Christmas Stocking Auction raises funds for Legacy Founders Cottage

The annual Christmas Stocking Auction at the Round-Up Saloon on Sunday, Dec. 14 raised $19,000 for Legacy Counseling Center’s Legacy Founders Cottage. Founders Cottage provides hospice and rehabilitative care for people living with HIV.

—  David Taffet

Arizona pastor says cure for AIDS is gay genocide

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So-called “pastor,” Steven Anderson

Faithful Word Baptist Church Pastor Steven Anderson celebrated World AIDS Day 2014 by sharing with his Tempe, Az. congregation the cure for AIDS: kill all the gays.

According to RawStory.com, in a sermon he titled “AIDS: The Judgement of God,” said that the we could have an “AIDS-free world by Christmas” simply by following Old Testament scripture.”Turn to Leviticus 20:13, because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS. ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.’

“And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along. And they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and test. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant,” Anderson told his congregation Sunday, Nov. 30, the day before World AIDS Day,

In that same sermon, Anderson shouted out a furious denial of the idea that LGBT people can be Christian, declaring that “No homos will ever be allowed in this church as long as I am pastor here.”

But “the homos” aren’t the only folks Anderson hates. According to IfYouOnlyNews.com, he got in trouble with the Secret Service in 2009 after he posted a video online in which he openly prayed for President Obama to die (he did it again this year); he has preached that women have no purpose outside the kitchen and the bedroom and should certainly never speak in church; and he has preached that Jews are all vile liars.

If you have the stomach for it, here’s video of Anderson, first, calling for gay genocide, and second, declaring there will never be any homos in his church.
You can probably find more of his so-called sermons on YouTube; he seems to be quite proud of his ignorance, bigotry and hatefulness.

—  Tammye Nash

Tainted Love:

How HIV stigma is damaging our community today… and at least one way it could serve a higher purpose

By Lawrence Ferber

 

Editor’s Note: Some of the names and some details in this article have been changed.

Stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

Hearing the words “I’m HIV-positive” made Bryan freeze.

HIV-RibbonA 23-year-old graphic designer, Bryan had met a guy at a Manhattan gay club, a svelte 25-year-old tourist named Zach, with whom he danced, drank and laughed. Around 1 a.m., just before heading to Zach’s hotel for more private activities together, the tourist disclosed his positive HIV status.

His viral load was undetectable, successfully suppressed with a drug regimen to the point that there was low to no risk for transmission. He was clear of other STDs, and he had packed an ample supply of condoms.

Still, Bryan declined to go back with him, offering up a politely worded excuse rather than saying what he really thought: “I don’t sleep with HIV-positive guys.”

But Zach had heard those words, or variations on them, more than a few times since he had diagnosed a couple of years before. And he could see thetruth clearly in Bryan’s green eyes.

He felt like shit — judged and tainted. But while Zach wouldn’t lie and tell someone he was negative, he understood why so many others in his shoes did.

Bryan ended up hooking up later that same night at another bar with an architect-in-training from Chicago named Alex, who said he was negative.

Here’s the twist: When he turned Zach down that night, Bryan was actually already HIV-positive, even though he didn’t find out until about six months later. That’s when he went in and got tested for the first time in three years, having put off being tested because he was afraid of what he might find out, thanks to a bareback encounter with a man he met on Grindr, a man who deleted his Grindr profile the next day, disappearing as if in a puff of smoke.

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Matthew Rodriguez with the comprehensive HIV/AIDS resource website The Body, noted: “Stigma is really damaging on both ends. For negative people, stigma can sometimes stop them from getting tested. If they feel they did anything that put them at risk, they may not want to get tested because the result may be devastating.

“I think it also stops people from interacting with those living with HIV as full people,” he continued. “People just look at you as a status, as a virus. It can also stop people from going to the doctor or seeking treatment, because that’s admitting they have the virus.”

