A&U June 2021

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art & understanding for 30 years

Yonce Jones Poetry by

Harry Hoy Hank Trout on the AIDS Pandemic at 40 Artist

Jerome Caja



Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' Executive Director Never Lets Fundraising Go Dark

JUNE 2021 | ISSUE 320


This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your condition and your treatment.




BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including:

BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including:  Those in the “Most Important Information About BIKTARVY” section.  Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections that may have been hidden in your body. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY.  Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY.  Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat.  Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain.  The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (6%), and headache (5%).

 Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. Your

healthcare provider will test you for HBV. If you have both HIV-1 and HBV, your HBV may suddenly get worse if you stop taking BIKTARVY. Do not stop taking BIKTARVY without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to check your health regularly for several months, and may give you HBV medicine.

ABOUT BIKTARVY BIKTARVY is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults and children who weigh at least 55 pounds. It can either be used in people who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before, or people who are replacing their current HIV-1 medicines and whose healthcare provider determines they meet certain requirements. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS. Do NOT take BIKTARVY if you also take a medicine that contains:  dofetilide  rifampin  any other medicines to treat HIV-1

BEFORE TAKING BIKTARVY Tell your healthcare provider if you:  Have or have had any kidney or liver problems,

including hepatitis infection.  Have any other health problems.  Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if BIKTARVY can harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking BIKTARVY.  Are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed. HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in breast milk. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take:  Keep a list that includes all prescription and over-the-

counter medicines, antacids, laxatives, vitamins, and herbal supplements, and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist.

 BIKTARVY and other medicines may affect each other.

Ask your healthcare provider and pharmacist about medicines that interact with BIKTARVY, and ask if it is safe to take BIKTARVY with all your other medicines.

These are not all the possible side effects of BIKTARVY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new symptoms while taking BIKTARVY. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.FDA.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088. Your healthcare provider will need to do tests to monitor your health before and during treatment with BIKTARVY.

HOW TO TAKE BIKTARVY Take BIKTARVY 1 time each day with or without food.

GET MORE INFORMATION  This is only a brief summary of important information

about BIKTARVY. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn more.

 Go to BIKTARVY.com or call 1-800-GILEAD-5  If you need help paying for your medicine,

visit BIKTARVY.com for program information.

BIKTARVY, the BIKTARVY Logo, GILEAD, the GILEAD Logo, KEEP LOVING, and LOVE WHAT’S INSIDE are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. Version date: February 2021 © 2021 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. BVYC0370 04/21




Because HIV doesn’t change who you are.

BIKTARVY® is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in certain adults. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS.

Ask your healthcare provider if BIKTARVY is right for you. See Nikki’s story at BIKTARVY.com. Featured patient compensated by Gilead.

Please see Important Facts about BIKTARVY, including important warnings, on the previous page and visit BIKTARVY.com.






Advocate Yonce Jones Makes Sure AIDS Awareness Is Everyone's Priority


GALLERY A&U's Chip Alfred Talks to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' Tom Viola About His Life's Work in AIDS Advocacy



32 AIDS at 40 A&U Revisits the Start of the Pandemic with Jay Blotcher, Davina Conner, Steven F. Dansky, Claire Gasamagera, Charles King, Mark S. King, Butch McKay, Victoria Noe, Charles Sanchez & Reverend Yolanda Vega

DEPARTMENTS 4 Frontdesk 6 Digital Footprints 10 NewsBreak

Hank Trout Spotlights the Art of Jerome Caja, Small Works of Great Power

viewfinder 8 14 16 20

Bright Lights, Small City Years of Living Precariously Art & Understanding Poetry by Harry Hoy

cover photo by Stephen Churchill Downes; Jones photo courtesy Y. Jones


38 Under Reported 40 Money Matters 42 The Culture of AIDS 47 Lifelines 48 Poetry by Hank Trout

Frontdesk From the Editor

Different Threads of Red


ourneys call on us to be prepared for the unexpected. I am not talking about obstacles or shortcuts, although those can certainly fit the bill. I am talking about the people we might not have expected to meet along the way, people who walk with us for a time and then depart or people who join in and continue on till the end. On this journey called living with HIV/AIDS, and which publishing A&U only intensified, I have met people I never thought I might meet and learned about concerns that were beyond my ken. Call them different threads of red that bind together the AIDS awareness ribbon. I am not talking about bold-name celebrity activists, though I did meet Annie Lennox unexpectedly in a café in Vienna during the International AIDS Conference in 2010. She kindly stopped to talk to Lester Strong (our Special Projects Editor) and me, after recognizing the magazine for which she granted an interview a few years before, which ran as a cover story in December 2007. Actually, Ms. Lennox is a good example of a different thread of red, for she is one of the advocates who introduced me to the the impact of gender violence on HIV risk and HIV/AIDS healthcare. Like Lennox, advocates of all stripes have shone a spotlight on a kaleidoscope of ideas and experiences related to HIV/AIDS advocacy over the years——culturally tailored language in safer sex campaigns; the need to define AIDS with cisgender women in mind; the “worried well”; condom fatigue; HIV criminalization reform; advocacy for long-term survivors; thinking intersectionally. Different threads of red. A&U’s Drama Editor Bruce Ward recently had a chance to talk to Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for our cover story interview, and he had similar ideas about appreciating difference: “We created resources that didn’t exist before. And any money raised helps make funding for HIV/ AIDS programs even more possible. We consider BC/ EFA to be ‘the philanthropic heart of Broadway.’ “We are also responsive to issues that the Broadway community feels are important to its members. Reacting to events such as Hurricane Katrina, and issues like racial justice, keeps us from being old news or an anachronism, while

also maintaining our commitment to [the changing needs] of AIDS services.” Photographed beautifully by Stephen Churchill Downes, Viola knows a lot about finding unity in diversity. Other features echo this celebration of difference. Senior Editor Hank Trout interviewed a range of activists about their thoughts on the AIDS pandemic (as we know it) turning forty. Claire Gasamagera offers new insights about changing infant feeding policies and suggestions for women living with HIV on sustained treatment. We also feature activists who know how to amplify their voices and those of their communities, for example, Yonce Jones, interviewed by Chip Alfred. Check out the Gallery featuring the powerful works by someone we lost too soon, Jerome Caja. My first introduction to AIDS, apart from early reports in newspapers, came when it impacted my own circle of gay male friends and the wider (local) community. But I quickly learned, and this lesson was reinforced when I started A&U in the early nineties, that different gay men navigated AIDS and HIV risk differently. And then of course different straight-identified women navigated AIDS and HIV risk differently. Same-gender-loving men, individuals with hemophilia, injection drug users, men who did not consider themselves gay but who had sex with men, people of trans experience——different individuals within any particular indentified risk group had different ways of living with, thinking about, doing something about HIV/AIDS. Different threads of red. It’s one of the reasons I started the magazine——to create a public forum for our differences to weave together (or unravel, if they must). So the next time you have something different to add to the conversation, don’t hesitate. Share your red!


AMERICA’S AIDS MAGAZINE issue 320 vol. 30 no. 6 June 2021 editorial offices: (518) 992-2232 fax: (518) 436-5354 Editor in Chief & Publisher David Waggoner Managing Editor: Chael Needle Senior Editors: Dann Dulin, Hank Trout Editor at Large: Chip Alfred Special Projects Editor: Lester Strong Arts Editor: Alina Oswald Fiction Editor: Raymond Luczak; Nonfiction Editor: Jay Vithalani; Drama Editor: Bruce Ward; Poetry Editor: Philip F. Clark; Copy Editor: Maureen Hunter Contributing Editors: Reed Massengill, Kelly McQuain, Lesléa Newman, Robert E. Penn, Nick Steele Contributing Writers: Ruby Comer, Alacias Enger, Claire Gasamagera, John Francis Leonard, Corey Saucier, Jeannie Wraight Art Director: Timothy J. Haines Contributing Photographers: Davidd Batalon, Tom Bianchi, Holly Clark, Stephen Churchill Downes, Greg Gorman, Francis Hills, Tom McGovern, Annie Tritt, Tommy Wu National Advertising Director: Harold Burdick, Jr. Sales & Marketing: David L. Bonitatibus Advertising Sales Office: (518) 992-2232 National Advertising Representative: Rivendell Media (212) 242-6863 Subscription Info: (518) 992-2232 Circulation Manager: Robert Schelepanow Bookkeeper: Richard Garcia Board of Directors President: David Waggoner Vice President: Harold Burdick, Jr. Secretary: Richard Garcia Founding Board Members: Mark S. Labrecque, 1961–1992, Christopher Hewitt, 1946–2004, Mark Galbraith, 1962–2011 In Memoriam: Bill Jacobson, 1939–2005 Rhomylly B. Forbes, 1963–2011 • Chris Companik, 1957–2012 Nancy Ellegate, 1959–2015 • Patricia Nell Warren 1936–2019 A&U (ISSN 1074-0872) is published by Art & Understanding, Inc., 25 Monroe St., Suite 205, Albany, NY 12210-2743, USA. For A&U advertising information please call 518-992-2232; for subscriptions and address changes please call 518-992-2232; for letters to the editor and unsolicited manuscripts write A&U Magazine, 25 Monroe Street, Albany, New York 12210; fax 518-436-5354; or e-mail: mailbox@aumag.org. All unsolicited manuscripts that do not have a S.A.S.E. cannot be returned and will not be acknowledged. ©2021 Art & Understanding, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. A&U may not be reproduced in any manner, either in whole or in part, without written permission of the publisher. A&U and the graphic representations thereof are the registered trademarks of Art & Understanding, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization. Individual Subscription rates: $24.95 (12 issues). Institutional rates: $80.00 (12 issues). For subscriptions outside the USA and possessions, $30.95/Canada, $49.95/international, payable in advance in U.S. currency. First North American serial rights revert to contributors upon publication. A&U retains the right to anthologize work in further issues, as well as in microform or reprinting on the Internet within the context of each issue. Statements of writers, artists and advertisers are not necessarily those of the publisher. Readers note: subjects and contributors to A&U are both HIV-positive and HIV-negative. In the absence of a specific statement herein concerning the serostatus of any individual mentioned in, or contributing material to, this publication, no inference is made with respect thereto and none should be implied. Letters written to A&U or its contributors are assumed intended for publication. Art & Understanding, Inc. assumes no responsibility or liability for unsolicited submissions and does not guarantee the return thereof. PostMaster: Please send address corrections to A&U Magazine, 25 Monroe Street, Suite 205, Albany NY 12210-2743, USA

Printed in USA • Visit our Web site at www.aumag.org

Digital Digital D ig igi git ita taal Footprints Fo Footprints ootpprint in nts ts mosttweeted Hank Trout’s cover story interview with Sister Roma created a stir on social media as she magnified AIDS awareness. Photo by Saul Bromberger & Sandra Hoover Photography

Chael Needle revisited the January 2013 most issue, from cover to cover, to explempify the best of A&U. Readers broke the Like button for Stephen Churchill Downes’ photos of Mondo Guerra.





Mondo Guerra photo by Stephen Churchill Downes

A new documentary about David Wojnarowicz prompted a lively dialogue in print between editors Chael Needle and Hank Trout and readers shared in our excitement, too.


@au_americas_aids_magazine • JUNE 2021

THOSE HAPPY GHOSTS OF LOVE A Tribute to Two Individuals in My Life Who Taught Me Valuable Lessons


’m shy by nature. Not many people that interact with me daily would believe that; they would be very surprised if I were to point it out. I learned the trick of faking it until I make it. One of the tricks I’ve learned is to ask a lot of questions about someone’s work, family and friends, education, when appropriate, and the old standby, what brings the pair, group of you into contact in the first place. When I win people over, I decide their tolerance for my stories. They’re a great icebreaker. Many of them feature a petite redhead who left Ireland at the age of twelve with her mother,who had chased her abusive husband out of the house with an iron skillet that managed to clock him round the ear more than once. Kind relatives helped them book a ship and sail to the U.S. I bring her up often, my Irish gran, her colorful sayings, her curmudgeonly exterior which belied a woman of much sustenance and emotion. She was hell on wheels, as her family would often say. I, however, saw much deeper. We had a close relationship. In many ways, she had helped raise me in her own home when she had adjusted to the idea of her single teenage daughter conceiving a child during a time and in a place where that just didn’t happen. We stayed close my entire life until my family lost her in 2003. I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t receive her letters, written at dawn in her kitchen and continued piecemeal when she found spare moments. They brought me much comfort, wherever in the world I found myself. I often repeat some of her off-color statements to friends and customers...’jumped up Josephine,' 'balls, said the queen, if I had two I’d be king,’ or the particularly vulgar...’looks like someone shot at it and missed then shit at it and hit!’ All in her unmistakable Irish brogue. It’s a brogue that I’ve never been able to master that sends it over the top. And let’s not forget taking the lord’s name in vain! No person can call up the blessed Virgin, God, and all the saints like an old, cranky Irish woman. I often wondered, but didn’t dare ask why it was always ‘Jaysus,’ not Jesus? Was it merely accent, or a ploy to not really call his name? In her final years, while I was living far away in L.A., communication grew strained.She made less and less sense but always got me to send a check to smooth things over. We didn’t know it until the doctors informed us that she was a serious bulimic and that,


not ulcers or cancer, was what had finally killed her. But I choose the good memories, like the time when I was thirteen and she asked me if I needed to tell her something. I confessed that I was gay and found no judgment. Mostly I was sure that this revelation would not go anywhere. With secrets, she was as quiet as the grave.

