […]

Why Are We Still Haunted by The Boys in the Band ?

When I was 15 years old in the mid-1970s, I couldn’t wait to attend a local community theater production of The Boys in the Band. I was intrigued by the play’s dark and mysterious reputation and had heard that it included a lot of homosexuality (funny how that word isn’t used much anymore). It sounded like exactly what this budding young queer needed: some lessons about the yellow brick road ahead. I didn’t like what I saw. The characters, a group of gay men celebrating a birthday, were mean and sad and angry with one another. And they were all presented […]