At best, HIV stigma can lead to emotional sting, lost connections and deep blows to self-esteem. At worst, it can cause life and career-threatening discrimination and behavior that is dangerous and destructive to oneself and to others.

A recent study by Houston’s LIVE Consortium on the topic of HIV stigma within the gay/bisexual male community was published in the International Journal of Sexual Health. It concluded that, “Because it is realistic to expect that in a climate in which HIV has become increasingly invisible and closeted and in which infections are on the rise [due to stigma], gay and bisexual men will be increasingly affected and infected by HIV.”

Numerous organizations and campaigns are addressing HIV stigma, from those created exclusively for that purpose, including the two-year-old The Stigma Project and HIV Equal, to online resources like The Body, Avert.org, and HIV Plus, to hookup apps like MISTER.

The latter, in collaboration with Michigan’s Mr. Friendly HIV nonprofit, allows members to declare a commitment to “Live Stigma-Free” and date individuals of any HIV status on their profiles.

Despite these, stigma is only getting worse within the LGBT community, a fact LIVE’s disheartening study backs up.

Olympic gold medal diver Greg Louganis, who is himself HIV-positive, said: “I find often that stigma is self-imposed, out of undeserved and unwarranted shame and guilt.”

Louganis has HIV-positive since the 1980s, and his life is chronicled in the new documentary, Back On Board, currently making the rounds at festivals.

“The biggest problem is it inhibits open communication,” Louganis said, “and we still in this society have a difficult problem talking about sex.”

Longtime AIDS activist Peter Staley, a subject of David France’s Oscar-nominated documentary How To Survive A Plague, describes stigma as, literally, a “viral divide between those who perceive themselves to be negative and those who are positive. There are a lot of negatives to living with HIV the rest of your life — having to keep your health insurance in order, meds, side effects — but the big one now is the stigma.”

He continues, “I think a large number of negative men, especially if younger, try to avoid HIV just by avoiding people with HIV. They think they’re protected by a kind of moral code where a positive guy would disclose. On the flipside, the positive guys are so threatened by that stigma that they keep their status a secret, and that perpetuates the false assumption by many negative guys there isn’t a lot of HIV in their world.

“They think it isn’t something playing out in their generation that much, even though it is.”

New Yorker Steven Colon, a 21-year-old videogame design student diagnosed with HIV this past summer, now knows this sobering reality firsthand. Prior to his seroconversion — because he preferred barebacking with some partners, Colon opted for frequent HIV testing to keep tabs on his status — Colon only had sex with partners who identified as HIV-negative. He says he didn’t choose to have sex only with HIV-negative men; it was just that none of his partners ever told him they were positive.

After finding out he was HIV-positive, Colon contacted his sexual partners, but none of them have come forward to say they were actually positive or that they have tested positive since.

“It’s a little upsetting I don’t know who it is,” he admits.

Colon, who promotes a monthly superhero/spandex/lycra-themed party at NYC’s Pieces bar (called Skintight USA), found some immediate support amongst a couple of friends who, coincidentally, also tested positive at about the same time.

Staley feels that a major failing with most anti-stigma campaigns is that they “preach to the choir” and so fail to reach their target audiences — such as those gay millennials whose new infection rates are, as illustrated by Colon’s social cluster, rising.

On the ACT UP NY Alumni Facebook page last month, member Rebecca Reinhardt reported some flabbergasting, ill-informed comments and opinions she overheard at a West Hollywood happy hour for Ivy League 20-somethings.

These pearls of overheard misinformation included: “Condoms are useless, since they always break and you have only a 2 percent chance of getting HIV from unprotected sex anyway,” and PrEP “is a waste of money since it’s just for sex addicts anyway. “

Staley interjects, “I’m not wagging my finger at these guys. This generation of young gay men is no worse than mine. They’re just living in different times. When I was 20, I also perceived risk very differently, and was very dismissive of things that happened earlier in history and that I didn’t think applied to me.”