So if you hear me quote my Irish gran often it’s because I love keeping and honoring her memory. There’s another person that I met in college when working at The Bar at the corner of Third and Second Ave in the East Village. All the cool gay men packed the place during the weekends and I wanted to be a part of that. My best friend Nick had worked there but was leaving. He introduced me to David, the manager, and the rest is history. I showed up at a casual meeting of the staff in very abbreviated running shorts and a tight white tank top. David had been from a very WASP family in Santa Barbara but spoke like a Jewish matron from outer Queens; we all picked it up. He was short and skinny with stick-straight hair, which he wore in a crew top above the ears and a long straight piece down the middle of his back that was often braided and decorated with African beads supplied by a jewelry artist, who would get us coke, bounce the unruly, and keep a general eye on the place. David was one of a kind; they broke the mold. David proceeded with the meeting, but suddenly stopped his litany of complaints. He singled me out. ‘You! In the running drag. Do you have anything on under those shorts?’

viewfinder Blushing, I’m certain I replied that a jock strap was firmly in place. By now there were vocal and very appreciative interest from the rest of the group, they being mostly older and used to David’s antics. ‘Give us a little peek then, go on, you’ll be showing more while you’re bar backing and working that floor.’ So, I stood up, turned around and showed them the strap, i.e., most of my ass. I got a round of applause, and we proceeded with the meeting. Not weeks later, at the tender age of eighteen, I was working the crowded floor for empties in a jock and engineer boots. Our bartenders were past the stage for such antics but were glad to see me keeping up the sides. Once, hanging out on a Saturday afternoon in the bar I held my best cruising pose. I leaned against the wall with a Rolling Rock cocked on my hip. David was behind the bar doing inventory but keeping one eye on me. I was soon approached by a dreamboat a head taller than me. We quickly got down to business. He was all top and I was all bottom and a pro at head; all was going well. He leaned even closer to my ear and told me that he’d had a lot of beer and would love piss it all over me in his tub. At that age there were still things that shocked me. I got nervous and demurred. Evidently this was a deal breaker for him and he promptly departed. Before I could think, David was in my face, ‘What happened! That gorgeous man obviously wanted you!’ I told him what he expected but found no sympathy. He stomped his foot and pointed a bony finger at the door. ‘You march, young lady, and find him! I’d die for that man to piss on me!’ I also remember David teaching me how to tend bar. He filled an old liquor bottle with water, connected a pour top and slammed the bottle on the bar in front of me. ‘Now, when you hold it, you hold it like a cock! God knows you’ve had enough practice.’ He also taught me to make my first meal, saying that someday I’d want one of the parade of men in my life to stick around and that it would behoove me to feed him so he’d stay. I still make that spaghetti carbonara to this day. Severe bulimia took my grandmother at the age of seventy. AIDS took David, along with the rest of the bar’s staff, years earlier. I continue to honor their memory with tales of their escapades to this day as often as I can. It blesses their memory and keeps them alive in my heart. John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2. • JUNE 2021

illustration by Timothy J. Haines

BRIGHT LIGHTS, SMALL CITY by John Francis Leonard

Without health justice, we cannot end the HIV epidemic. Show your support at sfaf.org/shop


national HIV testing day: "my test, my way"


une 27, 2021, is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), designed to emphasize and encourage HIV testing as a means of preventing new HIV transmissions. The theme for this year’s NHTD is “My Test, My Way,” chosen to emphasize not only the importance of getting tested for the virus, but also the ease of locating and taking easy, fast, confidential, and safe HIV tests. The theme hopes to provide opportunities to talk about the testing options available and to empower people to choose where and when to get tested based on their needs and convenience. There are different ways and places to get tested for HIV, including at home with a self-test. Many local health departments and community-based organizations, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distribute free HIV self-testing kits, a program funded in part by the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative. In a May 3, 2021 press release on the website, HIV.gov, Harold J. Phillips, MRP, and Jonathan Mermin, MD, of the CDC noted that

USCHA 2021 plans a live "homecoming"


n a bold move, after morphing into a virtual event in 2020, organizers at NMAC are planning a live, in-person gathering for the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA) for October 28 to 31, 2021, in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference theme is “Homecoming”. The USCHA website states, “Homecoming invokes feelings of remembrance, reconnection and celebration. Let’s come together to honor those we lost and strengthen the bonds created that allow us to continue with our goal of ending the epidemics.” “Some of you may think we are overly optimistic to think USCHA can happen in person this October,” said NMAC’s Paul Kawata in a press release. “We know that circumstances may force us to change to a virtual meeting if things get worse anew, but right now we’re hopeful and need to start now to make the late


this year’s observation of NHTD comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge LGBTQ people and communities of color, public health departments, and healthcare facilities. “As we approach NHTD,” they wrote, “we also recognize June as Pride month, and on June 5th, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first MMWR report on what would come to be known as AIDS. Highlighting these significant events, even as the response to COVID-19 continues, is important as we work toward our goal to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S.”

As part of promoting the 2021 NHTD, organizers urge community members to use the hashtag #HIVTestingDay on their social media channels and to communicate to their followers that there are many options they can use to get tested for HIV. They also encourage community members to add a tagline to their posts, such as “My Test, My Way—Take Pride by Taking the Test” or “My Test, My Way—We Can Be the Generation to End the HIV Epidemic.” For more information, log on to https://www.hiv.gov/blog.

October date. Like everyone, we will closely monitor the situation, and follow all hotel, CDC, and D.C. rules for large gatherings.” NMAC’s plans for USCHA 2021 emphasize workshops that address the current state of the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 epidemics and how NMAC and others all pivoted to new methods in serving HIV/AIDS communities. 2021 tracks include: Racism and Race, Best Practices in Telehealth, Biomedical HIV Prevention, Addressing Issues Around COVID, Ending the Epidemic—Next Steps, Prioritizing People Living with HIV, Public Policy, Trauma-Informed Care/ Mental Health, and Track en Español. New programming this year includes Constituents Day on Thursday, Oct 28. Instead of the usual opening, the first day of the conference will provide an opportunity for constituents to hold satellite meetings. NMAC will provide the space for free on a first-come first-served basis. The goal is to give colleagues free space to have

Homecomings with their constituents. NMAC will disseminate information on these meetings via their listservs, website, and social media. Kawata concluded, “Since USCHA 2021 is Halloween weekend, remember to bring your costumes. There will be a ball, and we want everyone to walk! After the year we’ve had, we deserve fun. We deserve to laugh and remember the joy of being with friends.” The four-day conference will open on Thursday, October 28, 2021, at the Marriott Marquis at 901 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C. For more information and to register for USCHA 2021, visit https://uscha.life/. • JUNE 2021

philanthropic hiv funding 2019: $706 million


n May 6, 2021, Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) released its 18th annual Philanthropic Support to Address HIV/AIDS report for calendar year 2019, showing an increase of $49 million (seven percent) from 2018, for a total of nearly $706 million. This is the highest level of private philanthropic giving since FCAA began tracking HIV-related philanthropy almost 20 years ago. However, FCAA noted that the rise was driven almost entirely by a single, $100 million investment in HIV research from the Phillip T. and Susan M. Ragon Foundation and thus skews what would have otherwise been an overall decrease in HIV-related philanthropy. The annual report analyzes data on more than 5,000 grants, awarded by 264 foundations in fifteen countries, and identifies gaps, trends, and opportunities in HIV-related philanthropy. The study enables philanthropic donors to make informed decisions about where their resources are most needed. Some 264 funders were analyzed in the report on 2019. The top funders accounted for 92% of the year’s total. Just five years ago, the top twenty funders accounted for only

in memoriam: patrick o'connell, 1953–2021


atrick O’Connell, founding director of Visual AIDS and creator of the red ribbon symbol of AIDS advocacy, died from AIDS-related causes on March 23, 2021 at a hospital in New York City. He was sixty-seven years old. A native New Yorker, O’Connell was born on April 12, 1953, in Manhattan. He attended Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx and graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in history. He began his art career in his early twenties, becoming director of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo; a year later, he returned to New York City and worked for Artists Space. After his diagnosis with AIDS in the mid-1980s, O’Connell first became involved with Visual AIDS, an advocacy group that supports artists living with the disease, in 1989. He helped to create Visual AIDS’ Day Without Art, in which galleries and

JUNE 2021 •

80% of total giving. Furthermore, the top two funders——The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gilead Sciences, Inc.——represent over 50% of grantmaking each year. The report also notes that the vast majority of people living with HIV/AIDS reside in low- and middle-income countries, yet HIV-related philanthropy aimed at those countries decreased by 32% from 2018 to 2019. Further, while key populations and their sexual partners account for most new global HIV infections, HIV-related philanthropy for key populations decreased 12% in 2019 from 2018. “As we’ve seen in the past several reports, philanthropic resources for HIV/AIDS have remained relatively flat at a time when we can ill-afford stagnation,” said Channing Wickham, FCAA’s Board Chair, in a prepared statement. “What’s more, the number of funders is shrinking, with the majority of grants given by just a few grant-makers. This puts us in a very

vulnerable position should the priorities of an ever-smaller number of investors shift.” Funders Concerned About AIDS is a philanthropy-serving organization founded in 1987 to push philanthropy to respond to HIV/AIDS. FCAA informs, connects, and supports philanthropy to end the global HIV pandemic and build the social, political and economic commitments necessary to attain health, human rights, and justice.

museums shrouded their artworks to represent human loss. Hundreds of institutions participated, including the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The initiative has continued every year since, changing into Day With(out) Art.. In 1991, Visual AIDS began the Ribbon Project, whose red ribbon would become an international symbol of AIDS advocacy. Its color represented blood, and its sparse design reflected the silence surrounding the disease. O’Connell helped organize “ribbon bees,” in which thousands of ribbons were cut, folded, and distributed around the city. After their initial appearance at the Tony Awards in 1992, the ribbons soon started appearing on shirts and jackets and gowns in cities across the country. Some AIDS activists damned the red ribbon as a hollow trend that had lost its significance. But for O’Connell, the results were what mattered. “People

want to say something” about AIDS, he told The New York Times in 1992, “not necessarily with anger and confrontation all the time. This allows them. And even if it is only an easy first step, that’s great with me. It won’t be their last.” “Patrick’s mission in life was rooted in a moment of crisis, but that sense of urgency eventually ended,” O’Connell’s friend Peter Hay Halpert told the Times. “So many people involved in that fight alongside him died, and he was left to deal with living with the illness alone. He became one of the last survivors from that time still left.” O’Connell told POZ magazine, “I am almost stripped and bereft of contemporaries who remember me as young and cute and vibrant. Part of our definition is the reflection we get from our friends. It’s painful that that is all gone.” —Reporting by Hank Trout


by Ruby Comer

Eric Dean


fuss with my mane, or put on my greasepaint, so this old fashion girl talks to Eric on the horn. It’s an early summer afternoon and sparrows chirp in the Birch tree just out-side my Silver Lake window. Ruby Comer: Hello. How are you Eric?! You’re in West Hollywood, correct? Eric Dean: Hi Ruby! Good to hear from you on this lovely day. Yes, we’re right in the center of WeHo! Ya know, I want to hear about your growing up, Eric. Well, Ruby, we were dirt poor and lived in HUD housing. We received food stamps and government-issued commodities. Times were always tough in our

Ruby illustration by Davidd Batalon; photos courtesy E. Dean


rowing up in a small town can have its benefits…and it’s disadvantages. When it comes to facing the AIDS epidemic, there can be shortcomings. In a small town, you might not get a well-informed education about HIV, and if you do, it may be biased and carry stigma. Yes, that can happen anywhere, but more probable in a rural area. Case in point, actor Eric Dean. Born on Christmas Day——Hello, Jesus!——Eric was raised in Muldrow, Oklahoma. He had a single mom, Emma Sue Rogers, to whom he was devoted. He was the youngest of five, having three brothers and one sis. “My mother followed love,” he states to me matter-of-factly; thus the family lived in other small towns in Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Arizona, as well as in Juarez, Mexico. No one knew at the time that his mother was bipolar. Eventually, as Eric developed into adulthood their relationship became strained. Since Eric was gay, living in tiny townships was tremendously rough. He hid his true self for fear of being bashed or shamed. Naturally, the guy was terrified of HIV, which kept him deeper in the closet. In his bedroom though, Eric had pasted photographs of his then crushes, Tom Selleck in Magnum, PI and the legendary George Michael. Eric admits having a craze for hairy chests…well, I can’t deny that for myself as well! Receiving a partial theater scholarship, Eric attended the University of Tulsa, graduating with a major in psychology and a minor in anthropology. Pride elated him as no one in his family had ever gone to college, let alone graduate! Good for you, chum. Eric then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and slid into the corporate world as a marketing manager for five years. Tormented by his unfulfilled dream of being an actor, he decided to relocate to Los Angeles in 1999 at the age of twenty-eight. Shortly thereafter he signed on with a commercial agent and began booking a stream of commercials. In between show biz gigs, in 2004, he co-founded a custom furniture and design services business, DAVINCI. The thespian’s résumé includes appearances in over thirty films, television, stage, and web series. Eric’s grandmother was a dedicated fan of Days of Our Lives. While working in an L.A. restaurant, Dean made a connection who got him an audition for the renowned series. He was then cast and appeared in an “under 5” role. Even though he had only a few lines, his grandma was super-charged! While still residing in Santa Fe, Eric met his soulmate, Tomas. Together they moved to the City of Angels, with two years in Mexico, living just outside Puerto Vallarta, where they were when COVID-19 stunned and silenced the world. Eric and Tomas returned to L.A. in the summer of last year. Both are active in the HIV community, attending numerous fundraiser events through the years, and Tomas has biked in AIDS/LifeCycle (now the TogetheRide) twice. Of course Tomas had the full support of Eric, who was there at the end, greeting him with open arms and a broad bursting smile. Ugh, I’m tired of Zoom calling. Plus today I feel lazy and don’t want to dress,

