News You Can Use: A Selected Review of HIV-related Newsletters and Magazines
Newsletters! There are so many of them! Body Positive set out to review a few of the ones you were most likely to need soon after testing HIV-positive. Though a lot of information is available on the internet or through fax alerts, we wanted to review newsletters that someone without a computer or fax could receive. Some of the publications reviewed here also have on-line versions or publish in Spanish (check out "News You Can Use Resources").
Newsletters were selected for their usefulness for recently tested people. After the article was written, several worthy candidates were referred to me. Those not reviewed are also listed in "News You Can Use Resources."
In the spirit of full disclosure, readers should know I have written in the past for POZ, Positives for Positives, and the People with AIDS Newsline, and have been on a BETA teleconference.
The Active Voice - Washington, D.C.Published by the National Association of People with AIDS, it is a good update on national AIDS policy. It has an especially strong ability to get across the impact of particular policies, and to inform readers about what they can do to influence public policy on particular topics. The reading level tends to be at least first year of college. NAPWA also publishes Medical Alert (see "News You Can Use Resources").
AIDS Update - Dallas, TexasPublished by the AIDS Resource Center, it has a low reading level and warm tone that invites you in. Articles are split evenly between treatments and groups or issues specific to the Dallas area. I especially liked the columns listing elected officials' addresses and phone numbers. Also there was a column that focused on agency statistics -- who and how they are reaching people through their education, support and outreach programs. One drawback: A few articles were printed straight from drug company press releases with little critical comment or alternative information. Though the source for each reprinted article was listed, some readers might not recogniz e that "from ALRT" or "from Gilead Sciences" means articles were written by drug company public relations departments. I'd like to see these articles identified more clearly as "advertisement" or "from Glaxo-Wellcome, makers of AZT."
People with AIDS Newsline - New York, N.Y.Published by the People with AIDS Coalition, the Newsline draws you into its pages, with a low reading level and lots of pictures. Recent issues focused on long-term survivors, housing, couples, and AIDS in prison. Women, people of color, and prisoners share the focus with gay men on these pages. The focus can vary from New York City to the nation, depending on the issue -- the housing issue was almost exclusively about New York; the couples issue was more broadly focused. Raves: the April issue had a great article on handling the New York City Division of AIDS Services, and a useful time-based list for prisoners on what to do when leaving prison.
Positive Living - Los Angeles, Calif.Published by AIDS Project Los Angeles, this newsletter explodes out of the envelope, with articles clamoring for your attention. Bright graphic design with California colors (turquoise, pink, lavender, and yellow) make the articles "pop" out at you. It has an easy reading level and lots of pictures to draw you from one page to the next. It provides an equal mix of treatment information and general interest stories. As with many regional newsletters, about half the information/activities are Los Angeles-focused. I get a sneaking suspicion that Positive Living is really a stealth weapon to get us all to move to the other coast to take advantage of the events mentioned.
Positively Aware - Chicago, Ill.Published by Test Positively Aware Network. When I was at Body Positive we called this newsletter "the Body Positive of Chicago." One of my all-time favorites, the reading level and pictures draw you in -- Positively Aware's graphics and layout make it more attractive than many other newsletters. It has excellent tables and articles that clearly explain complex treatment issues for the low-literacy reader. However, as with AIDS Update, I'd like a clearer graphic division between articles and drug company press releases (like a notice at the top of the page that says "advertisement" or "press release").
Positives for Positives - Cheyenne, Wyo.A one-man operation, Positives for Positives (P4P) is published by Jeff Palmer, a stubborn PWA with vision, grit, and very little money. Reaching nine western states, this newsletter is a wild grab bag of articles that can cover a range of topics, from "Exposure to HIV and Health Care Professionals" to "Applying for Disability." I'd like to see more medical oversight of the treatment-related articles -- especially a little more skepticism about alternative treatments, since many of the people reached by P4P have few other sources of treatment information. Reaching a large number of people spread across a huge area, Positives for Positives is a quarterly envelope of hope and connection.
POZ - New York, N.Y.Sometimes cruelly referred to as the "in-flight magazine of AIDS," this is the only commercially produced lifestyle magazine for HIV-positive people. Though it's fashionable to look down one's nose at POZ, a huge number of people read it monthly -- and for good reason. POZ covers the broad range of issues facing people with HIV across the country, including profiles of famous PWAs, recent controversies in the AIDS world, as well as concrete information (POZ Partner). POZ aims at being entertaining as well as controversial. In a community with as many strongly held positions as ours, this can lead to contentions of bias -- and great letters to the editor.
WORLD - Oakland, Calif.Aimed at women who are HIV-positive, this newsletter is just like a chat around the kitchen table -- a wild mix of personal stories, treatment information, and exploration of issues relevant to women you don't see discussed elsewhere ("Sexual Assault and HIV"). Dear to my heart is the international news section, with both news accounts of issues facing PWAs and letters from women living abroad. Warm tone, low reading level.
AIDS Treatment News - San Francisco, Calif.In my opinion, this is the best all-around treatment newsletter going. It comes out every two weeks, and is eight black-and-white pages long with no pictures or ads, supported solely by subscribers. AIDS Treatment News covers both mainstream and alternative treatments, and does not hesitate to ask politically incorrect but insightful questions. Medium-length articles, and an early college reading level make it accessible. It also weaves treatment issues with the related political, funding, and activist-related backgrounds.
