Maybe we should blame the criminal prosecutions of people with HIV on the mythical legend of Gaetan Dugas, also known by his slanderous nickname, Patient Zero. Dugas was a gay flight attendant from Canada who, according to Randy Shilts' 1987 book And the Band Played On, was among the first people with HIV in the United States.
There is a classic episode of Oprah from 1987 that can still raise my blood pressure. That year, the tiny town of Williamson, West Virginia, became part of a national discussion about AIDS when Mike Sisco, who had returned to his home town to die of the disease, dared to step into a public pool.
In the late 1980s, I let this odd, fussy man into my office at LA Shanti, my first AIDS agency job. He seemed earnest and harmless and he just wanted a few minutes of my time. "I have the cure for AIDS," he politely announced. Sadly, he wasn't the first person to say that to me, but we practiced more suspension of disbelief during that wretched decade so making such a statement wasn't immediate cause for removal from my office.
When the drug Truvada achieved FDA approval in July of 2012 as a medication to prevent HIV infection among people who are negative (a strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP), it's as if the ghosts of naysayers from the 1960s rose from their resting places, delighted and re-energized, and began drilling their mid-century objections into the hearts and minds of contemporary society.
"You are probably wondering why I have been so quiet the last few weeks ..." the message began. Vergel, a trained chemical engineer who devoted himself to HIV treatment advocacy after testing positive in 1985, had a troubling explanation for his online absence. A diagnosis of cancer.
Kenneth Cole's appearance on Chelsea Lately last week was meant to promote the documentary he produced about the history of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (The Battle of amfAR). Instead, the shoe designer insulted gay activists everywhere.
Lesley was my closest friend to become sick in the 1980s, and he fought bravely until his death from AIDS. Today, World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remember Lesley and honor his struggle -- although I call up memories of Lesley, my first friend lost to the epidemic, nearly every day.
Another year, another magical Caribbean adventure with a happy community of people living with HIV and our loved ones. It could only be the annual HIV Cruise Retreat, also known as "the Poz Cruise."
In the first minutes of Dallas Buyers Club, the astounding new film about the darkest years of the AIDS crisis, rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof (a gaunt and barely recognizable Matthew McConaughey) is punched in the face. He has it coming. The self-serving crook has a lot of enemies.
This is a clever social media campaign: Healthline, an online health community, has asked people who have been living with HIV to create videos for those who have recently tested positive, known as "You've Got This." Think of it as "It Gets Better" for those with HIV.