• JUNE 2021

household. My mom worked and did the best she could, but it was tough. She didn’t have an education and didn’t finish high school, so she worked anywhere and everywhere she could. Mom never made a lot of money and it was a constant struggle to make ends meet. Wow. I’m sorry you had to go through that. What was it like to have a birthday and Christmas at the same time? I never got two gifts. I received one gift for both Christmas and my birthday. Is your mom still around? [There’s a bit of a hush.] My mother just passed away this January 14. She was eighty-four, and would have been eighty-five in February. My mom was born on Leap Year. Technically, she would’ve been only 21.25 years old, barely legal enough to consume alcohol. [He chuckles brightly.] I wish you light and love, my dear. Say, tell me about residing in Muldrow and how it affected you being gay? I was the only guy in choir. I mean, boys played sports; they didn’t sing. I loved to sing, Ruby, so imagine it then multiply that by ten! [Feeling empathy, I nod.] I didn’t have any guy friends until about tenth grade and was teased a lot, being called "faggot" and "sissy." In middle school through high school, I was terrified to walk down the halls. I would literally get sick to my stomach and dreaded it every single day. Oh, Eric, this hits my heartstrings. I…am… so… sorry. Unfortunately, I know many others who have been bullied as well. It’s an epidemic in our country. I hope soon they pass more laws. [I change gears rather precisely.] Were you taught about AIDS? There was no HIV prevention let alone teen pregnancy prevention. AIDS was a pejorative. I was terrified of AIDS, Ruby. I didn’t know anything about it except that gay people “got it.” There was a boy two years younger than me, Ryan, who was rumored to have [acquired HIV]. I think he was a hemophiliac and that’s how he contracted it. It was never talked about openly. There was just speculation. It was horrible, Ruby. I feel your pain, Eric…. One day, he just disappeared from school. I learned years later after living in California for a while through a good friend that he did have AIDS…and died. My friend added that she was told not to say he had AIDS. It was a big secret. I internalized it all and never let anyone know how terrified I was every day of AIDS and being gay and being bullied. It’s such an overwhelming heartbreaking situation, no two ways about it. Did you ever JUNE 2021 •

overcome that stigma? I don’t think I ever have, truly, Ruby. However, I now live in California and I don’t feel the stigma here. ….a much happier place to be. I am biased about small towns because I was raised in one myself. I can tell you stories, and sometimes I will, dear reader. By the time you came of age in the mid-eighties, having sex could often kill you. How did all that play out for you? I didn’t have sex! I was terrified. I had a few girlfriends but I never had intercourse. I couldn’t admit to myself that I was even gay, though I knew I was. [Eric inhales, conveying the seriousness of the situation.] Since I grew up so terrified of having sex and being gay, I never educated myself. If I had, someone might have found out that I was gay.

Love is a marathon: Tomas and Eric I get it Eric. Totally. Doesn’t that bring up an eerie point? Like you, were married before Prop 8 made it illegal. those who are isolated and overcome with fear that they don’t learn about this dreadful CONGRATS! When you met, how did you guys disease. [Briefly, there’s a dead quiet.] Have broach the topic of STIs? you lost anyone to AIDS? We didn’t really. [He breaks.] We didn’t talk My clothing store manager, Fred Rogers, was an about that stuff. We knew it existed, and we were awesome guy. I admired him because he was himself careful. [Eric clears his throat.] I think I was too scared and I liked how he treated people. He always made to talk about it. I felt like the more I knew the scarier it me laugh. I was drawn to him, not in a sexual way, would be and almost like it would be easier to get. but he was very handsome. He never told me that he was gay; however I knew. He was very thin and there I understand this train of thought…. were days that he would be out sick. Talking about I was so dumb, Ruby, when I was younger about him now brings a smile to my face. educating myself about the disease. I fear, too, that How tender, Eric. Of course when you said his name, I instantly darted to Fred Rogers who was the famous children’s TV host of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Uh, yes. I lost touch with him after college and never knew he died. I found out years later that he had passed away. When I began donating to AIDS fundraisers it was in his name. How lovely. How old were you when you got HIV tested? I never got tested solely for HIV. I have always been safe. When I got blood tests for life insurance or other blood work, they tested for HIV. Tell about meeting Tomas. We met in 1998 while I was living in Santa Fe and moonlighting as a bartender at the local gay bar, Paramount. Tomas came into the bar one night with two friends. In 2008, we were married on our tenyear anniversary, and was one of the 18K couples that

if I educated myself, then people would know I was gay. I wasn’t comfortable being out professionally because it was still really frowned up-on in the entertainment industry. [He releases a breathy groan….] Crazy, right?

I know both you guys step up to the plate when help is needed. Where does that inspiration come from? I try to do the right thing and give when I can. Being poor growing up, we weren’t raised to give money away. We just didn’t have any. When we gave, it was always to church. Charity has been something that I’ve learned to do in my adulthood. Kudos, Eric. My actions are small, Ruby, but every little bit helps. Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at MsRubyComer@aol.com.





despair and lust. With other newly minted Positive men who didn’t care anymore, who just wanted some human touch, some validation. Maybe David Reuben was right, Part XIII of an Ongoing Chronicle of the First Fifteen Years of the after all. I did not deserve to be loved. Anything, anything to fill the void. AIDS Pandemic The fear in the air was palpable. The desperation. The loneliness. The anxavid Reuben’s iety. And yet none of us could talk Everything You Always about it with each other. We were all Wanted to Know terrified. The only way we knew how About Sex* (*But to deal with the emptiness was to be Were Afraid To Ask) sold 100,000 copies in 1969, with each other in the way in which and remains one of the best-sellwe were accustomed: in silence and ing nonfiction books of all time. in shame. I was fourteen years old And now there was evidence to when I read it, clandestinely support what we had been taught scouring the indices of my mothall our lives: Sex with another man er’s psychology books, in search was so unnatural and so against the of the word “homosexual.” laws of nature that it literally could Here is an excerpt from the kill you. AIDS was a real downer for one brief chapter Reuben allows liberated sex junkies everywhere. on the matter of homosexuality, his shortest chapter in the book: We all thought this would be over in a few years. We thought if we The majority of gay guys, just fought hard enough and long when they cruise, dispense enough, if we shouted loud enough, with the courtship. They don’t if we showed our determination and even have time for footsie or stamina, surely this would be over. love notes on toilet paper. But the bodies continued to Homosexuality seems to have pour down like water. Jim, Michael, a compelling urgency about it. Vito. Bo, John Martin’s adorable A homosexual walks into the roommate. The AZT was toxic, the men’s washroom and spots andoctors were helpless, bodies shrank other homosexual. One drops to to ninety pounds. his knees, the other unzips his I remember walking into a pants, and a few minutes later, With each encounter, I wanted more. The hospital room and thinking I was in the wrong it’s all over. No names, no faces, no emotions. A more I had, the more shameful I felt. The more room because there was a eighty-year old man in masturbation machine might do it better. shameful I felt, the more depressed I became. what was supposed to be Michael’s room. And the Was this all that would be available to me now? old man was Michael, who was thirty-six. No names. No faces. No emotions. Is this what I was worth? The more depressed I And there would be so, so many others yet to come. Well, that didn’t sound appealing to me at all. I became, the more I thrust myself into that world. Eventually, the movie houses closed. The Anvil ran the other way, as fast and as far as I could. I was an addiction cliché. I was Batman in reverse: closed, the Saint closed, the baths closed, Fire Island do-gooding healthcare education worker by day, virtually shut down, Provincetown was Province-GhostFollowing my HIV diagnosis in 1986, reeling the Religious Right’s poster child for deviant, town, the Castro became deserted. Dancing stopped. from the stigma and rejection by paramours, the diseased homosexual at night. Laughter was muted. Every person was a potential dental clinic, the media, and by society, in general, a I followed the “safer sex” guidelines of GMHC Bodysnatcher. Entire armies of men sheathed in new cycle of shame emerged. and the NYC Health Department, so it wasn’t the rubber. There was no joy in Gomorrah. Donna Summer I turned to the darkness of porn movie houses sex act itself that was shameful to me. And I was had left the building. Young gay men had nothing to and gay bookstores, trolling bars until closing, not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Dedo, so they joined gyms. sometimes even on weeknights. I figured that as spite the religious Right’s call to have people like long as I was turning heads, even in the darkest and me castrated, I knew I wasn’t purposely putting Bruce Ward is A&U’s Drama Editor, and he has been dirtiest of atmospheres, as long as I was desired by anyone’s life at risk or adding more risk to my writing about the AIDS epidemic since its inception. desirable men, then I must still look good. And if I own. But the shame and secrecy enfolded me as His plays, Lazarus Syndrome and Decade: Life in looked good, then I must still be healthy. As long as tight as a shroud. the ’80s, have been produced throughout the U.S. hot and healthy-looking men were willing to have So this is what was left of life: nameless, Bruce was the original Director of the CDC National sex with me, then I was able to keep panic at bay. faceless sex in dark, seedy balconies that reeked of AIDS Hotline, and he was honored by POZ magaThere would be plenty of time to be reclusive and desperation. With married men from Connecticut zine as one of 2015’s POZ 100. You may follow him celibate——when I was covered in spots and as thin as a toothpick. who were also each overflowing with shame and at: bdwardbos.wordpress.com.



• JUNE 2021



by Chael Needle


A Pride Month Reflection on the Power of Positive Change


wo queer men, also partners, John Lyon Burnside III and Harry Hay, invented the teleidoscope, a sort of kaleidoscope that, instead of using colored crystals, reflects objects outside its lens. This scope of ever-shifting mirrors, creating a multitude of designs based in the real world, always seemed an apt analogy for the LGBTQ2S+ liberation movement. We are instruments of reflection and change. Traditionally, for LGBTQ2S+ community members and allies, June is Pride month and, for me, it has never stopped at celebrating our sexual orientation or gender identity but starts with speaking out against injustice, hate, and exploitation. That is, we draw on our collective lived realities to interrupt the status quo, in the name of social justice or health justice or economic justice, and so on. In this sense, the LGBTQ2S+ liberation movement is aligned with (and indeed intertwined with) many other movements that have determined that the business called “usual” needs to be shuttered for good. The civil rights, labor, women’s, immigrant rights, and HIV/AIDS movements, to name a few, all align and intertwine partly because of the intersectional aspect of oppression, a hydra whose heads are animated by racism, classism, sexism, etc., and which work in unison, at times, or in different combinations or singularly. And the aligning-and-intertwining exists because we, as human beings trying to make our way in the world, are radically diverse individuals who fight back against business as usual from different vantage points, some of which are based on social categories and some based on allyships. Often, some form of “business as usual” is embedded in any particular liberation movement, so that some activists work at least two shifts to interrupt the status quo, one shift within activist or progressive groups or organizations of which they are part and one shift in their communties of origin. For example, in response to an AIDS 2020 video produced by UCSF, activist Billie Cooper [A&U, April 2020] said in protest: “‘This. Is. BULLSHIT!! The whole thing is bullshit, the same old bullshit we are always handed! I don’t see ME in your video! I don’t see any of my trans sisters in your video! Forty years of this stuff and you still can’t get this right?! You still don’t have a trans woman in your video?! Where are we?! Did you erase us? Are you going to erase us from the conference like you erased us from your video?!” As Cooper grew up, she had a similar



experience with society in general. She told LOVE interviewer Hank Trout: ACTION “At the time, I was just • Shanti Projects Creates an Archive of Compassion ‘gay’ because there was • Cempa Ensures no such word as ‘transCommunity Care for Chattanooga gender.’ We were always plus just ‘gay,’ ‘homosexuals,’ • COVID-19 & HIV ‘faggots.’ I had to be very • Actor Elliot Fletcher • Poetry by Ben Kline careful being Gay and Black. At that time, we were barely ‘tolerated.’ If we were quiet and didn’t cause any problems, we were accepted. I also The Long-Term HIV & Cancer Survivor Speaks Truth to Power as She believe some people Fights for Her Black, Trans, and HIV felt threatened by my Communities sexuality then.” The late activist Ken Jones [A&U, February 2020] had a similar experience when it came to attempts to erase whole groups of she offered this experience: “‘I will never ever forget individuals from the queer movement. He told one of my early meetings around HIV and AIDS. I was interviewer Hank Trout: “‘[Activist Konstantin in a group of gay men and a few straight female allies Berlandt] asked for my input on a flyer for an and we were all sitting and talking and I got up from upcoming [Pride] Parade Committee meeting. the table to speak with someone and I heard someone When I pointed out to him the lack of diversity in say, ‘Well, why are we talking to the n*****?’ And the all-white all-male images, he broke out into I remember being speechless. In my brain, I was. I a huge grin and hugged me. He insisted I attend was absolutely on pause because I thought we were that meeting to discuss my concerns about all the all here all on the same page to talk about what was white male images.’” going on with this disease, but this person just said, Trout writes: “Ken left that meeting as CoChair of an Outreach Committee. ‘I charged the ‘But why are we talking to the n*****?...I guess in Committee with getting more under-represented his mind because I was black I wasn’t worth talking or non-represented segments of the community to and I certainly didn’t need to be talking with them to march with the People of Color Contingent about this subject as if it wasn’t a human disease that and to join in the parade planning process.’ affected us all, no matter who we were, gay, straight, Ken served in that role for a number of years. black, white, rich, or poor. I always knew that HIV and And then, in 1985, ‘I had brought a majority of AIDS did not discriminate, but somehow some people new, non-traditional members into the planning still do.’” process and actually had the votes to run for and win Thank heavens Sheryl Lee Ralph persisted beas President of the Planning Committee.” At his first cause she has been vital to the HIV/AIDS movement. meeting as President, he passed a motion to add I could cite more examples from the pages of ‘Bisexual’ to the name of the San Francisco Lesbian A&U, but I wanted to bring together these voices in and Gay Freedom Day Parade and Celebration.” this column to reflect on and remind ourselves of Jones interrupted the status quo of the the precious, tenuous bond called us. Ever shifting, movement and the movement was better for it. And, ever reforming as we link together, like mirrors in a while sometimes the movement encourages positive teleidoscope. transformation, at other times the movement seeks to freeze in place oppressive power dynamics. When Chael Needle is Managing Editor of A&U. Follow him on I asked Sheryl Lee Ralph [A&U, August 2015] about how #BlackLivesMatter and AIDS activism intersected, Twitter @ChaelNeedle.