One exception when it comes to prevalence of stigma and misinformation seems to be San Francisco, where many early PrEP adopters live. Even those who argue that PrEP encourages reckless behavior that can cause upticks in other STD infections — like Hepatitis C — are at least having open communication.

“San Francisco is the shining example of where, if you put stigma on a locality ranking scale, you’ll find the least stigma of anywhere in the country,” Staley says. “They also have a very low HIV infection rate because guys there talk and think about HIV, and [use] a much more reasoned risk analysis.

“There will be a negative guy sleeping with positive guys, but asking about their viral load and making certain decisions determined by that,” Staley says. “That sophistication is lost on many young gay men outside San Francisco and New York City. I want to figure out the best way to reach them, and its likely going to come from [within] their generation, not mine.”

Activist Jack Mackenroth, who was open about his HIV-positive status while a contestant on Project Runway, agrees that it’s difficult to get people who don’t think — who don’t want to think — that HIV directly affects them engaged. He feels that once PrEP use grows more widespread, medical treatments advance and positive people become more visible, HIV stigma will dissipate.

Yet with stigma winning the battle today, is it possible to take this destructive force, reprogram it and somehow wield it for constructive, prevention-forward purposes? To replace fear and loathing with understanding and empathy, and to ultimately humanize HIV-positive individuals?

Perhaps — and in a handful of sizes.

“It would be useful to set someone down and say, ‘Imagine you are positive,’” Mackenroth muses. “You want to know what it feels like, wear a t-shirt saying you are positive all day long. You will know what that that’s like.”

That’s exactly what Kevin Maloney’s Rise Up To HIV is doing with its “No Shame About Being HIV+” T-shirts. Members of New York University’s First Year Queers & Allies leadership program wear these to experience reactions from those who would perceive their shirt as a status announcement.

It’s a start, and an experiment that more schools and colleges should look into.

“I’ve worn it and gotten mixed responses,” says Rodriguez. “Honestly, anyone can get HIV. The whole problem with stigma is [it perpetuates that] someone had to do something wrong to get HIV.

“But we know from science that with gay men, two-thirds of infections happen within the context of relationships,” Rodriguez continues. “I applaud people who don’t let status stand in the way of having a sexual relationship. It’s usually not the positive and on treatment guys one should be second-guessing. It should be the ones who don’t know. The only ones who know their status for sure are positive.”

—  Tammye Nash

Era of the Death Sentence: Our AIDS Legacy

Remembering Ryan White and the millions of gay men who died during the darkest days of our AIDS crisis

By C.L. Frederick
Contributing Columnist
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C.L. Frederick

It’s easy for the LGBTQ community to forget the past, since we are always looking forward and breaking down the societal barriers that have held us back for eons.  I for one have been guilty of forgetting our past struggles for the sake of moving our community forward socially and, in all honesty, because I never believed our history applied to my life.

Then I was diagnosed with HIV. That was certainly was expectedly a life changing experience, but it also changed the way I looked at the gay community.  Stories from our past became my saving grace.

I found myself being re-introduced to the era of the death sentence and I realized that I owed a debt of gratitude to those who came before me during the early days when medicine and treatments were not advanced enough to save lives, those who died during the time when HIV/AIDS was looked at as the “gay disease,” when hate and ignorance were mixed into one’s fight to live.

I was just a boy when AIDS began to enter the public consciousness, and I acutely remember hearing news reports and adults in my life discussing this “gay epidemic.” I just wanted to know why so many people were dying and why people on the news and the grown-ups I respected lacked sympathy for them.

I picked up on the vitriol being spewed at gay men with HIV/AIDS and it was jarring for me. News reports on TV seemed to shame these men and I was confused as to why that was. Then a few years later I heard about a boy named Ryan White who acquired HIV/AIDS through a blood transfusion.

