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Perspectives: Thoughts From the HIV Community on World AIDS Day 2013

How are people thinking and talking about the role that HIV plays in their lives and in their communities? Below you'll find a diverse compilation of first-person reflections by people living with HIV or affected by the epidemic, and a wide array of responses to some burning questions in our community. Make sure to peruse, ponder and participate in this year's World AIDS Day "Perspectives" section.

Columns | Word on the Street | poster/VIRUS Gallery


Rev. Andrena Ingram

Say What You Wanna Say: Be Brave on World AIDS Day
By Rev. Andrena Ingram

Remembering those who have died in silence ... who suffered because to be brave would've cost them their friends, their relationships ... would've cost them their jobs, their insurance. To be brave cost some their lives. We give thanks for their bravery.

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Rev. Andrena Ingram

HIV -- At an Airport Near You!
By Rev. Andrena Ingram

At the airport in Atlanta, on this particular day, as I came through the security gate, the security officer said (as I went through): "Hey, what's up with that shirt?" I turned around and said: "Oh, I am HIV positive." (And in my head: what, you don't know?)

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Becky Allen

HIV, Intersectionality and the Generation Gap
By Becky Allen

I don't just bring this up because I think it's funny to make Gen Xers feel old ... I think it shines a light on something that we try to keep in mind here, behind the scenes at Sometimes, it's easy to just assume that everyone out there knows what you know, that other people are all basically like you, and to not realize how important those differences are.

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Christopher Jones

A Litany for Burning Condoms
By Christopher Jones

Part of the problem is the conscious and unconscious meanings we project onto condoms, which are public health's top method of intervention. It is a crisis among us of apathy and learned helplessness that is reflective of our quest to find peace and ease within a world that attempts to make simple the complexity of our sexuality.

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David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.

The Other HIV Stigma: An Inside Job
By David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.

Fighting stigma in the world is essential to get to zero, but it's not the whole story. Each of us living with HIV needs to identify and throw away our inner stigma, those dark beliefs about ourselves that bring us shame and affect our behavior, and which do not belong to us.

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Diego Wesley Iglesia

Don't Trust Any AIDS Organization Over 30?
By Diego Wesley Iglesia

What happened to the chorus chants of "never again"? For many gay men, they are living the nightmare we swore they would never see. We all know the numbers, stats, and dire predictions for the rate of infection amongst gay men, yet still no outrage. That is not smoke you smell from behind your back as you look toward the sunrise; that is the putrid aroma of a house in perpetual flame.

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The Grinch Who Stole World AIDS Day
By Ibrahim

The goal of World AIDS Day should be to get people talking about the battle against HIV/AIDS, where we are today, what we have achieved and why we are not winning. This is an important goal during a time when people living with HIV/AIDS continue to pay a heavy toll worldwide. We need to provide the full picture on where the failure is and why.

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Jimmy Mack

Honoring the "Gay Family" I've Lost to AIDS
By Jimmy Mack

Toward the end of August of 1992, I was with Russell the night that beautiful man finally succumbed to AIDS. I got so drunk that night I had to call in sick to work the next day -- which is why I was home when Eric called. Eric called to say he was in San Francisco General and would not be getting out, and he had to see me before he died. So, within 48 hours, I was walking into SF General Hospital to see yet another young man who looked like he was 90 years old.

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Maria T. Mejia

HIV Stops With Me
By Maria T. Mejia

I am very blessed to have an HIV-negative partner that loves me and understands my struggles ... but I do not like when others say, "Aww Maria, you are so blessed that Lisa accepted you with what you have!" Ummmm, NOT! I am super-blessed to have a wonderful person -- but she is blessed as well to have a human being like myself.

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Mark S. King

Honoring Our AIDS History -- Without Punishing Younger Gay Men
By Mark S. King

We successfully entrenched the immediate, mortal danger of HIV, the shameless inaction of our government, and the profit-driven, opportunistic role of the pharmaceutical industry. Anything that veers from that narrative, especially for those of us who lived it, feels like betrayal. Yet here we sit, in an age that confounds so much of what we once knew to be true. The 1980s are history. They are not a prevention strategy.