• JUNE 2021

ALI NA O S WALD Photography

portrait - editorial - creative - promotional - event

photo editing & retouching photo education portfolio review


POSITIVELY PINK Yonce Jones, a Trans Activist from the Bronx, Is Sharing Her Story and Her Signature Style to Inspire and Educate People Living with HIV Everywhere by Chip Alfred


he calls herself the “Pink Princess.” Actually, Yonce describes that moniker as her alter ego, “sort of like Beyoncé when she’s Sasha Fierce. She’s sassy, classy, hip.” This princess is all decked out in a fiery pink wig, pink makeup and accessories, photographed against a shimmering pink background with her constant canine companion, Skittles, dyed to match! But what I encountered during my conversation with Ms. Jones was more of a softer shade of pink. With every question I asked, this advocate, educator, and brand ambassador responded with grace, empathy, and pure authenticity. After enduring a tough childhood, Jones ultimately emerged empowered with a new sense of purpose and determination. Today, this woman is lifting her voice to address the health disparities that exist for people of color living with HIV and to advocate for social justice for trans women. Jones was born in New Jersey to a single mom, who was only fourteen at the time and addicted to heroin. “My mother had a severe drug addiction, and she was so young when she had me. When I was six years old, I came home from school one day and she was gone.” That started Jones’ life bouncing between foster care and group homes until turning twenty-one, when she aged out. Around the time she was first placed in the system, Jones says, “I knew that I was different,” but she wasn’t sure what to do about it or who she could talk to. As she got older, Jones tried to start her transition. “I was living in some group homes that didn’t agree with my choices, and they tried to suppress that.” As much as they tried to suppress it, she fought back. “I just wanted to be myself,” she says. She ended up getting a court order to be moved to New York City to a group home for gay adolescents. “There I found liberation to be exactly who I wanted to be.” When she was seventeen, Jones went to see her pediatrician for what she thought was a severe case of the flu. That’s when she received the news that she was HIV-positive. The first thought that ran through her mind was, “Oh, wow. I’m nearly eighteen years old. I’ll be dead by the age of twenty-five. As time went on, when I hit twenty-five, I was shocked that I was still alive.” She spent time educating herself about HIV and started the process of her transition after moving into a shelter. It was an SRO, a single room occupancy for people with HIV. One day, she noticed Harlem United had set up


a table outside the shelter, so she stopped by and asked for more information about the organization. They said, “It’s for people with HIV and a mental health diagnosis. We have a drop-in center. We have continuing education, doctors’ offices, dental care, social workers, case managers.” Jones said to herself, “Oh, I need this.” Harlem United also served hot meals every day. So, Jones began going there every day. “This was my first time engaging with people that had an HIV diagnosis, especially people who were also comfortable with their diagnosis.” Jones says it was the clients at Harlem United who inspired her to become a peer educator there. She soon landed a scholarship grant from AIDS United and Harlem United to teach classes and facilitate support groups there. The way she pays it forward and inspires others, Jones says, is to give them encouragement. “I let them know I was diagnosed in 2002 and I’m still here today. We can live our lives out just like anybody else into our seventies, eighties, and ninetiess. It just helps to have someone here for them who’s walked down that road • JUNE 2021

already.” From peer educator and group leader, Jones has become an in-demand public speaker and a U=U Ambassador who is now creating awareness about Owning HIV: Young Adults & the Fight Ahead, a partnership with Merck, Prevention Access Campaign

and HIV advocates to inspire all of us to own the future of the HIV epidemic. Owning HIV kicked off in 2019 with a first-of-its-kind survey to better understand beliefs and perceptions about HIV among millennials and Gen Z in the U.S. With young adults (eighteen to thirty-four) accounting for the majority of new HIV diagnoses in this country, the campaign seeks to educate and empower young adults with accurate information about HIV. “One of the survey findings that we got back from Owning HIV was that people still think you can get HIV from sharing food or even a hug,” Jones remarks. “That always stands out in my mind because we’re in 2021, and people still don’t know how HIV is actually transmitted.” In the U.S., African American people made up just over 40% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018, making it the most impacted group compared to all other races and ethnicities in the U.S. In the Owning HIV survey, among African-American respondents who were living with HIV, 50% were unable to define what the term “undetectable” even meant. JUNE 2021 •

Once Jones joined the Owning HIV project, she realized she had some work to do herself. “I had been writing articles for Harlem United. That allowed me the freedom to express myself and allow the world to know that, yes, I’m HIV positive. I met with a great team at Owning HIV, and I continued to educate myself and learn more, especially about U=U.” She says the knowledge and the confidence she gained did wonders for her life. “It brought me out of my shell.” When she decided to disclose her status on social media, she did get pushback. “A lot of people were shocked or upset with me.” They questioned her motives for being so open on such a public platform. “You know, I’m not ashamed,” she responded. “I’m not ashamed because I can’t pass it on to anyone, so what is there to be ashamed about? As long as I’m undetectable, I’m okay. So, it gives me liberation to speak freely about what I had believed was a death sentence for so many years of my life.” As a black trans woman living with HIV, Jones says she has been dealing with stigma her whole life, but she refuses to engage in negativity to combat it. Right now, trans rights are under attack in several states. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 is a record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation. At press time, three states have passed legislation banning transgender athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities, and dozens more have introduced bills. In April, Arkansas became the first state to pass a law banning gender-affirming treatment for minors. The legislation is the first to pass in a wave of similar bills in eighteen states so far this year. Jones tells A&U she believes much of this anti-trans backlash comes from a lack of understanding and preconceived notions of what narrow-minded people view as “normal.” Her message to these people is, “Have a heart. Have some compassion.” She would ask them to try to imagine how they would feel if their child came home and told them they were trans or gay. “Don’t dismiss a trans individual just because you don’t understand what trans is. Trans people exist and we have rights just like everyone else. All I can do as a person fighting for change is to continue to be honest and tell my story.” Yonce Jones is about to tell her story on two new platforms to commemorate New York City Pride and the fortieth anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases. The Come Out Talk Show is a podcast launching on YouTube Jones has been developing for about a year. The Pink Princess and her cast of co-hosts will discuss what coming out means to each of them. “It can speak to so many things: coming out of depression, coming out of poverty, coming out of addiction, coming out of abuse, coming out of low self-esteem,” she explains. The show will feature trans women’s stories, musical performances, prize giveaways, and more. “We are a family that are outspoken, kindhearted, funny, knowledgeable and woke!” You’ll also be able to see Jones’ story featured in a documentary film for VICE TV about HIV turning forty. Originally, Jones was tapped to travel to Washington, DC, to take part in the filming of a roundtable discussion. After meeting with the production team, the producers were so impressed with her story, the decision was made to send a film crew to New York to shoot an entire segment on Jones’ life and HIV journey. This project will also premier on the last Sunday in June as New York City celebrates Pride. Before we ended our interview, I asked Jones what advice she would give to a young trans woman who might be going through some of the challenges she faced early on. “Beautiful young lady, hold on. Don’t give up. Head up, chin high. The future will be bright for you. You’re going to struggle,” she says, proudly offering her worldly wisdom. Then, she has to stop for a moment as she becomes overwhelmed with emotion, holding back her tears. “Many doors will shut in your face because of who you are. But just like that, many doors will open. You will find a community that loves you for exactly who you are. Stay bold, and never, ever allow anyone to put their hand over your mouth. Keep talking, keep shining, and keep living your life fabulously.” For more information about Owning HIV, visit: www.merck.com/stories/owning-hiv-youngadults-the-fight-ahead/. Follow Yonce PinkPrincess Jones on Facebook at: www.facebook. com/TheComeOutTalkShow. Chip Alfred is A&U’s Editor at Large, a public speaker, and a media and public relations consultant based in Philadelphia. Follow Chip on Twitter @ChipAlfred.



Golden Shovel for Arthur Russell My cello sits in the corner collecting dust. This

could be embarrassing but the fine layer of rosin and mite is invisible from under the sheets where an almost stranger asks how long I’ve played. He hears since the age of four and we move on even though I said fourth grade. I walk him through my senior recital of Grieg and Britten. His nods let on that he might actually know these names. Am I familiar with the music of Arthur Russell? and when I say no, his eyes widen like a waxing moon. So it has come to this? Another young queer who is unbothered by how the parties dimmed and we had no choice but to walk to make noise for our family on their skinny behalf, to avow that the spirit rises and awaits us on a distant moon. He wastes no time, scrolls through Spotify insisting that we listen right this instant and before long Arthur’s voice returns from the ether. He is our third. A new bedmate, crooning to us through a smartphone speaker, reminding us how to put one foot in front of the other, to swallow a daily pill. We lie in the generational ravine where his bow strokes now echo and his fingers walk an eternal ebony plank. But that unexpected trumpet! The brassy surprise swaggers on and raises the hair on my thighs. It lilts about the space and my lover pulls me closer, like the tide swelling with the moon. —Harry Hoy Harry Hoy is a graduate of Boston College with a background in linguistics and archival work. He currently works as a staffer in his local library system and has poems forthcoming in Barzakh Magazine and 300 Days of Sun.

• JUNE 2021

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STANDING STRONG with you and for you. Contact us for confidential answers: 1-855-GO-AMIDA (1-855-462-6432), TTY 711 Amida Care complies with Federal civil rights laws. Amida Care does not exclude people or treat them differently because of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-800-556-0689, TTY 711. 注意:如果您使用繁體中文,您可以免費獲得語言援助服務。請致電 1-800-556-0689, TTY 711. Stock photo with model.


FOUND Hank Trout Talks to Curator & Archivist Anthony Cianciolo About Showcasing the Lost Art of Jerome Caja


ransgressive, blasphemous and reverential, humorous and horror-filled, unapologetically raw, sexual, purposely primitive, classically informed, wildly inventive, gruesomely violent, outrageous, overtly political, yet intimate and deeply personal. The art of Jerome Caja will make you laugh, challenge your assumptions about religion, make you cry, and most of all, make you think long and hard about love and sex, death and dying. Jerome David Caja (pronounced “CHAYA”) was born into a Catholic family of eleven boys on January 20, 1958, in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned a BA at Cleveland State University in 1984; he then moved west and earned an MFA degree at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1986. Jerome became a prominent figure in the burgeoning underground radical queer art scene of the 1980s and ‘90s, featured in solo and group exhibitions as early as 1984. From his arrival in San Francisco until his death from AIDS-related causes in November 1995, Jerome created hundreds of paintings and performance pieces. “Hundreds of paintings” does not mean “hundreds of canvases.” Jerome’s idea of a canvas was broad and loose. Match boxes, old tin serving trays, metal business card holders, wooden planks, scraps of paper, bottle caps, crumpled cigarette packs and butts, Band-Aids, candy wrappers, tin can lids, even pistachio shells——all of these served as Jerome’s canvases. Although others encouraged Jerome to make larger pieces, he resisted; he wanted the pieces to be intimate, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The materials he used to paint were also rather unusual: he used nail polish, glitter, make-up, and eyeliner (staples in any drag queen’s purse), as well as cremated ashes, Wite-Out, and his own HIV-positive blood, more than oils, charcoals, or other more typical materials. Equally eclectic is Jerome’s use of well-known as well as self-created symbolic imagery. He created an entire cosmology filled with recurring images——of toasters (“the real world”), eggs (“new life”), bowls of fruit (“faggots [Jerome’s term] ascending to Heaven”), Venus (self-portraits), and black birds (death). Jerome was somewhat obsessed with “Lives of the Saints”; his religious iconography includes saints and sinners: Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Saint Lucy, Satan, imps, priests, cherubs, Bozo and other demented clowns, cannibalistic birds, pigs, and gay icons. And his images often reference Old Masters, Ingres and Goya prominent among them. “FOUND: The Lost Art of Jerome Caja” is a “jewel box exhibition” of paintings, sculptures, photos, and reliquaries rarely seen since Jerome’s death in 1995. These “Little Lovelies” (Jerome’s term) are cozily nestled inside a free-standing alcove


in the main Anglim/Trimble Gallery in San Francisco. The exhibition was curated by Anthony Cianciolo, the founding director of The Jerome Project and a fellow Ohioan. The Jerome Project is a non-profit organization that aims to bring recognition to Jerome as an important twentieth-century American artist, not just a controversial, marginalized, queer artist of the 1990s “AIDS, Art, and Activism” era in San Francisco. “I met Jerome in 1990 at Club Uranus,” Mr. Cianciolo told A&U. “He was go-go dancing on top of the bar, or should I say flailing about like a tornado of trash. I could not take my eyes off of his skinny frame. He did not care about what people thought and he did not fit in or adhere to the mainstream gay scene at that time. Jerome was a welcome freak of nature. He radiated radical individualism and creativity. He was an odd bird and a beacon of light at a time when my queer community was at its lowest. Jerome’s public drag performances and antics made me laugh at a time when I had little to laugh about. “It was his drag that drew me in, and it was not until many years later that I realized his brilliance as a master American painter. After his death in 1995 from complications related to HIV/AIDS, his star faded like so much of the countercultural art scene in San Francisco. It was the beginning of the dot.com era and artists, like me, were fleeing the city in droves. I began to curate exhibitions to reintroduce him back into the contemporary art Charles Devouring narrative, to make sure that younger Himself (Portrait of queers know this man’s brilliance.” Charles Sexton, after I recently had the privilege of Goya), 1985–95, glita private viewing of the exhibition ter, crematory ashes, guided by Cianciolo and Michael nail polish, enamel Johnstone [A&U, March 2017], on aluminum tray Jerome’s friend and sometime collaborator. Cianciolo began by explaining that the exhibition is “found” because many of the pieces have been scrounged, acquired for the exhibit from private collectors and friends of Jerome. The first thing you see as you approach the alcove containing Jerome’s art is a foot-tall statue of The Virgin Bozo, the Virgin Mary with the face of Bozo the Clown. The image is shocking, intentionally blasphemous and disrespectful, and very funny——the perfect representation of Jerome’s disdain for his Catholic upbringing and the Church’s moralizing about AIDS. It is the largest piece in the exhibition but hardly the most shocking. Shroud of Curad is a portrait of Christ painted on the skin side of a Band-Aid, using a mixture of his own HIV-positive blood and eyeliner. Jerome used these “shroud” paintings as • JUNE 2021

