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), […]

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 […]