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Patrick Ingram

For World AIDS Day, My HIV Diagnosis Day, Finally Conquering My Demons
By Patrick Ingram

While many have unprotected sex because of a decision they make, many of those who did not have a choice are forgotten and called words from lips I would never kiss my own mother with. People who are sexually assaulted like me are forgotten about and placed under the description of "over sexualized homosexual." I strive very hard to break that thought process.

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A Longtime HIV Survivor Shares Concerns From Quebec
By Pierre

In earlier days, gay men were ready to start a relationship knowing that they could protect themselves. Ironically, now that we know more about prevention, the population in general knows less. So my hope of finding somebody is diminishing with each passing year. Yes I do have good friends and am close to my family, but a good friend is not a partner.

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Sherri Beachfront Lewis

Stories I Lived to Tell
By Sherri Beachfront Lewis

They were artists. Society is so busy labeling and shame-blaming their being gay without acknowledging that fact that they were artists. Imagine what the world would have looked like if they had lived and continued to create.

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Sherri Beachfront Lewis

Reclaiming My Life, Beyond HIV -- and Finding the MAGIC!
By Sherri Beachfront Lewis

Every decision, every musical gig, everything I write about, every personal relationship or lack thereof, is more than affected by the openness with which I live with HIV. What if I listened to my therapist when she said to me: "You can just be Sherri, you know. You're not HIV. Why not let someone get to know YOU?"

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Stephen with his Achilles International marathon running guides, Yael (left) and Leigh.

Living With HIV, Surviving the Boston Marathon Attack and Running the NYC Marathon
By Stephen Kovacev

The destruction from "Superstorm Sandy" that devastated many people's lives had cancelled last year's New York City Marathon ... Just six months ago I was a half-mile before the finish line of last April's Boston Marathon after the bombs went off. I could not avoid being affected, my endorphins could not flow with happiness, and I got physically sick. After these overwhelming experiences I had a responsibility to my team guides and myself to again transcend limitations and be a part of the 2013 New York City Marathon.

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Word on the Street

When We Talk About HIV, Who Are We Not Talking About Enough?

When We Talk About HIV, Who Are We Not Talking About Enough?

Which communities do you think don't get their due share of attention when it comes to HIV awareness, policy, prevention and/or care? Since HIV thrives on silence, it is essential to find ways to address the impact of the epidemic among populations that get left out of conversations -- and subsequently funding, programming, media coverage, activism and more -- around HIV. We asked a wide range of HIV/AIDS community members which groups they saw falling through the cracks.

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Growing Older With HIV: What Concerns You Most?

Growing Older With HIV: What Concerns You Most?

By the year 2015, the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. will be age 50 and older -- due to the longer lives brought by modern HIV treatment, and to the fact that one in six new diagnoses of HIV is an older adult. Growing older is a vexing prospect for many people as it is, and living with HIV, or receiving an HIV diagnosis, can bring a host of complexities to this life phase.

As the length of life among people living with HIV expands, what are community members' worries about the quality of those lives? We asked this question at conferences and via our weekly newsletter; the responses trace paths to advocacy for a wide range of increased support for older adults living with HIV.

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poster/VIRUS Gallery

poster/VIRUS: Artists Affected by HIV Use Images to Make Daring Statements

Artists Affected by HIV Use Images to Make Daring Statements: Posters From a Toronto Street Campaign

"We are not the public that 'Public Health' cares about.

"We are tired of the limits imposed on how we can talk about AIDS. We are tired of individualized responses that ignore the realities and complexities of our lives. We are tired of being defined through acronyms. We are tired of the buzzwords, language that privileges some groups over others and increases the divide between us and them. The bureaucratization of AIDS has marginalized voices that complicate for too long."

poster/VIRUS is a collaborative project between artists and activists through Canadian activist group AIDS Action Now. The project features in-your-face posters plastered all over the city of Toronto throughout the weeks surrounding World AIDS Day.

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