MAY 2021 JUNE 2021••


Hey Honey 1983, black & white photographs, Anna van der Meulen, 11 by 16 inches each


part of a skag-drag “Passion of Christ” performance piece over Easter weekend in 1988 at Club Uranus; at the end of the performance, he ripped the BandAids off his “stigmata” and hurled them into the crowd. Jerome’s anti-religion attitude is also there in his paintings of demonic nuns and vulgar saints. Another piece features a rough nail-polish portrait of Christ on the cross, his arms spread wide; it’s called, I Love You This Much. Another recurring image in Jerome’s work is fellow artist Charles Sexton. Sexton and Caja attended the San Francisco Art Institute together and became friends. Since both artists were living with HIV, they entered into a pact: whoever was the “Loser in Life” had to bequeath his ashes to the survivor to be used for art. Charles died first, in 1992. Jerome then spent two years mixing nail polish with Charles’ ashes and created a large body of artwork. Jerome gave many of these pieces to Charles’ family and friends as personal reliquaries. One such piece is Charles Devouring Himself. After mixing nail polish and resin with some of Sexton’s cremated ashes, Jerome painted a portrait of Sexton eating a smaller version of himself, feet first, Shroud of Curad, in the center of a round aluminum tray. The 1985–95, Band-Aid, painting, which references Francisco Goya’s blood, eyeliner on Saturn Devouring His Son, depicts Sexton in a Band-Aid a sickly yellow green against a rough black background, eating his own bloody effigy. It’s a violent, disturbing image, only slightly softened by the wistful look in Sexton’s eyes. Another piece in the exhibition, Untitled (Charley’s Ashtray), consists of an old round filigreed pewter ashtray containing some of Sexton’s ashes. In the cigarette rest, there is a cigarette butt with a white filter on which Jerome painted a tiny portrait of Sexton. It is a deceptively simple sculpture——an ashtray, ashes, a cigarette butt——but extremely powerful and moving upon closer examination. (A funny story, indicative of Jerome’s offbeat sense of humor. Michael Johnstone told me that he attended a party at Jerome’s apartment one night. Jerome began pointing out pieces of his art to the party goers. “This is The Virgin Bozo, and this is Venus in Cleveland, and THAT——” he said, pointing to the ashtray——“is Charley.”) In many ways, this sculpture is one of the “quintessentially Caja” pieces in the exhibit——the irreverent humor, the use of found objects (the ashtray, the cigarette butt), the somewhat creepy-but-loving use of Sexton’s ashes, the miniature portrait on • JUNE 2021


the cigarette filter, and the unflinching look at death are all hallmarks of Jerome’s work. I wish we could show you some of the more risqué, explicit images on display in this exhibition because they capture Jerome at his most irreverent and playful. One, entitled

went to art school and graduated with an MFA. Jerome [made] powerful art that still challenges the viewer... to confront us about uncomfortable, taboo subjects...provoking and stimulating the viewer to explore their own narrow-mindedness around racism, sexism, and homophobia. Jerome was dismissed, excluded and marginalized in his life. So many of us experience that pain for reasons——the color of our skin, our sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, our class, our immigration status, or our personal beliefs. For these reasons, his art is as relevant today as the day he made it.” Since 2021 marks the fortieth anniversary of the first reports of what became known as HIV/AIDS, this exhibition of Jerome Caja’s artwork takes on extra significance. It reminds us that, during the bleakest years of the pandemic, artists of the AIDS Generation fought back against the government that ignored us and the churches that condemned us. NecessarUntitled (Charley’s Ashtray), ily resourceful with materials at hand, 1985–95, pewter ashtray, they created art despite their physical crematory ashes, cigarette pain and emotional torment. And they but, nail polish did so with righteous anger and, often, macabre humor. Their art, especially Jerome Caja’s, not only speaks to us of suffering and resilience, it speaks for us of our own anguish and fears. Furthering its mission of preserving Caja’s work, The Jerome Project is looking for personal photos, film clips, paintings, and most of all, stories related to Jerome and his art. If you knew Jerome or if you know of anybody who did, or if you ran in similar circles with him, please share your stories. If you would like to participate in this resurrection of Jerome Caja’s work, please contact Anthony Cianciolo at www.thejeromeproject.com/contact.html.

Goldilocks, depicts Jerome himself engaged in his favorite sexual fantasy with three bears. As for other pieces, well, with NSFW titles like Bozo F*cks Death, you’ll forgive us for not publishing them. “Jerome will always be relevant,” said Cianciolo. “He resonates with outsiders and speaks the language of outsider artists, but he is an insider. He was classically trained, JUNE 2021 •

Anthony Cianciolo wishes to express his gratitude to the Anglim/Trimble Gallery (www.anglimtrimble.com) for the opportunity to mount this exhibition and the GLBT Historical Society (www.glbthistory.org) for allowing him to exhibit (for the first time) the Caja art in their archives. The exhibition, “FOUND: The Lost Art of Jerome Caja,” will run through June 24, 2021, at the Anglim/Trimble Gallery, 1275 Minnesota Street, San Francisco, CA 94107; 415-433-2710. Hank Trout, Senior Editor, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a forty-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his husband Rick.



A&U’s Bruce Ward talks to Tom Viola About Three DecadesPlus Leading Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS , Lockdown Fundraising & Looking to the Future Photographed Exclusively for A&U by Stephen Churchill Downes

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NO LETTING UP NOW Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Fights HIV and Stigma

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n late January of this year, when I first interviewed Tom Viola, Executive Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), snow was on the ground, President Biden had taken office just a week earlier, and vaccinations had only just started in the U.S. What a difference a few months have made. As of May 7, 50% of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 41% are fully vaccinated. The country is cautiously beginning to open up again, and——gasp!——plans for the re-launching of live theater is on the horizon. Hope springs eternal. Governor Cuomo has announced that Broadway theaters are eligible to re-open their doors, at 100% capacity, starting on September 14. Almost anyone who regularly attends live theater in this country is familiar with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS——from their curtain call donation pitches, to events such as Broadway Bares, Broadway Barks, and the Easter Bonnet Competition, to their Initiatives benefiting theater artists of all stripes (actors, musicians, technicians and more) with financial and other assistance. And leading the way, from the very beginning, in 1987, has been Tom Viola. In fact, it is hard to separate Tom from BC/EFA. They are synonymous. When I first spoke with Tom via telephone, on a blustery winter’s day in January, he was cozily ensconced in his home in Hudson, New York, just north of the New York City hustle. With his two dogs, two cats, and two acres of land, Tom clearly finds peace here - a much-needed respite from the demands of his job, at which he is still going strong, after 34 years. But first, a bit of history: BC/EFA is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations, helping those in need, from across the country,

to receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling, and emergency financial assistance. By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theater community, since 1988, BC/EFA has raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC. But before there was BC/EFA, there was just EFA. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS began as two separate organizations. Equity Fights AIDS was founded in October 1987 by the Council of Actors’ Equity Association. Broadway Cares was founded in February 1988 by members of The Producers’ Group. Money raised was awarded to AIDS service organizations nationwide. In May 1992, Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway Cares merged to become Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. At the 47th TONY Awards in 1993, BC/EFA was awarded a Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre, and, in 2010, Tom was honored with the same award, at the 64th Tony Awards. Tom is an outspoken advocate for the organization he helped create, but I thought that our readers might be curious to know a bit more about the man behind this monumental organization that benefits so many. I asked him to talk about his origins, his personal journey leading up to, and throughout, his thirty-three-year journey with BC/EFA. Bruce Ward: Tom, I know that many folks, especially those in the theater world, associate Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, with your name. But, of course, you had a life before the organization. What brought you to New York City? Tom Viola: I moved to New York in 1976, from Pittsburgh, where I studied musical theater. I will turn 66 in July. I came to the city to pursue an acting career, but also to be gay, both socially and sexually. It felt liberating during those first few years, when the party was still going on. When did you first become aware of AIDS? Right away. I remember reading the New York Times article, in 1981, about a “rare cancer” in gay men. At first, it was easy to push away. I mean, I was young. I


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thought that this only affected “partiers” and older gay men. But that article cast a shadow over life in New York; I felt the difference. The first time it dawned on me was when I was walking up Broadway and a friend walked towards me. Our eyes didn’t meet, but I could tell that he was sick. Sometime around 1984, I was at brunch with friends, and we were talking about what was happening. But we kept pushing it away from ourselves; it wasn’t our group. But of those eight friends at the table, four are dead, and two, including myself, are HIV-positive. Were you continuing to work as an actor? No. In 1981, I started work as an assistant to a literary agent, and then began doing freelance writing. In 1987, I was hired for what was to be an eight-week freelance job at Actors’ Equity. I’m assuming that didn’t turn out to be eight weeks. No, what started as a part-time gig writing pamphlets and a staff manual became a full-time job working for Colleen Dewhurst, who was then the President of Actors’ Equity. Equity Fights AIDS was forming at that time, and my life stepped in a different direction. I can’t emphasize enough how important Colleen was in the founding of JUNE 2021 •

EFA, as well as overseeing the beginning of the merger with BC. How did that merger between Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway Cares come about? At the same time that EFA was being founded through Actors’ Equity, BC was doing its thing, raising money through The Producers Fund. Rodger McFarlane was heading up that organization. And everyone involved felt that there was too much going on to get into a pissing match. So we worked towards a merger, which became official in 1992. The next few years were the most exhausting, because we didn’t see an end in sight. [HAART therapy emerged in 1996.] How did you learn fundraising? Just by doing it. Everything we do now seems institutionalized, but we started small. We were scrappy. We did bake sales on the sidewalk outside where “Cats” was playing on Broadway. Our popular annual fundraiser,. Broadway Bares, was started by Jerry Mitchell at the bar, Splash, in 1992. The event raised $8,000. The 2019 edition, at the Hammerstein Ballroom, brought in $2 million. We learned how to do things incrementally. We reflected on what we did well, and what we could do better.


Speaking of events, BC/EFA produces so many enthusiastically popular and diverse annual events. Do you, personally, have a favorite event? My favorite event is the one that’s just been completed. Fair enough. How about special moments that stand out for you? I love doing a moment of silence during The Red Bucket Follies [formerly Gypsy of the Year.] That is the only event during which we do that. I love the collection of bonnets at the end of the Easter Bonnet Competition. I love the sexiness of Broadway Bares, and particularly how we are able to appeal to a younger generation, particularly gay men. I love that with Broadway Barks, held in Schubert Alley, shelter animals are going to be adopted and find their “furrever” homes. And, of course, with all of them, I love the general feeling of gratitude and good will and love. BC/EFA started in reaction to the AIDS epidemic. Can you talk a bit about how the organization has evolved over the years? I’m sure that many people may be unfamiliar with the breadth and diversity of organizations and individuals benefitting from the fundraising efforts of BC/EFA. The organizations’s grant-making has two emphases: The Actors Fund, and the National Grants Program. We now support five major social service programs at The Actors Fund, but it was their Phyllis Newman Health Initiative in 1995 [that helped expand BC/EFA’s mission], and then we began to expand our services to drug treatment and other social service organizations. We created resources that didn’t exist before. And any money raised helps make funding for HIV/AIDS programs even more possible. We consider BC/EFA to be “the


philanthropic heart of Broadway.” We are also responsive to issues that the Broadway community feels are important to its members. Reacting to events such as Hurricane Katrina, and issues like racial justice, keeps us from being old news or an anachronism, while also maintaining our commitment to [the changing needs] of AIDS services. Our appeals for donations have never needed to be Public Service Announcements. We work in simplicity. Everyone understands hunger and nutrition. People understand the issues of programs for the elderly, harm reduction, health clinics. One of our highest profile fundraising superstars has been Hugh Jackman, who became notorious for auctioning off t-shirts he wore in his shows. He began making appeals following performances of The Boy from Oz, and then with each of his subsequent shows. One donor bid $25, 000 dollars to meet Hugh. I could have wept advocacy blood. But because of the star power involved, BC/EFA averaged $30,000 a night! The list of celebrities who have given of their time and talents is a long one: Chita Rivera, Nathan Lane, Alan Cumming [A&U, January 2004] , Bette Midler, Daniel Craig. But it is also the musician who is willing to sit in the pit without pay for an extra performance, the stage managers, the unions. Celebrities are the shine and gloss. But everyone gives so much. We cherish and nurture our relationships very carefully. The staff and the volunteers are the unsung heroes. Everything we do is based on relationships, which takes as much emotional intelligence as it does strategic planning. Tom, in addition to your fierce advocacy work, you have been quite open and honest about your HIV status, as well as your recovery from drug and alcohol use. I know that our readers would appreciate hearing about that side of your life. Could you talk a bit about your relationship to drugs and • JUNE 2021

alcohol, and how you approached sobriety? Of course. I began to realize that my drug and alcohol use was gradually becoming more of a problem. I first became sober in 1988. which gave me a ballast to get into the work at EFA. But in October 1992, I had a relapse. I had hit a wall. A close friend and Colleen both passed away. The last thing I thought I would do was self-medicate, and I should have taken probably a more therapeutic approach. My relapse from drugs and alcohol also led me to seroconvert. I tested HIV-positive, for the first time, in February 1993. I had tested negative all the years prior to that. And then my HIV status was mentioned on Page Six of the New York Post. I felt exposed and betrayed and vulnerable. I was going through an incredible process. Frankly, I was fighting for my life. It involved my family; I hadn’t shared my HIV status with them. That’s a dramatically intrusive way to have your private life revealed. How did you manage through it all? I must say that the theater community rallied around me. I had messages from friends, strangers, all over the world. All people cared about was that I be well. But that experience finally propelled me to go to rehab, to Hazelden, in April 1993. And I have been sober since. Congratulations on that. And how are you doing, health-wise, managing your HIV? I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had any real health issues. I didn’t even need meds until 1998. And then, my T cells jumped from 200 to 800, with no viral load. There are times I forget about having HIV. I don’t wake up every morning thinking I’m HIV-positive. And now, of course, we know about U = U. Yes. As a matter of fact, we were PAC’s [Prevention Access Campaign] first major funder. U = U is a very important component for folks dealing with their own diagnosis, and for their partners, family members, and friends. What made you decide to begin sharing the story of your recovery and HIV status? Interestingly, the Tony award was given to BC/EFA two months after I came home from rehab. And it helped me to realize that I needed to be open about my story. Whether it’s HIV or drugs and alcohol, it is about “us”, not “them.” You can’t do this work without taking care of yourself, or without having empathy. Michael Jeter”s acceptance speech after winning his Tony [in 1990, for Grand Hotel] saved my life, and others. He sent out the message, “You are not alone. So, the reason I share my personal experiences is to give hope to others.” [For anyone unfamiliar with Jeter’s speech, as well as his unforgettable performance on the 1990 Tony awards ceremony, you can check them both out here: https:// youtu.be/euCvQ4ikZZQ ]

