Cannabinoids Research Shifts Toward Treatment • Is the War on Drugs Driving Hep C?
JULY 2013 • ISSUE 225 • AMERICA’S AIDS MAGAZINE
ADVOCATE & ALLY Gloria Allred Fights for the Rights of the AIDS Community
MAKING A PROMISE In a New Film, Activists Call on World Leaders to Step Up
IronE Singleton The Walking Dead Actor & Author Shares How AIDS Impacted His Family & How He Motivates Others to Achieve Their Dreams
What is STRIBILD? STRIBILD is a prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before. It combines 4 medicines into 1 pill to be taken once a day with food. STRIBILD is a complete single-tablet regimen and should not be used with other HIV-1 medicines. STRIBILD does not cure HIV-1 infection or AIDS. To control HIV-1 infection and decrease HIV-related illnesses you must keep taking STRIBILD. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions about how to reduce the risk of passing HIV-1 to others. Always practice safer sex and use condoms to lower the chance of sexual contact with body fluids. Never reuse or share needles or other items that have body fluids on them.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION What is the most important information I should know about STRIBILD? STRIBILD can cause serious side effects: • Build-up of an acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious medical emergency. Symptoms of lactic acidosis include feeling very weak or tired, unusual (not normal) muscle pain, trouble breathing, stomach pain with nausea or vomiting, feeling cold especially in your arms and legs, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and/or a fast or irregular heartbeat. • Serious liver problems. The liver may become large (hepatomegaly) and fatty (steatosis). Symptoms of liver problems include your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice), dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored bowel movements (stools), loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, and/or stomach pain. • You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or serious liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking STRIBILD for a long time. In some cases, these serious conditions have led to death. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of these conditions.
• Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you also have HBV and stop taking STRIBILD, your hepatitis may suddenly get worse. Do not stop taking STRIBILD without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to monitor your health. STRIBILD is not approved for the treatment of HBV. Who should not take STRIBILD? Do not take STRIBILD if you: • Take a medicine that contains: alfuzosin, dihydroergotamine, ergotamine, methylergonovine, cisapride, lovastatin, simvastatin, pimozide, sildenafil when used for lung problems (Revatio®), triazolam, oral midazolam, rifampin or the herb St. John’s wort. • For a list of brand names for these medicines, please see the Brief Summary on the following pages. • Take any other medicines to treat HIV-1 infection, or the medicine adefovir (Hepsera®). What are the other possible side effects of STRIBILD? Serious side effects of STRIBILD may also include: • New or worse kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do regular blood and urine tests to check your kidneys before and during treatment with STRIBILD. If you develop kidney problems, your healthcare provider may tell you to stop taking STRIBILD. • Bone problems, including bone pain or bones getting soft or thin, which may lead to fractures. Your healthcare provider may do tests to check your bones. • Changes in body fat can happen in people taking HIV-1 medicines. • Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking STRIBILD. The most common side effects of STRIBILD include nausea and diarrhea. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that bother you or don’t go away.
What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking STRIBILD? • All your health problems. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have or had any kidney, bone, or liver problems, including hepatitis virus infection. • All the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. STRIBILD may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect how STRIBILD works. Keep a list of all your medicines and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist. Do not start any new medicines while taking STRIBILD without first talking with your healthcare provider. • If you take hormone-based birth control (pills, patches, rings, shots, etc). • If you take antacids. Take antacids at least 2 hours before or after you take STRIBILD. • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if STRIBILD can harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking STRIBILD. • If you are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed. HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in breast milk. Also, some medicines in STRIBILD can pass into breast milk, and it is not known if this can harm the baby. 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. Please see Brief Summary of full Prescribing Information with important warnings on the following pages.
STRIBILD is a prescription medicine used as a complete single-tablet regimen to treat HIV-1 in adults who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before. STRIBILD does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS.
I started my personal revolution Talk to your healthcare provider about starting treatment. STRIBILD is a complete HIV-1 treatment in 1 pill, once a day.
Ask if itâ€™s right for you.