The Bulletin of Experimental Treatments for AIDS (BETA) - Los Angeles, Calif.It comes out quarterly, and is known for in-depth articles, several pages in length. To be honest, I usually skim the longer articles, but then return for more information on a particular topic. It is famous for coverage of national and international conferences. Rather than publishing one or two major stories, touching on the high points, they publish 30-60 short reports about different studies or presentations. This makes it much easier to quickly find the subjects in which you're interested.
Critical Path AIDS Project - Philadelphia, Pa.Kiyoshi Kuromiya, the editor, is a treatment activist and one-man force field of tranquil energy. The sole employee, he not only publishes the newsletter, but also staffs a 24-hour treatment hotline, and is a one-man treatment advocacy team. The newsletter, though billed as a quarterly, is published somewhat irregularly with more information available on the Critical Path website. Fairly long articles are more wide-ranging and practical than the average newsletter. A recent issue had an extremely clear explanation of how to find AIDS information on-line for the beginner, the ACT UP Philadelphia Standard of Care, articles about PWAs doing direct action in Italy, and news about parasites on U.S. produce. Very readable articles with a subtle humor throughout. Nearly a quarter of the 60 pages are a resource listing for New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Notes from the Underground - New York, N.Y.Chatty and readable, this newsletter is published by the People with AIDS Health Group, and covers both western and alternative medicine without boring you to death. Don't let their breezy style fool you -- they know what they're talking about, and often ask the hard questions that no one else will. For example, their perspective on protease inhibitors (PIs) was not "when" someone should consider them, but "whether" and "under what circumstances" someone should take them (with the added point that there probably are downsides to PIs that we don't yet know about). No ads, no pictures, no donations from pharmaceutical companies. The reading level varies, but they strive to state the information in simple terms.
Project Inform Perspective - San Francisco, Calif.Famous for fabulous, clear tables, which can help you understand complex comparisons quickly, the reading level of the Project Inform Perspective varies, with most articles on the college level, and some higher still. Recent articles included an update on protease inhibitors, a discussion of CMV retinitis treatment options, and a clear explanation of government programs that pay for care.
Seattle Treatment Education Project (STEP) Perspective - Seattle, Wash.I want to like the STEP Perspective. In the past I have depended on the individual treatment sheets they publish, including the ones on alternative medicine. However, I found the reading level in this newsletter a real struggle. If you are an experienced treatment activist or have been reading this information for years, make sure you get a copy of the STEP Perspective. STEP is a tiny organization (two-person staff) that has had a very tough year -- funding cutbacks, and a lot of deaths (including the board president). Their material is good, including recent articles on acupuncture and malabsorption; if they edited strongly and brought down the reading level they could really take off.
Treatment Issues - New York, N.Y.Gay Men's Health Crisis publishes one of the oldest treatment newsletters in the country, and it's one of my staples for treatment information with each issue featuring 2-3 long articles and about 10 "treatment briefs" - shorter articles on specific topics. Very strong emphasis is placed on antiretroviral/protease inhibitor treatment. Treatment Issues isn't concerned with whether one should take protease inhibitors, but rather, which to take and for how long. Well respected among the medical community, this access allows them to get some interesting insider information on specific treatments. There is little coverage of alternative medicine. It's aimed at readers with at least some college education.
Treatment Update - Toronto, OntarioPublished by the Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), this newsletter is the ultimate for people who want their information short, pithy and bulleted. The layout isn't very graphically appealing, but you get the sense CATIE doesn't care; they're about stripping out the meat and discarding the distracting fluff. I kept thinking about my friend, David Petersen, who used to say "I want the meat -- give me prime sirloin information, no frills." Short sentences, bullet points, and paragraph headings highlight specific studies or reports. All articles have a list of references, so you can look up the medical journals once you've gotten the gist.
People with AIDS Newsline PWAC NY, 50 W. 17th St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10011. Tel: 212-647-1420. Fax: 212-647-1419. Published 12 times a year. Sub: $35 or donation for PWAs. Spanish Publication: SIDA Ahora.
Positives for Positives 1603 Capitol Ave., #313, Cheyenne, WY 82001.
Tel: 800-492-2203. Published four times a year. Sub: Donation.
WORLD P.O. Box 11535, Oakland, CA 94611. Tel: 510-658-6930. Fax: 510-610-9746. Published 12 times a year. Sub: $0-50. Spanish Publication: Mujer Imagen de VIDA.
Fax: 415-487-8069. Internet: http://www.Sfaf.org/beta.html. Published four times a year, Sub: $75. Spanish Publication: Boletin de Tratamientos Experimentales
Para el SIDA.
Notes from the Underground 150 West 26th St., Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Tel: 212-255-0520. Fax: 212-255-2080. Published six times a year. Sub: $40 or sliding scale. Spanish Publication: Notas de la Clandestinidad.
Treatment Issues c/o Chuck Sock, Gay Men's Health Crisis, 129 W. 20th St., New York, NY 10011. Fax: 212-337-3656. Published 12 times a year. Sub: $35; if HIV-positive write for a free subscription.
Additional newsletters not reviewed, but worth checking out:
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the dedication and professionalism of the staff and volunteers who produce these publications, month after month, year after year. Most newsletters are produced by only a few people, and all of them could use more money, staff, and help. The health of our community is literally dependent on the dedicated individuals who get the story out. In this time of budget cutbacks and decreasing donations, these publications are especially vulnerable. So, once you've read them, call up with a donation of money, time, or both.
I had a lot of fun reading these newsletters, and discovering a bunch I hadn't heard of before. I hope you will, too. Get busy reading!
This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.