He was a boy close to my age and I found myself paying attention to his story.  He seemed so strong and was so well spoken.  Here was a boy fighting for his life, growing gravely ill from his disease and treatments, a boy who encountered a great deal of hate and ostracism from all over the country because he wanted to simply go to school and be a part of his community.

Such hostility aimed a boy who did nothing to deserve the social prejudice added to his fight to live!

I could identify with Ryan and I continued to follow every bit of information concerning his journey as a youth with AIDS. This was not an interest that I could share with my family or friends, but my soul was rooting for him.

Ryan did not survive his fight against HIV/AIDS and when I learned of his death I was quietly heartbroken. Ryan’s life was quite possible the first human interest story to have an impact on my own humanity.

The years following Ryan White’s death saw HIV/AIDS treatments advance and prolong lives.  I began to come into my own as a gay man and started to forget about those who had died. People with HIV/AIDS were living longer and issues like LGBTQ equality and gay marriage were on the cusp of national and worldwide attention.

I would think of Ryan’s life from time to time, but I failed to realize how globally impactful his story was and should continue to be.

After learning I was HIV-positive, I found myself searching for stories to relate to, stories to comfort me in my time of need.

One night I watched the HBO movie The Normal Heart, and I was reminded of the struggles gay men with HIV/AIDS dealt with at the onset. I don’t cry much, but watching the movie was an emotional rollercoaster for me.  I have never been moved to that extent or cried so much because of a film.

To be reminded of those who came before me was a painful and humbling moment. The cards were stacked against them during that time: medications that would put a body through hell, men fighting to live only to be beaten down by society and ignorance in the process, and the fact that most knew they were dealing with a death sentence.

I am able to live a fairly normal life as a positive man today because of their voices, their fight and their bravery to live in the face of so many painful obstacles constantly working against them. Living with HIV/AIDS today still has its challenges. It is still a mountain of obstacles to overcome to remain healthy and get access to medications and treatment.

But the fact is that I only deal with a fraction of the challenges that those who came before me encountered. We have lost millions of voices that could have told us billions of stories. And I can’t help but think how different life would be today if we never had to lose any of those men.

What plays would have been written? What art created? Would one have become our first gay president? Was one my soul mate?

I get to live today, but I fully realize that all who have died of AIDS deserved to live just as much as I do.  I will never again forget the legacy of Ryan White and the men who came before me.

—  Tammye Nash

Elton John AIDS Foundation funds transgender HIV project

AIDS ribbonElton John AIDS Foundation and Transgender Law Center will partner for a one year pilot program to identify the structural inequities that drive high rates of HIV incidents in transgender communities.

The Transgender Law Center will use the funds to form a national advisory board of eight to ten trans people living with HIV, with a strong focus on trans women of color. The advisory board will assist in a systems gap assessment, identify best and promising practices in community response to HIV and issue recommendations.

“With the support of the advisory board, Transgender Law Center will engage the community meaningfully in the examination of how systemic barriers and social conditions  (such as discrimination, transphobia, criminalization and violence) drive the HIV epidemic and negatively impact health outcomes.” said Cecilia Chung, Senior Strategist of Transgender Law Center. “This will also give us an opportunity to support and strengthen the leadership of some of the most vulnerable members in the transgender community.”

—  James Russell

2015 DIFFA Style Council Ambassadors announced

chefAt a party Wednesday night at Neiman Marcus’ flagship store, DIFFA revealed the nine members of the Style Council for 2015. They are tasked with promoting the DIFFA cause and especially generating support for the gala next March 7, which will return to the Omni hotel.

In addition, to mark the 25th anniversary of DIFFA, seven Legends of Style were announced — former Style Council Ambassadors who have long supported the cause over the years in significant ways.

Here are the ambassadors and legends!

Style Council: Jenna Alexander, Jenn Clark, Norma Johnson, Scott Kehn, Debra Nelson, Ralph Randall, Shayne Robinson,  Jody Stein, Patrick Ware.

