Category Archives: Commentary

Conversation about HIV is changing

By John-Manuel Andriote, author of Stonewall Strong

Let’s talk about drugs—specifically, drugs that keep HIV-positive gay men like me “undetectable,” and the drugs used in PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) that, when taken daily, can prevent HIV-negative gay men (and others) from becoming infected.

John-Manuel Andriote

That’s essentially the theme for this year’s Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—today, September 27—“The Conversation About HIV Is Changing: Talk Undetectable. Talk PrEP.”

But if we only talk about drugs to prevent and treat HIV, and don’t talk about the trauma behind gay men’s high-risk sexual and drug-use choices, we’ll see that same trauma continue to play out in our disproportionately high rates of crystal meth abuse, alcoholism, and other potentially harmful sexually transmitted infections besides HIV.

There is no question that today’s HIV drugs have dramatically changed the conversation about HIV. From the terrible illness and death that almost inevitably followed a positive HIV test 30 years ago, those of us living with the virus today can expect to live a virtually normal lifespan—so long as we adhere to treatment.

Read the full article.

Celebrating those who are aging with HIV

From the LA Blade
by Frank Gulli

I was living in the Castro in San Francisco in 1978 where optimism and liberation were in the air. Harvey Milk was an openly gay City Supervisor, gays and lesbians marched in the street for equal rights, and gay liberation was on display from Folsom Street to Golden Gate Park.

Frank Gulli

There was a real sense of belonging to a community. Our world shook when Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White that year. Then it shook again when San Francisco became ground zero of the AIDS epidemic.

By 1985, the city was full of heartbreak and dying. My friends and I lived among it, terrified that we would be next. I was diagnosed with HIV that year, forever making 1985 a pivotal year.

Many of my friends who hadn’t been tested for HIV ended up in the ER at San Francisco General in respiratory failure. I was blindsided as an entire group of my friends and neighbors seemed to disappear overnight. There were no medical treatments, other than some antibiotics that seemed to prolong death for many.

For whatever reason, maybe by the grace of God, or good Italian food, I don’t know, I never got sick from HIV and I held on to hope for a better day. But my life and times would never be the same as it was back in 1978, before the shooting death of Harvey, when we felt liberated, before AIDS wiped out my entire phonebook.

Continue reading.

We won’t end the HIV epidemic until we help the most vulnerable

How do we reduce rates concentrated among black and Latino men who have sex with men? Or meet the needs of HIV-positive patients caught between insurance plans or places to live? To end the epidemic, we must start where we began — by focusing on those most affected, uniting advocacy efforts, pushing for a cross-sector response and focusing on the social determinants of health.

As someone who has spent the better part of my professional career as both an advocate and HIV public health expert, I’ve been reflecting on the decades-long fight for gay rights sparked by people who gathered together at Stonewall in 1969 to demand change for the LGBTQ+ community and put an end to years of discrimination. Not long after, the AIDS epidemic swept across the country, closely intertwining the movement for increased LGBTQ+ rights with the AIDS response. Gay rights groups were relentless in pushing for increased government attention and funding as thousands died from the disease. Activists organized “buyers clubs,” lobbied for faster FDA approval of promising drugs and countered the fear and discrimination people living with AIDS faced.

Read the full article.

Pride month includes HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day

From the Human Rights Campaign

As we celebrate Pride Month, it is also important that we honor those in the LGBTQ community who are long-term survivors living with HIV. June 5 was chosen as HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day to mark when the first case of AIDS was reported in the U.S. in 1981.

Long-time HIV survivor Elder Claude Bowen, M.Div

At the time, a person diagnosed with HIV or AIDS could expect to live only one to two years after that diagnosis. In the four decades since, more than 70 million people have been diagnosed with HIV worldwide and approximately 35 million people have died, according to the World Health Organization. People age 55 and older make up 26% of all Americans living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In recent years, the LGBTQ community has benefited from biomedical interventions such as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that prevents HIV when taken as prescribed. Yet, this medication is not always accessible to those most at risk for HIV, including Black and Latinx gay, bisexual and transgender people.