Patient Information STRIBILDTM (STRY-bild) (elvitegravir 150 mg/cobicistat 150 mg/emtricitabine 200 mg/ tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg) tablets Brief summary of full Prescribing Information. For more information, please see the full Prescribing Information, including Patient Information. What is STRIBILD? • STRIBILD is a prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before. STRIBILD is a complete regimen and should not be used with other HIV-1 medicines. • STRIBILD does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. You must stay on continuous HIV-1 therapy to control HIV-1 infection and decrease HIV-related illnesses. • Ask your healthcare provider about how to prevent passing HIV-1 to others. Do not share or reuse needles, injection equipment, or personal items that can have blood or body fluids on them. Do not have sex without protection. Always practice safer sex by using a latex or polyurethane condom to lower the chance of sexual contact with semen, vaginal secretions, or blood.
• Do not stop taking STRIBILD without first talking to your healthcare provider • If you stop taking STRIBILD, your healthcare provider will need to check your health often and do blood tests regularly for several months to check your HBV infection. Tell your healthcare provider about any new or unusual symptoms you may have after you stop taking STRIBILD Who should not take STRIBILD? Do not take STRIBILD if you also take a medicine that contains: • adefovir (Hepsera®) • alfuzosin hydrochloride (Uroxatral®) • cisapride (Propulsid®, Propulsid Quicksolv®) • ergot-containing medicines, including: dihydroergotamine mesylate (D.H.E. 45®, Migranal®), ergotamine tartrate (Cafergot®, Migergot®, Ergostat®, Medihaler Ergotamine®, Wigraine®, Wigrettes®), and methylergonovine maleate (Ergotrate®, Methergine®) • lovastatin (Advicor®, Altoprev®, Mevacor®) • oral midazolam
What is the most important information I should know about STRIBILD?
• pimozide (Orap®)
STRIBILD can cause serious side effects, including: 1. Build-up of lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis). Lactic acidosis can happen in some people who take STRIBILD or similar (nucleoside analogs) medicines. Lactic acidosis is a serious medical emergency that can lead to death. Lactic acidosis can be hard to identify early, because the symptoms could seem like symptoms of other health problems. Call your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the following symptoms which could be signs of lactic acidosis: • feel very weak or tired • have unusual (not normal) muscle pain • have trouble breathing • have stomach pain with nausea or vomiting • feel cold, especially in your arms and legs • feel dizzy or lightheaded • have a fast or irregular heartbeat 2. Severe liver problems. Severe liver problems can happen in people who take STRIBILD. In some cases, these liver problems can lead to death. Your liver may become large (hepatomegaly) and you may develop fat in your liver (steatosis). Call your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the following symptoms of liver problems: • your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice) • dark “tea-colored” urine • light-colored bowel movements (stools) • loss of appetite for several days or longer • nausea • stomach pain You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or severe liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking STRIBILD for a long time. 3. Worsening of Hepatitis B infection. If you have hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and take STRIBILD, your HBV may get worse (flare-up) if you stop taking STRIBILD. A “flare-up” is when your HBV infection suddenly returns in a worse way than before. • Do not run out of STRIBILD. Refill your prescription or talk to your healthcare provider before your STRIBILD is all gone
• sildenafil (Revatio®), when used for treating lung problems
• rifampin (Rifadin®, Rifamate®, Rifater®, Rimactane®) • simvastatin (Simcor®, Vytorin®, Zocor®) • triazolam (Halcion®) • the herb St. John’s wort Do not take STRIBILD if you also take any other HIV-1 medicines, including: • Other medicines that contain tenofovir (Atripla®, Complera®, Viread®, Truvada®) • Other medicines that contain emtricitabine, lamivudine, or ritonavir (Combivir®, Emtriva®, Epivir® or Epivir-HBV®, Epzicom®, Kaletra®, Norvir®, Trizivir®) STRIBILD is not for use in people who are less than 18 years old. What are the possible side effects of STRIBILD? STRIBILD may cause the following serious side effects: • See “What is the most important information I should know about STRIBILD?” • New or worse kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys before you start and while you are taking STRIBILD. Your healthcare provider may tell you to stop taking STRIBILD if you develop new or worse kidney problems. • Bone problems can happen in some people who take STRIBILD. Bone problems include bone pain, softening or thinning (which may lead to fractures). Your healthcare provider may need to do tests to check your bones. • Changes in body fat can happen in people who take HIV-1 medicine. These changes may include increased amount of fat in the upper back and neck (“buffalo hump”), breast, and around the middle of your body (trunk). Loss of fat from the legs, arms and face may also happen. The exact cause and long-term health effects of these conditions are not known. • Changes in your immune system (Immune Reconstitution Syndrome) can happen when you start taking HIV-1 medicines. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections that have been hidden in your body for a long time. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you start having any new symptoms after starting your HIV-1 medicine.