We pivoted immediately to an online campaign. We had to reinvent everything. We created a COVID-19 emergency assistance fund, dedicated specifically to The Actors Fund. Through our fundraising events, we have now awarded the actors fund over $10 million, and our grants program over $4 million. That is amazing. And, at the same time, you have created some beautiful and fun virtual events to stave off the theater-going audience’s hunger for live performance. *** [Since I first interviewed Tom in late January, we had another brief conversation in early May, to catch up on the newest developments.] Governor Cuomo recently announced that Broadway will re-open on September 14. Is that possible? Well, there are more than a dozen different unions involved, as well as the logistics of bringing companies together, casting, rehearsals, and, of course, reconfiguring the theaters and bringing audiences back. All with everyone’s safety in mind. It is a huge undertaking. But it does give millions of theater-goers hope. Are there any upcoming events that we can expect to keep us entertained and donating, while waiting for Broadway to reopen? We will still be continuing with online campaigns and virtual events. It remains to be seen how real-time events will happen in the fall. We are in a grey period - a little bit of virtual and a little bit of live. I can announce that our next virtual Virtual Broadway Bares will stream on Sunday, June 20. And it won’t be a “look-back” like last year, because we create new numbers, and perform them outside. Well, that is certainly something for audiences to be excited about. I have to tell you that the storyline that was created for last year’s ”look-back” had me crying like a baby. And I wasn’t the only one. It was beautifully done. What do you see for your own future with BC/EFA? Sharing my work with people in this way has saved my life. There have been lots of moments of pride and gratitude. I’ve been doing this for thirty-three years, and I don’t feel I’ve been on a treadmill. The work remains vital and interesting. I hope we can stay flexible, responsive, and essential. We can still anticipate the immediate future, even though we know we can’t predict it. I’m proud that we have created a legacy, even as our mission changes. Any final thoughts you’d like to leave our readers? We all have a personal and community responsibility to get vaccinated. There can be no letting up now. Now is the time to double down on the commitment.

So, let’s fast-forward to last year. When did you first become aware that COVID-19 was going to affect the theater, and, well, everything else? In the nights leading up to Broadway shutting down [on March 12, 2020], I saw the West Side Story revival, and Girl from the North Country. I remember being hypersensitive to coughing, even clearing my own throat. Once the New York Times published its story about the spread of COVID-19 among the Moulin Rouge and other companies, it happened fast. Everything that BC/EFA had been doing stopped. The appeals, everything. All of it was shut down in a weekend.

Amen to that. Thank you, Tom.

So how did BC/EFA react to this sudden and unprecedented shutdown?

Bruce Ward writes the Years of Living Precariously column for A&U.

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For more information about the photography of Stephen Churchill Downes, visit: stephenchurchilldownes.com. For information on U = U, check out: www.preventionaccess.org. For more information on BC/EFA, and to make a donation, visit: broadwaycares.org.




What We’ve Lost, What We’ve Gained by Hank Trout


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n June 5, 1981, the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR) informed us that between October 1980 and May 1981, five young men, all active homosexuals, were diagnosed with and treated for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) at three different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the young men died. Since PCP in the United States occurs almost exclusively among severely immunosuppressed patients, its occurrence in young, previously healthy gay men was usual. And alarming.

On July 3, 1981, The New York Times reported, “Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer”——Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS). As with the MMWR report of PCP, all of the KS patients were active homosexual men. The alarm bells clanged more loudly. No one could discern why these cancers and opportunistic infections were occurring——and spreading. Because the disease in the U.S. was first detected in gay men, the disease initially was given names that included the word “gay”——“gay cancer,” “Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Disease (GRID).” But by mid-1982, scientists realized the disease was also spreading among other populations, including transgender women, hemophiliacs, intravenous drug users, and straight women. By September of that year, the disease was finally named: AIDS, the slightly less stigmatic “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.” The news reports got even more frightening by the day. Largely due to government inaction, scientific misinformation, bigotry and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, the virus continued to impact communities exponentially across the entire planet, a global pandemic that would kill millions of people and deeply affect tens of millions more. We have contended with HIV/AIDS for forty years and have indeed achieved small victories (like HAART and PrEP), reducing the number of HIV transmissions and AIDS-related deaths over the years. However, we still have neither a vaccine nor a cure for HIV/AIDS. The pandemic continues to wreck lives around the planet. To get a sense of what we’ve lost as a community, as well as how we’ve changed during this forty-year pandemic, A&U approached a handful of HIV/AIDS activists with questions about when they first heard about HIV/AIDS, when they first realized the pandemic would touch them personally, and the moments——good or bad, painful or inspiring——that stand out in their memories from the last forty years. We corresponded with Mark S. King, writer/blogger, My Fabulous Disease; Butch McKay, Director, Positive Living Programs/OASIS Florida; Charles Sanchez, writer/actor, Merce; Charles King, CEO, Housing Works, New

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York City; Claire Gasamagera, activist, born with HIV; Jay Blotcher, writer/activist, ACT UP; Victoria Noe, author, Fag Hags, Divas, and Moms; Reverend Yolanda Vega, performer and transgender rights/HIV activist; Steven F. Dansky, writer/filmmaker/historian, Gay Liberation Front; and Davina Conner, Positive Women’s Network. * * * As Steven F. Dansky has pointed out, “1981 demarcates a traumatic imprint in our active universe.” Few of us read the June 5, 1981 MMWR or its report of five cases of PCP among healthy young gay men. Thus, we first learned about the “gay cancer” in the July 3, 1981 article, “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” “I was helping a friend from college paint his Beacon Hill apartment in the summer of 1981,” said Jay Blotcher. “Among the newspapers scattered across his apartment floor was this page from the Times. I remember reading the paint-spattered article in a disconnected way. I was going into my senior year at Syracuse University and, while I self-identified as a gay man, New York City seemed light years away. I had the classic reaction of denial that this news pertained to me.” Denial, as well as anger, also tainted Mark S. King’s first response to the Times article. “The implications seemed too awful to be true. I felt denial, selfishly hoping that whatever it was, it was only happening to ‘other people,’ and I also felt annoyed that something would dare disrupt the new-found gay sexual liberation that my community was enjoying during that time. I was suspicious of anything that might curb that.” That kind of denial, thinking that this disease was happening only to “other people” also colored Charles King’s response. “I remember reading the first report I saw of this mysterious gay cancer with interest, but little personal concern,” he wrote. “I was in the closet and celibate, both commitments I had made when I became a minister. I had no idea at the time how much the AIDS pandemic would consume my life and shape my world.” Some of our respondents didn’t internalize the news right away. Davina Conner, for instance, wrote that “I had to be about ten or eleven


years old, and I didn’t understand at that time what was going on. I only remember listening to it a lot on the TV.” She began to put things together in 1991 when she learned of Magic Johnson’s diagnosis, and again in 1995 with the AIDS-related death of rapper Eazy-E. Claire Gasamagera, a native Rwandan born with HIV, did not know her serostatus nor anything about HIV/AIDS for many years. Rev. Yolanda remembers, “I first heard about AIDS in graduate school in Memphis, Tennessee. I was finishing my MA and was planning on moving to NYC in three months. That was 1983. I was scared... but I did move to NYC in the Fall of 1983.” Victoria Noe, who would go on to write so eloquently about the women warriors in the fight against AIDS, said, “I don’t remember hearing about it right away. But by late 1982, I knew enough to realize that it couldn’t only affect gay men. Calling it ‘gay cancer’ never made a lot of sense to me.” The “gay cancer” appellation caught the attention of Butch McKay also. “Upon seeing the headline at first glance I thought, YES! Proof that gay is not a choice, but genetic since there was


a disease that affected only gay men. But reading the articles that followed, I came to realize, ‘gay cancer was a weapon to demonize gay sex. My anger instantly began to outweigh my feelings of rejection. I needed to act.” No matter how long some of us wrongly assumed that HIV/AIDS was something that happened only to “other people,” eventually each of us came to know that the pandemic would touch our lives, would personally touch us, in devastating, heartbreaking ways. For many of us, that realization came with the first diagnosis or death of someone close to us. For Victoria Noe, that realization came in 1983. “One of my closest friends had a difficult labor and delivery. Her doctor wanted her to have a transfusion. She worked in the lab at that hospital [in St. Louis] and knew the blood supply wasn’t safe. She did wind up getting two transfusions. That was when it hit home for me.” Butch McKay had a similar realization. “My best friend Tivvis was diagnosed in 1987 with AIDS. I knew then that it was not limited to large metropolitan cities. It had hit home and I was scared. I knew that day I was losing the

Clockwise from top left: Davina Conner (1987 and now); Jay Blotcher (1990); and Charles King (1989). The black and white photos are by Bill Bytsura, part of his initiative, The AIDS Activist Project

• JUNE 2021

King (now) photo by Holly Clark Photography; Noe (now) photo by Alina Oswald

love of my life soon and maybe my own life at a later date. I felt it was only a matter of time before I became infected.... I felt pain, deep hurt, and fear. I was lost.” It was the loss of friends that awakened Rev. Yolanda to her susceptibility to acquiring the virus. “When several friends of mine died, I realized that I was definitely at risk. But I was in denial and didn’t want to think about it. I left New York City in 1993 because the situation in the city was overwhelming to me. After I moved to Vermont, I was diagnosed with HIV, and began the process of specific healthcare and HIV meds.” “The first person I knew who was struck down by AIDS was John Bemus, my boss at the St. Marks Baths,” wrote Jay Blotcher. “He was gone within weeks of being infected. Since this was late 1983, people chalked up his mystery death to hepatitis. It would be several years until another friend was infected.” For Mark S. King, it was a slow-moving realization. “I was frozen in disbelief for a year or so, until AIDS blew my world apart in West Hollywood. Suddenly, it wasn’t something twice-removed, it was my best friend and my roommate and my brother-in-law, all of them dying. Once I tested positive myself in 1985, deaths were common. I snapped out of my paralysis and went to work for the first AIDS agency in Los Angeles. I figured it would be the last job I would ever have.” For Davina Conner, her realization came “the day I found out that I was diagnosed with HIV in 1997. Not only did it impact my life drastically, it changed my life at JUNE 2021 •

the beginning, and I can never forget my reaction. When I think about it, it hits me at the pit of my stomach and cringes me with the fear that I had of death. The stigma that I felt about myself internally was terrible.” His diagnosis with HIV was also the turning point for Charles Sanchez. “My very first professional acting job in New York City in 1988 was in an AIDS education show for kids. I was very naïve. Maybe it was my age or just my luck, but I didn’t have friends dying of AIDS around me. It wasn’t until probably 1992 when a friend first disclosed to me that he had HIV. Even after that, I still felt like HIV and AIDS was ‘over there,’ somehow. It happened to other people. Until 2003, when I was diagnosed with AIDS, and it hit me like a brick in the head.” For many of us, once we realized that the pandemic would indeed touch us personally, our anger outweighed our fears and led us to activism. As Steven F. Dansky put it, “Rage at an indifferent and callous heteronormative society was channeled into a daring political movement——a model for grassroots organizing.” Jay Blotcher: “I felt I had to do something, so I began raising money in 1985 for GMHC’s AIDS Walk New York. In my desperate mind, I thought that if I could help others, I would

Clockwise from top left: Mark S. King (1985 and now); Claire Gasamagera (now); and Victoria Noe (1990, with Steve Showalter, and now)



indelibly carved into our memories. Charles Sanchez vividly remembers hearing a radio report that Magic Johnson had just tested positive for HIV, and how awkward (then relieved) he felt getting his first kiss after his diagnosis. Claire Gasamagera remembers the courage of the activists who promulgated The Denver Principles in 1983, and Larry Kramer’s empowering slogan “Turn your grief into rage.” Some of us even found romance through our activism. Charles King recalls that “I met Keith Cylar at ACT UP New York in the summer of 1989. It started with a public debate and ended up with him seducing me. We were together for fifteen years before he died and helped to found and lead Housing Works during that time and fought and won many battles.” Along with the major, life-shaping changes that we’ve undergone, we’ve also been shaped in smaller ways by the pandemic. Victoria Noe: “What has stayed with me most——even more than the suffering, injustices, and deaths——is one way it affects me to this day. For a long time, if someone disappeared, if I lost contact with someone (I’m talking about gay men in particular), I assumed they were dying or dead. It made me paranoid about losing touch with my friends. I even made some of them promise they would tell me if they were seriously ill.