Legends: Simona Beal, Gillian Breidenbach, Don Gaiser, Rebecca Hallman, David Kiger, Matrice Kirk and Joe Pacetti, pictured.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Two x Two for AIDS and Art books, surprisingly, CeeLo Green

CeeLo Green__Photography by Meeno

Here’s a bit of news you haven’t heard in recent months: An organization booking — rather than canceling — an appearance by CeeLo Green.

The recording artist (“Crazy,” “Fuck You”) and TV host (The Voice) had most of his concerts canceled and his TBS reality series dropped within the last month or so following an allegation of sexual assault (no charges were filed) and his own self-serving Tweet, which he later deleted, and which showed insensitivity to rape.

But Two x Two for AIDS and Art, a high-end fundraiser, has announced that Green will be the featured entertainment at the Oct. 25 event. “Green is a longtime supporter of organizations focused on AIDS research and awareness. We are thrilled to have him,” said Cindy Rachofsky, host of the event, in a press release.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DIFFA/Dallas awards funds to Resource Center nutrition programs

Resource Center officials announced Wednesday, Oct. 8, that their agency has received a $22,500 award from the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS/Dallas (DIFFA/Dallas) for the center’s nutrition programs. The money was awarded at an event held Sept. 12 at Roche Bobois.

Resource Center offers nutritional services through its food pantry as well through its hot lunch program.

The pantry, which began in 1985 out of a cardboard box at the intersection of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton, is presently located 5450 Denton Drive Cutoff and serves around 1900 clients every month.

The center began a hot lunch programs for its clients in the early 1990s. It is one of two agencies in Dallas County providing hot meals in a nonresidential setting to those living with HIV/AIDS, making the critical link between nutrition and treatment adherence. More than 100 clients a day eat lunch at the center Monday through Friday.

DIFFA is the oldest and one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the United States. Founded in 1984, DIFFA has mobilized the immense resources of the design communities to provide over $38 million to hundreds of AIDS organizations nationwide.

With events including the House of DIFFA each spring, DIFFA/Dallas has granted nearly $7 million to organizations across North Texas, including Resource Center. March 2015 will mark the 25th anniversary of the House of DIFFA.

—  Tammye Nash

LifeWalk 2014

Thousands of people participated in LifeWalk on Oct. 5. The total raised will be announced after money from final fundraisers and corporate matches are collected and should top $500,000. Photos by Erin Moore and Chad Mantooth.

—  David Taffet

Ebola: God’s new weapon against gays?

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Rick Wiles

So apparently, God has gotten tired of waiting on AIDS to wipe out the gays and has decided to sick the ebola on us, too. At least, that’s what “Christian broadcaster” Rick Wiles thinks.

Wiles, a “citizen reporter who decided to take on the Big News Media,” according to his own Trunews website, recently warned that Ebola could become a “global pandemic, and that’s another name for plague.” But Wiles, apparently, doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing.

“It may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming,” Wiles said. “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion. If Ebola becomes a global plague, you better make sure the blood of Jesus is upon you, you better make sure you have been marked by the angels so that you are protected by God. If not, you may be a candidate to meet the Grim Reaper.”

Ebola as an “attitude adjustment”? Wiles’ rampant stupidity, callousness and bigotry are the attitudes I think need to be adjusted.

Anyway, as Huffington Post points out, this isn’t Wiles’ first brush with outrageous and ridiculous claims. He’s the one who claimed that Miley Cyrus sold her soul to Satan and had sex with a demon in exchange for fame. I find that hard to believe; if that were true, surely Miley would have made a better bargain than one requiring her to stick out her tongue and dance nearly naked with Robin Thicke.

Some Liberian religious leaders are also suggesting that Ebola is God’s punishment for homosexuality and immorality, too. Of course, it’s not the first time that right-wing religious leaders in the U.S. and right-wing leaders in Africa have agreed on something. Just ask Uganda’s LGBT population.

—  Tammye Nash