HRC spoke with three long-term survivors living with HIV to learn their stories.

See the interviews on the HRC Website.

HIV isn’t just a gay issue, it’s a ‘social justice issue’

From out.com...

Writer and activist George M. Johnson instructs us, on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, on the role we all play in the search for a cure.

BY TRE’VELL ANDERSON

George M. Johnson

The late activist and writer Joseph Beam once deemed the act of a Black man loving another Black man a “revolutionary act.” I imagine that doing so, while also living unapologetically with HIV, is doubly insurgent. But that’s perhaps the only way to describe the life and work of George M. Johnson. A writer, activist, and soon-to-be author, he’s committed to the work of toppling the patriarchy, challenging anti-Blackness, and confronting homophobia, transphobia, and HIV stigma wherever he sees it.

With over 40,000 Twitter followers and a much larger community that reads his words at Teen Vogue,Entertainment Tonight, The RootEbony, and countless others, Johnson is outspoken and defiantly visible as a Black gay man living with HIV, with which he was diagnosed at 25. Now, he’s set on being the resource he wishes he had when he was younger for other folks who are or might become HIV positive.

On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Out spoke to Johnson about his activism, the state of HIV advocacy, and what those living with the virus and those not can do to combat stigma.

Read the full article/interview here.

Experts debate if HIV prevention pill contributes to rise in other STDs

Prevention program manager Adam Weaver talks about sexually transmitted diseases in the testing room at Palmetto Community Care in North Charleston

From postandcourier.com

The STD explosion has led to a debate over a possible connection since the introduction of the HIV prevention pill.

PrEP is not a cure for HIV, and it also is not 100 percent effective, but, taken as directed at the same time once a day, it comes pretty close — up to 99 percent successful in preventing HIV, according to Palmetto Community Care, formerly Lowcountry AIDS Services, in North Charleston.

The drumbeat of safe sex practices hasn’t changed among health officials. Abstinence, using condoms and being in a monogamous relationship are still the best ways to help prevent STD infections.

But the naked truth is people don’t always follow that advice.

“After they start taking PrEP, we don’t see a great shift in risk behavior,” said Aaron O’Brien with Roper Hospital’s Ryan White Wellness Center.

Aaron O’Brien, quality and development manager of Roper Hospital’s Ryan White Wellness Center.

He puts condom users into two groups: those who use them regularly and those who don’t, and, based on his talks with patients, that doesn’t change much once they start taking the pill.

Adam Weaver, prevention program manager at Palmetto Community Care, agrees with O’Brien.

“What we are finding is that the people we are putting on PrEP aren’t changing their condom use,” he said.

They also don’t believe PrEP’s introduction, in and of itself, contributed to the explosion in STDs.

They say it has more to do with better reporting since people taking PrEP must check in with their doctor or provider every three months or so for regular testing.

Read the full article.

Dr. Rabinowitz one of the first doctors in Pittsburgh to treat gay men and people with HIV

The Pitt Men’s Study extends its heartfelt sympathy and condolences to all those touched by the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on October 27.  While all the deaths that day were tragic, the death of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz is particularly significant to our volunteers and staff.  Dr. Rabinowitz was one of the first doctors in Pittsburgh to welcome both gay men and people with HIV into his practice, a safe space and source of compassionate and accepting care for many of our volunteers for three decades.  Long-time staffer Bill Buchanan remembers, “Every time volunteers completed releases to send their results to Dr. Rabinowitz – and that happened a lot – they would express their deep respect and admiration for him.  I never heard a bad word about him from anybody in thirty years.”  Jerry Rabinowitz was a pillar of the community, and he will be sorely missed.  Donations can be made in his memory to Dor Hadash, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.