Sanchez (now) photo by Stephen Churchill Downes; Rev. Yolanda photo by Alina Oswawld

be spared. [I joined] ACT UP New York in the fall of 1987. Being a member of ACT UP made me a better, brighter, more compassionate, more defiant person.” Butch McKay: “The last time I held Tivvis in my arms, he asked me to promise to get involved, and almost thirty-five years later I’m still involved. I honor Tivvis with everything I contribute to the fight.” Charles King: “I came out as a gay man to my mentor, Reverend Cofield, tendered my resignation, and began my journey to do something about HIV and AIDS.” Over the course of this forty-year pandemic, we’ve experienced great losses as our friends and family members succumbed to AIDS; we’ve dealt with unfathomable grief, we’ve struggled through years of confusion and chaos and false cures, and we’ve dealt with death as a constant in our daily lives for four decades. Steven F. Dansky asserts, “Within wakeful consciousness and in the dominion of dreamscapes, what we’ve experienced over the four decades since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic are flashbacks of suffering and loss through illness and death; disappearance and displacement; surviving perpetual heartache whether in silence or in public.” Some of the seemingly random moments we’ve lived through over the last forty years are

Top: Charles Sanchez (1993 and now) Bottom: Reverend Yolanda Vega (now)

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Steven F. Dansky (now): Photo by Greg Anderson, Silence=Death Portrait #3, Las Vegas, NV, 2017, digital, 12 by 8.988 inches

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I didn’t realize why I felt that way until I started writing about AIDS and grief. When I looked at my behavior in the context of those times, it made sense.” The majority of what we remember, is unspeakably painful. “My closest friends died when I was in my mid-twenties,” said Mark S. King. “That changes a person. We faced eternal questions at such a young age. Why are we here? What is life and death? Is there a God, and does it love us? I sat with friends who were dying in my guest room, posing those questions and not getting answers. The stories of what happened to us deserve to be remembered and repeated.” Butch McKay shared a similar sentiment. “My heart has been broken so many times it is beyond repair,” he said. “I use the scars to forge on for those unable to do so, sharing their stories, assisting those that followed them, fighting stigma, and working to change the political will of the country. I have been blessed with a community that defines unconditional love and practices it with every step they take and every breath they breathe. I breathe for those who no longer can, and march for those who led the way. with unimaginable strength, courage, compassion, and love. They are my heroes, and I will continue their journey.” As it did for Mark S. King, and thousands of others, the pain of loss drove Rev. Yolanda into activism as well. “I remember thinking that I didn’t have very long to live. I decided that I would live my life fully out loud and proud for as many years as I have left. That is when I decided to come out as trans femme and live my life as Yolanda. I also became very involved in the HIV/AIDS community and created a fundraising event for People with AIDS in Vermont called ‘Winter Is A Drag Ball.’ I moved back to NYC in 2001 and have been active in the HIV/ AIDS community here with performances and fundraising efforts ever since.” Sometimes, great pain and grief can arouse great strength, resilience, and even a sense of purpose. Rev. Yolanda asserts that “being HIV-positive has had a positive effect on my life. I have learned the importance of self-care and have had the opportunity to help others with their own self-care.” And finally, Mark S. King again: “Please know this: I am not defined by this great tragedy. My life is lovely and fulfilled today. I am happy to tell the story,

but I won’t judge younger people who have other things on their mind. Every generation has their stuff, their great challenge. Tragedy isn’t a contest. If I can’t use my experience as a tool to have more empathy for other people, then what the hell was it all for?” What indeed? Well, for one thing, the AIDS pandemic turned all of us into individual repositories of sorrowful memories of great pain, loss, death, and grief. The pandemic taught us how to tap into unknown reserves of bravery and resilience, what Steven F. Dansky called “our reemergence from a state of disbelief and despair.” And it turned many of us into storytellers, truth-tellers among all the lies and misinformation, the preservationists of our own history. Steven F. Dansky again: “I believe it’s essential that we place preservation at the center of our collective life, including oral histories, photographs and video, and writing. We must support those organizations that perform this mission. Historical preservation is fundamental because memory can be fragile, subjective, unstable, and contingent on the different credibilities. Memory can be diminished from biomedical factors. Or from heterosexism that compels us to forget, trivialize, mask, negate reality, or view our experience as insignificant. So many of us were lost during the height of the AIDS pandemic——those narratives must be told, recorded, and archived.” As the AIDS pandemic turns forty, those of us who bore the brunt of it from the beginning have become “Elders of the Tribe,” activists, advocates, chroniclers of lives lost and hopes dashed. We gratefully accept our responsibility to share, record, and preserve those stories of living through hell for forty years. Thanks to Bill Bytsura for granting us permission to run the photos of Jay Blotcher and Charles King, both of which are part of the photographer’s The AIDS Activist Project. For more information, visit: https://www.billbytsura.com/ products/the-aids-activist-project. Senior Editor Hank Trout interviewed Sister Roma for the May cover story.


Under_Reported by Claire Gasamagera



Reframing Infant Feeding for Women Living with HIV

n the United States where there is access to clean water and affordable replacement feeding, both the CDC and the American Pediatrics Association recommend complete avoidance of breastfeeding as the best and safest infant feeding option for mothers living with HIV, regardless of maternal viral load and antiretroviral therapy. Instead of breastfeeding, the CDC recommends that parents and caregivers use infant formula. According to the CDC, HIV transmission from mother to child is 1% or less. Clinical trials have shown that maternal antiretroviral treatment during pregnancy and breastfeeding can reduce transmission to 1%. However, CDC and healthcare providers need to rethink infant feeding guidelines for women living with HIV in the United States. The guidelines we have are not culturally sensitive, do not account for stressful events, and make women living with HIV vulnerable to HIV stigma and discrimination. My Make All Breastfeeding Great Again proposal shifts Trump’s Make America Great Again priorities and attention to breastfeeding for women living with HIV. My MAGA is not carelessly proposing that women living with HIV put infants at risk of HIV but rather proposing to empower women living with HIV to protect infants from HIV. To illustrate why we need updated guidelines on breastfeeding for women living with HIV in United States, one third of ninety-three healthcare providers surveyed revealed they were aware that some of the women living with HIV in their care, against all their advice, breastfeed. In addition, my experience illustrates how the current guidelines to me were both stressful and culturally insensitive. Truly, in my African cultural heritage breastfeeding is celebrated by the entire community. During ikiriri, a period that lasts at least a month, the wood fire does not


go out. In today’s times the wood fire is symbolic and placed outside the house because we no longer have wood fire inside our modern houses. The purpose of the fire is to warm up mom and baby. At the same time sisters and mothers-in-law, aunts, cousins, neighbors and friends alternate in cooking, chatting, singing and dancing 24/7. Men keep the fire ignited, do heavy lifting, and sit in the backyard to chat and play igisoro while drinking banana wine. The father brags about the baby’s strength, claiming the baby resembles him. The goal of that warm care is to help a woman heal from delivering a baby, feel comfortable, and lactate. I saw my stepmother treated this way; my youngest sister was born when I was twelve. As a little girl, I started imagining with impatience my own ikiriri. In contrast, when my time came to become a mother, I was an immigrant in United States: my experience was stressful, lonely, and cold. By the time my baby was discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit, it was wintertime in Detroit, Michigan. My baby had spent the first few weeks of his life in the NICU for mild respiratory issues. This was my first baby, a miracle baby as I was a thirty-four-year-old black immigrant woman born with HIV. In the NICU nurses do everything from giving medicine and feeding to changing baby diapers. I was allowed to be there for a limited time as a visitor. The scariest moment came when the nurses gave me my seven pound baby and a bag of 4oz bottles of cold formula to go home with. I was wondering, “How will I keep this tiny baby alive without breastfeeding?” In the mighty cold of Detroit winter, I would be crying along with the baby while feeding him the 4oz bottle of cold formula and then milk away my hurting and swollen breasts in the shower. Of course, the warm weather came back to Detroit and I survived that stressful experience. I even got a

surprise reinforcement as I had another baby in fifteen months. With the second baby things got easier as I was an expert and I had access to more resources. My experience represents a drop in the ocean when it comes to women living with HIV with infants’ difficult experiences. Many women do not breastfeed in isolation or only in the presence of a spouse or partner. Ordering women living with HIV to not breastfeed makes them vulnerable to HIV-related stigma and discrimination as they have to explain to family members and friends why they cannot breastfeed. In the spirit of promoting the agency of women living with HIV, The Well Project convened mothers living with HIV with infants and pro-breastfeeding medical experts and we developed the “Expert Consensus Statement on Breastfeeding and HIV in the United States and Canada.” Our Consensus calls on healthcare providers to support women living with HIV to make informed infant feeding choices by providing them with information and services focused on HIV transmission risks reduction. Thus we are inviting organizations and individual to consult the Well Project website’s informational materials on infant feeding options for women living with HIV, endorse the “Expert Consensus Statement on Breastfeeding and HIV in the United States and Canada,” and support the International Community of Women Living with HIV– North America virtual support group on Breastfeeding . Indeed, Making All Breastfeeding Great Again by updating infant feeding guidelines for women living with HIV empowers women living with HIV who may be breastfeeding in the closet to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their infants. Making All Breastfeeding Great Again with updated guidelines will empower women to make informed decisions on infant feeding and to feel fully supported and trusted. Make All Breastfeeding Great Again will give healthcare providers comprehensive and culturally sensitive guidelines to better support women living with HIV. In addition, updated guidelines on infant feeding will create a friendlier environment for women in healthcare sites. We need healthcare providers to resist lecturing us on the harm of breastfeeding and instead listen to us and trust us and assist us in making plans for infant feeding choices. I am calling on the CDC and healthcare providers to update infant feeding guidelines to accommodate the needs of women living with HIV and reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Let us Make All Breastfeeding Great Again. To read the “Expert Consensus Statement on Breastfeeding and HIV in the United States and Canada,” visit: https://bit. ly/3fmAYro. Tuyishime Claire Gasamagera is an author, storyteller, activist, advocate, and a multilingual journalist reporting on social and racial justice, equal human rights and access to healthcare. Claire is a contributor to different HIV /AIDS magazines. • JUNE 2021

MONEY MATTERS by Alacias Enger


Fundamentals in Focus


The Building Blocks of a Secure Financial Future

anielle is a thirty-one-year-old Administrative Assistant and resident of Buffalo, New York. She works for a small firm that provides her with an annual salary of $42,000 and access to a 401(k), which she has yet to fund. Her position also supplies her with health insurance which she uses in combination with a copay program to ensure access to her prescription medications. In many ways, Danielle’s financial situation is pretty good. She genuinely enjoys her job and the overall culture of the company. She keeps her expenses down by sharing her apartment with one roommate, whom she thoroughly enjoys, although one day she would like to own a home of her own. The only debt she carries is $28,000 in federal student loans, which she would like to eliminate as quickly as possible. Danielle is also aware that she should have some sort of emergency savings and has set aside her most recent tax return and stimulus amounting to just over $4,000. The truth is that Danielle is doing a commendable job, but she’s floundering. She doesn’t want to settle for mediocrity but doesn’t really have a plan. Laying a strong financial foundation upon which to build requires deliberate planning. Danielle’s first step is evaluating her current expenses.


This is an area where she is doing incredibly well. She lives below her means, leaving room to address other financial priorities, the first of which is her company retirement plan. Danielle’s employer will match up to 6% of her contributions. This means that for every dollar she contributes, up to 6%, her company will do the same. Since Danielle hasn’t been contributing at all, she’s essentially been leaving money at the table. There’s no hard and fast rule about what percentage of income Americans should be contributing when it comes to their retirement accounts, but most financial planners suggest a minimum of 15%. In Danielle’s world, this equates to just over $6,000 per year. If Danielle’s 401(k) had a Roth option that would be her best choice. Unfortunately, it does not. So, she will contribute 6% to the company’s traditional 401(k) so that she gets the full amount of the company match. That still leaves her with 9% to contribute to retirement. Next, Danielle should consider opening a Roth IRA, and setting up automatic contributions from her checking, which can be done through any discount brokerage. A traditional retirement account is structured in such a way that it gives the account holder a tax advantage in the year of the contribution. It lessens their taxable income, and thus creates a lower tax bill. However, a Roth

operates differently. Roth 401(k)s or IRAs are funded with money that has already been taxed. While its users don’t see a tax savings in the current tax year, those funds grow tax-free, which becomes a tremendous advantage in retirement. Subsequently, since contributions to Roth accounts have already been taxed, account holders can withdraw their own contributions (but not it’s growth) at any time. Therefore, these funds can easily become available for things like home purchases or emergencies. Once Danielle has set up her retirement contributions, she should turn her attention to emergency savings before tackling her student loan debt. This will prevent her from taking on additional debt if something unexpected should arise while she is focusing on her student loans. Experts have varied recommendations as to what constitutes a fully funded emergency savings with some stating that three to six months of expenses is appropriate. Others suggest that six to eight months is more secure. Since Danielle’s desire is to annihilate her student loan debt, she might build her emergency savings to the three-month guideline for now and then refocus her attention on the debt. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s federal student loan debt has essentially been placed on pause. Borrowers like Danielle haven’t had any payments due in over a year, a policy which isn’t set to expire until October 1, 2021. Until then, interest rates have been set to 0%. So, any payments that are made by borrowers will serve to reduce the principle of the loan. Of course, many borrowers are hopeful that further student loan relief in the form of forgiveness is coming down the pipeline, but thus far, that hasn’t been granted. In the meantime, the best course of action to get financially organized is to return to the fundamentals. This means examining and reducing expenses where possible, automating retirement savings, building an emergency fund, and eliminating debt. Remember to take it one step at a time. Alacias Enger is a performing artist, writer, and educator. She lives with her partner in New York City, and is the founder of blogs “Sense with Cents” and “Travel Cents.” Follow her on Twitter @sense_w_cents. • JUNE 2021


Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier by Emanuel Xavier Rebel Satori Press


manuel Xavier takes Harold Bloom’s criticism of spoken word as the topic and title of one of his poems, “The Death of Art,” in order to defiantly protect the genre that helped nurture his voice and to which he has, in turn, contributed so much: “I am not a poet. I am only trying to get attention and / convince myself that poetry can save lives when my words / simply and proudly contribute to ‘the death of art.’” The award-winning Brooklyn-born poet, whose new Selected Poems is composed of a constellation of star-bright gems, knows what is at stake in this attempt to dismiss not simply a genre but the lives of people who are often marginalized and made vulnerable by systemic social forces. In “Walking with Angels,” he describes how those who hoard power and privilege help maintain an environment of risk:

AIDS… Knows the prosperous could be doing more with their wealth and that everyone still thinks it’s a deserving fate— for gays, drug addicts, prostitutes, and the unfortunate children of such born into a merciless world of posh handbags and designer jewelry

Xavier has worked tirelessy to support individuals in need of HIV services, LGBTQ+ youth, and others. In an August 2010 cover story interview for A&U, he told interviewer Chip Alfred: “For somebody to be in their teens in 2010 and living with HIV is really tragic because that should not be happening. I’ve been in that place——when you’re angry you gamble with your life. It’s a very difficult place to be.” And so, as he indicts racist, classist, patriarchal America, Xavier is always careful to explain the need to celebrate those individuals whose very existence is embattled. From “Legendary”:


There are Gods amongst us in these ghettos so brown, so fierce, so black, so beautiful, if you spend too much time caught up in yourself You just might miss Him that is goddess, She that is god, they that are legends Working the runway as if walking on water Reaching the stage to that promised land where ‘peace’ is not ridiculed and the only war worth fighting for is protecting your child from the terrorist acts of a mainstream america Xavier promotes a vital project within his poetry, the continuation and representation of multifaceted Latinx lived reality. This, from “A Simple Poem”: I want to hear about Puerto Rico about sisters with names like La Bruja about educating youth about AiDS I want to hear about life in the Boogie Down Bronx surviving on the Down Low don’t leave out stories about men and women you have loved and still love He wants others to join in, a reforming and new-forming of community that must happen again and again. This community is porous and intersectional, too. Xavier writes in “Sometimes We’re Invisible” about “mariposas/brown lives/queer lives/ trans lives”: Our history is sacred and worth remembering Readers have an invitation; they simply need to accept. Xavier makes it easy to RSVP yes to life with his clear, confident lyrical ballads. I first heard Emanuel Xavier speak by accident——when you live in New York City, you soon realize serendipity is as ever-present as an ice cream truck in summer. I forget where I was headed on that day more than ten years ago but I had taken the train in from Queens to Manhattan and, as I popped out of the underground subway station, I found myself inside of a rally, shoulder to shoulder with LGBTQ2S+ community members and our allies. They were protesting a ban on the right to marry. And then Emanuel Xavier took the stage, and read, and the crowd erupted. Understandable. His words have the ability to live inside you, rush inside you like blood. Tour buses full of gawkers must have wondered what the queer cheers and chants were all about. It’s no mystery, but it is magical. This is what Xavier is all about: poetry, protest, purpose, passion——all in one, one for all. —Chael Needle continues on page 44

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Summer camps for youth impacted by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ+ young people, and children experiencing homelessness Providing a safe community for those in need is more important than ever before. Give the gift of camp today to ensure camp is here for young people facing stigma and isolation.


Culture of AIDS continued from page 42


Art, Intimacy, and HIV—an Intergenerational Conversation


n Friday evening, June 18, 2021, the Bureau of General Services— Queer Division will present “LIFELINES: Art, Intimacy, and HIV—an Intergenerational Conversation,” a virtual event featuring artist Eric Rhein [A&U, December 2020], poet Mark Doty, and writer/ curator Paul Michael Brown. The discussion will center on Rhein’s first monograph-memoir, Eric Rhein: Lifelines, published last year. Rhein, Doty, and Brown will discuss the contexts in which they came of-age and how they created during the crisis of the AIDS pandemic. Rhein will show artworks and intimate photographs from Lifelines; Doty and Brown will read from the essays they contributed to Rhein’s monograph, detailing “the richness of thought, heart, and history which make the book both an artistic expression and an historic document.” “These images affirm the desiring self at a moment when the desire had become dangerous…,” wrote Mark Doty. Eric Rhein’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad. He is also included in the “Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project” at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Poet Mark Doty won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008 for Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. He has written ten books of poetry and five of nonfiction prose, including the recent What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My


Life. Paul Michael Brown is a writer and curator who curated the 2019 exhibition “Eric Rhein: Lifelines” at Institute 193 and 21c in Lexington, Kentucky, which served as the inspiration for this book. The Bureau of General Services—Queer Division is an independent, all-volunteer queer cultural center, bookstore, and event space that opened in New York City in 2012 and has been hosted by The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center since 2014. People wishing to participate in the evening must first register on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lifelines-art-intimacy-and-hivan-intergenerational-conversation-tickets-156114082423. The event is free, but BGSQD urges you to make a five-dollar contribution when registering. Closed captioning will be available. For more information, log on to https://bgsqd.com/. —Hank Trout

• JUNE 2021


Pride Episodes 4 & 5: 1980s: "Underground" & 1990s: "The Culture Wars"

Exec. producers Alex Stapleton, Danny Gabai, Kama Kaina & Stacy Scripter for VICE Studios & Killer Films’ Christine Vachon & Sydney Foos FX Networks

Michael Musto

photos courtesy FX © 2021. FX Networks. All rights reserved


ride, FX Networks’ ambitious and compelling six-part docuseries on the LGBTQ+ movement, gives individual indie filmmakers the daunting opportunity to encapsulate the LGBTQ+ experience, from the 1950s to the “2000s,” in 45-minute segments per decade. The AIDS epidemic is featured prominently in Episode 4: “Underground”, and in Episode 5:“The Culture Wars”, the 1980s and ‘90s decades, while left out entirely in Episode 6: “Y2Gay”, which spans the two decades of the new millennium. With so many issues to grapple with in twenty years of “Y2Gay”, it is understandable that AIDS may take a back burner. But no mention of PrEP or U=U feels like a lost opportunity to follow up on the 1980s and ‘90s episodes. Episode 4, “Underground”, focuses on NYC’s East Village, and immediately catches the vibe of the ‘80s, with the cacophony of honking yellow cabs, the hairstyles, the fashions, and, appropriately, Michael Musto, the Village Voice columnist and quintessential nightclub bon vivant of the 1980s. Musto captures the mood of New York City during those early years, when he states, “Everyone was filled with grief, terror, and rage. But you know what? The nightlife kept going....We were more bonded than ever. We had to leave the house and connect.” And so we are brought, through archival photos and footage, to the Pyramid club, the drag balls, and the creators of the East Village scene, thumbing their noses at Reagan’s America. Much of the archival footage shown here is from videographer, Nelson Sullivan, who filmed over 1,200 hours, from 1982–1989. And his images are among the most moving of the series. Through his lens, he captured a scene that was losing all of its artists. Ann Northrup, the activist-journalist who figures prominently in dramatic, rarely-seen footage of the ACT UP demonstration inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, also speaks to the importance of Sullivan’s powerful images, when she says, “I’d like to think his archives are as valuable as the Egyptian pyramids. They tell you about queer life in the eighties in New York.” In Episode 5: “The Culture Wars”, the focus shifts to San Francisco. As with “Underground”, the filmmaker examines viewpoints not always given visibility: The writer Jewelle Gomez, talking about how the Castro was “almost hollowed out,” and recalling the vital role of lesbians as caregivers during that time, and activist Tez Anderson representing the issues of long-term survivors. Anderson states, “AIDS went from being a death sentence to HIV being a chronic, manageable illness. And for a lot of us it took a while for

JUNE 2021 •

Ann Northrup

Tez Anderson that to all kind of make sense.” In addition to to some amazing archival footage, what makes these two episodes the most compelling is the inclusion of the issues of sexism, racism, and class, in addition to homophobia. We hear the often untold stories of lesbians, people of color, and individuals who are transgender and work as sex workers, who often felt disenfranchised from the more visible and “acceptable” activism, during those early years of the AIDS epidemic. In addition to playing on FX, the series is streaming on Hulu. —Bruce Ward Chael Needle writes the Art & Understanding column for A&U. Hank Trout reviewed the new Michael Callen biography, Love Don’t Need a Reason, for last month’s The Culture of AIDS. Bruce Ward writes the Years of Living Precariously column for A&U.



A Calendar of Events


elebrating its thirtieth anniversary, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago kicks off on Saturday, October 2, 2021, offering participants both in-person and virtual ways of rais-ing funds. The event benefits AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) and community beneficiaries from AFC’s more than thirty CommunityDirect partners in their efforts to create healthcare equity and justice as well as to raise awareness and funds for individuals who are living with or vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. In recognition of the havoc wreaked on the most vulnerable communities by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s theme, "Forward Together," reflects AFC’s aspiration to move beyond COVID and focus on what we need to do to create a better future for people living with HIV and AIDS. Also in deference to COVID-19, organizers are offering walkers and runners three ways to participate: In-person at Soldier Field on October 2: Participants have the option of participating in three unique courses (Walk or Roll Course, 5K Run Course and 10K Run Course) along the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. Pre-registration is now open through September 27. Registration will be available on-site; the event is ADA-accessible. At Your Own Pace, At Your Own Place: Participants may to choose to start and complete their race at a location other than Soldier Field using RunGo, a virtual smartphone app. Stay-at-Home Supporter: Participants can register for free and fundraise (minimum of $50 required) from afar for the cause. An annual fundraising event since 1991, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago has drawn more than 23,000 advocates and raised more than $5.5 million to battle the pandemic. For more information, to register for AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, or simply to donate to AFC, log on to https://www.classy.org/event/ aids-run-and-walk-chicago-2021/e332905.

JUNE 2021 •


For Larry Kramer A plague! It’s a plague! Forty million infections is a fucking plague!


Larry gripped the podium like a life raft He leaned toward the microphone His deeply set eyes flashing in anger His lips down-turned in snarling disgust His eyes scanning the room for comrades Or for enemies J’accuse! he yelled, J’accuse! He called us Faggots Drug-drenched callous sex-crazed faggots Flitting from Manhattan to Fire Island and back At the drop of a pair of pants Thinking with our cocks At the baths, in the bushes, on the piers, at the Anvil No better than heartless rutting pigs Straights didn’t believe him, gays hated him Because we believed him You know what my real crime was? I put the truth in writing He wanted us to be better, so he told us the truth The truth did not set us free The truth did not make us better

For forty years Larry led our fight With five others he founded GMHC Gay Men’s Health Crisis To educate, support, sustain New Yorkers living with AIDS To lobby city and state legislatures for action To fight like hell for the right to live When Larry’s fiery rage scorched the mainstream gays at GMHC They expelled him from their club He cried, he sulked, he hurt, and then He fought back harder with like-willed men They birthed the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power And taught us how to ACT UP We stormed the FDA demanding access to medicine We marched, we yelled, we sat-in and died-in We spread the ashes of our dead on the White House lawn We covered Jesse Helms’ house with a condom We learned more about HIV/AIDS than the doctors treating us We got stronger, louder, angrier, prouder Those of us whose lives he saved Revere Larry as a savior A beautiful, loud, flawed, necessary savior I don’t want to die, he told us I can only assume you don’t want to die. Can we fight together?

Yes, Larry, we fight together We started getting sick We march, we rage, we disobey civilly, We started dying We write, we sing, we play, we ride 1,112 and Counting he told us in 1983 We have learned to love each other and ourselves And his rage flared hotter than a brushfire Enough to take care of each other. The flames engulfing everything in his sight He spewed his righteous venom on President Reagan We fight He accused Mayor Koch of murder For Larry He rained hellfire on the CDC and Dr. Fauci For life He damned Senator Daniel Moynihan for inaction —Hank Trout He excoriated The Advocate and the rest of the gay press He poured buckets of bile on his own community Hank wrote this tribute to Larry Kramer as a fundraiser for TogetheRide (formerly AIDS/ I am sick of closeted gay doctors who won’t come out to help us fight LifeCycle), benefitting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the AIDS Project Los AngeI am sick of gay men who won’t support gay charities les. If you would like to donate, please go to http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/HankTrout. I am sick of closeted gays I am sick of everyone in this community who tells me to stop creating a panic I am sick of guys who think that all being gay means is sex And I am very sick and saddened by every gay man who does not get behind this issue totally and with commitment—— to fight for his life


• JUNE 2021

Brian had his HIV under control with medication. But smoking with HIV caused him to have serious health problems, including a stroke, a blood clot in his lungs and surgery on an artery in his neck. Smoking makes living with HIV much worse. You can quit.



HIV alone didn’t cause the clogged artery in my neck. Smoking with HIV did. Brian, age 45, California

HOW DOES HIV TREATMENT WORK AS HIV PREVENTION Starting and sticking with HIV treatment every day helps lower the amount of HIV in your body. It can get so low it can’t be measured by a test. That’s undetectable. Less HIV in your body means it causes less damage. And according to current research, getting to and staying undetectable prevents the spread of HIV through sex. It’s called Treatment as Prevention. Or TasP for short. There’s no cure for HIV, but if you stick with treatment you can protect yourself and the people you care about.

Talk to a healthcare provider and watch It’s Called Treatment as Prevention at YouTube.com/HelpStopTheVirus

GILEAD and the GILEAD Logo are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. © 2020 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. UNBC7269 08/20

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