The most common side effects of STRIBILD include: • Nausea • Diarrhea Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. • These are not all the possible side effects of STRIBILD. For more information, ask your healthcare provider. • Call your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088. What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking STRIBILD? Tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including: • If you have or had any kidney, bone, or liver problems, including hepatitis B infection • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if STRIBILD can harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking STRIBILD. – There is a pregnancy registry for women who take antiviral medicines during pregnancy. The purpose of this registry is to collect information about the health of you and your baby. Talk with your healthcare provider about how you can take part in this registry. • If you are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you take STRIBILD. - You should not breastfeed if you have HIV-1 because of the risk of passing HIV-1 to your baby. - Two of the medicines in STRIBILD can pass to your baby in your breast milk. It is not known if the other medicines in STRIBILD can pass into your breast milk. - Talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements: • STRIBILD may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect how STRIBILD works. • Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you take any of the following medicines: - Hormone-based birth control (pills, patches, rings, shots, etc) - Antacid medicines that contains aluminum, magnesium hydroxide, or calcium carbonate. Take antacids at least 2 hours before or after you take STRIBILD - Medicines to treat depression, organ transplant rejection, or high blood pressure - amiodarone (Cordarone®, Pacerone®) - atorvastatin (Lipitor®, Caduet®) - bepridil hydrochloric (Vascor®, Bepadin®) - bosentan (Tracleer®) - buspirone - carbamazepine (Carbatrol®, Epitol®, Equetro®, Tegreto®) - clarithromycin (Biaxin®, Prevpac®) - clonazepam (Klonopin®) - clorazepate (Gen-xene®, Tranxene®) - colchicine (Colcrys®) - medicines that contain dexamethasone - diazepam (Valium®)
- digoxin (Lanoxin®) - disopyramide (Norpace®) - estazolam - ethosuximide (Zarontin®) - flecainide (Tambocor®) - flurazepam - fluticasone (Flovent®, Flonase®, Flovent® Diskus, Flovent® HFA, Veramyst®) - itraconazole (Sporanox®) - ketoconazole (Nizoral®) - lidocaine (Xylocaine®) - mexiletine - oxcarbazepine (Trileptal®) - perphenazine - phenobarbital (Luminal®) - phenytoin (Dilantin®, Phenytek®) - propafenone (Rythmol®) - quinidine (Neudexta®) - rifabutin (Mycobutin®) - rifapentine (Priftin®) - risperidone (Risperdal®, Risperdal Consta®) - salmeterol (Serevent®) or salmeterol when taken in combination with fluticasone (Advair Diskus®, Advair HFA®) - sildenafil (Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®) or vardenafil (Levitra®, Staxyn®), for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). If you get dizzy or faint (low blood pressure), have vision changes or have an erection that last longer than 4 hours, call your healthcare provider or get medical help right away. - tadalafil (Adcirca®), for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension - telithromycin (Ketek®) - thioridazine - voriconazole (Vfend®) - warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®) - zolpidem (Ambien®, Edlular®, Intermezzo®, Zolpimist®) Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of all your medicines and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine. Do not start any new medicines while you are taking STRIBILD without first talking with your healthcare provider. Keep STRIBILD and all medicines out of reach of children. This Brief Summary summarizes the most important information about STRIBILD. If you would like more information, talk with your healthcare provider. You can also ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for information about STRIBILD that is written for health professionals, or call 1-800-445-3235 or go to www.STRIBILD.com. Issued: August 2012
COMPLERA, EMTRIVA, GILEAD, the GILEAD Logo, GSI, HEPSERA, STRIBILD, the STRIBILD Logo, TRUVADA, and VIREAD are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. ATRIPLA is a trademark of Bristol-Myers Squibb & Gilead Sciences, LLC. All other marks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners. © 2013 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. QC14549 02/13
R aising F und s A n d Awar ene ss Fo r H I V /AI D S S ince 1993
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The More You Buy the More You Help Our Orphan Bracelets are handcrafted by South African women living with HIV/AIDS using (lead free) copper, brass and aluminum wire. All proceeds go towards helping mothers and children in South Africa whose lives have been severely impacted by HIV/AIDS. Your purchase provides employment to the mothers, and nourishment and care to the HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa
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c o n t e n t s July 2013
32 Cover The Walking Dead’s IronE Singleton Talks with A&U’s Sean Black About How His Faith in God Helped Him Find a Higher Purpose in Life After the Loss of His Mother to AIDS
Features 26 Gallery Mirror Man: Héctor Toscano Reflects on the Body as a Record of Life History
Ruby’s Rap Ruby raps with Frank Rodriguez
28 The Good Fight Gloria Allred Took On—and Won—One of the First AIDS Discrimination Suits, and She Is Still Advocating for Our Community 40 The Culture of AIDS A New Documentary, Keep the Promise, Empowers a Global Network of Activists to Keep Fighting 24 Poetry cover photo by Commaleta Singleton
Left Field by Patricia Nell Warren
Defense of America
uly is the month of our nation’s birthday—almost every American knows that. But do they know that more Americans than ever before can now legally wed? As we go to press, the United States Supreme Court has overturned DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), which has kept millions of same-sex couples from marrying, or, in my view, enjoying the Constitutional right to happiness that is taken for granted by all straight Americans. And yet, this is the last civil rights issue that hasn’t been completely won. Even though the Supreme Court has undone DOMA, it will be an incomplete victory for the millions of lesbians and gay men who are seeking the right to get married in the thirty-seven states that do not recognize marriage equality. In no other nation that has passed gay marriage (fourteen and counting) can you be legally married in one part of a country but not in another part. Marriage is legal in all provinces of Canada. A lesbian married to her female spouse in Paris is also married to her female spouse in Marseilles. So this so-called supreme victory is only a partial victory. America needs to enter the twenty-first century and make marriage equality a human right not just a right depending on what state you live in. How does the issue of marriage equality affect the million and a half Americans living with HIV? For one thing, in many states the gay partners of patients in the hospital can be denied visitation rights. For instance, a friend of mine who is currently in the hospital in Topeka, Kansas, told me that his partner wasn’t able to visit him because of his family’s prejudice toward gay men. Thankfully, my friend is getting better; his first words over the phone to me the other day were, “Once I’m out of the hospital we’re moving to California!” Equally so, healthcare is a right that all Americans deserve; but how will healthcare become completely equitable if the right to visit a loved one in the hospital is thwarted by prejudice? And how can HIV-positive Americans seek out early testing and treatment if HIV criminalization con-
A M E R I C A’ S A I D S M A G A Z I N E issue 225 vol. 22 no. 7 July 2013 editorial offices: (518) 426-9010 fax: (518) 436-5354
tinues to force people to fear knowing their status and doing something to help them control their own viral loads? Marriage equality shows that when you discriminate against a certain class of Americans, no one wins. The good news is that we have allies in Congress trying to repeal laws that criminalize “being HIV-positive.” And thanks to the Obama Administration’s expansion of ADAP, thousands of Americans haven’t had to stand in line to get their meds; and we are seeing a steep decline in new infections in places like Africa and Southeast Asia—partially due to the fact that more and more people are receiving U.S.-funded antiretrovirals. All of these things make America stronger; our image brighter to those living in extreme poverty and dire health conditions; and it is, by and large, due to a new vision for America’s place on the world stage that we are once again considered by dozens of countries as the leader in civil rights, human rights, and economic rights. All of which makes America stronger. This same sort of strength in character can be seen in this month’s cover story, IronE Singleton, whose beliefs were shaped by growing up in a family ravaged by AIDS. His story about his mother, which he also tells in his new memoir, shows that living with HIV and AIDS is a story about how relationships come apart and how they may be strengthened. For Singleton, one of the stars for three years running on the popular The Walking Dead, strength comes from God and the power of love. For Gloria Allred, interviewed by Dann Dulin in this issue, strength comes in persistence and persuasion. For the advocates who descended on D.C. in the new documentary featured in The Culture of AIDS, strength comes in numbers. All of these stories also show that strength survives only if we are empowered to make choices—choosing to take action, choosing the test, choosing marriage— and be willing to defend them.
Editor in Chief & Publisher David Waggoner Managing Editor: Michael Needle Senior Editor: Dann Dulin Editors at Large: Chip Alfred, Sean Black Special Projects Editor: Lester Strong Literary Editor: Brent Calderwood Consulting Editor: Nick Steele Copy Editor: Maureen Hunter Contributing Editors: Sarah Churchill Downes, Reed Massengill, Kelly McQuain, Lesléa Newman, Robert E. Penn Contributing Writers: Noël Alumit, V. Anderson, Annie Buckley, Larry Buhl, Ruby Comer, Nancy Ellegate, LaMont “Montee” Evans, Diane Goettel, Angela Leroux-Lindsey, Sherri Lewis, Alina Oswald, Dale Reynolds, Elizabeth Rodgers, Mariel Selbovitz, Justin B. Terry-Smith, Patricia Nell Warren, Chuck Willman, Jeannie Wraight Art Director: Timothy J. Haines Contributing Photographers: Jordan Ancel, Davidd Batalon, Mark Bennington, Tom Bianchi, Sean Black, Adam Bouska, Brian Bowen Smith, Tim Courtney, Stephen Churchill Downes, Greg Gorman, Francis Hills, Renée Jacobs, Tom McGovern, Nancy Perry, Annie Tritt National Advertising Director: Harold Burdick, Jr. Sales & Marketing: David L. Bonitatibus Advertising Sales Office: (518) 426-9010 National Advertising Representative: Rivendell Media (212) 242-6863 Subscription Info: (518) 426-9010 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 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 518-426-9010; for subscriptions and address changes please call 518-426-9010; 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. ©2013 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
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“I’m glad Duane Cramer found his own ‘voice’ when it comes to speaking up for himself and others, but I was saddened to hear that Duane lost his father to AIDS. Duane informs us, ‘At the time of my father’s death the stigma, the shame and the guilt that I felt—it really silenced me.’ He goes on: ‘It silenced me, and it silenced my sisters and my mother too and it wasn’t until I became HIV-positive myself that I was really able to face my responsibility to talk to people about the disease.’
Stigma hurts us all.”
I am really excited about the I Design campaign and the role that Duane Cramer will play [cover story, “Sewing the Seeds of Love,” by Sean Black, May 2013]. I think this will be a major campaign to fight AIDS. I’m glad Duane found his own “voice” when it comes to speaking up for himself and others, but I was saddened to hear that Duane lost his father to AIDS. Duane informs us, “At the time of my father’s death the stigma, the shame and the guilt that I felt—it really silenced me.” He goes on: “It silenced me, and it silenced my sisters and my mother too and it wasn’t until I became HIV-positive myself that I was really able to face my responsibility to talk to people about the disease.” Stigma hurts us all. —Evelyn Simonson Plymouth, Massachusetts I found Duane Cramer’s ability to collect the photographs of his family dating back to the 1800s to be simply amazing. It is really rare for most African-American families to have such a historical memento of the past. When
in San Francisco I intend to see the “Cramer-Brazos” clan photos. —Ronnie Debold Cottonwood, California
Proud Mary What can you say about Mary Fisher, but that she is a truly amazing, heroic human being [“About Face,” by Chip Alfred, May 2013]? Surviving the death of her HIV-positive ex-husband and her own HIV-positive status—it really is a story for our times. She really “brought AIDS home to America,” and helped lead the way to show that AIDS is not a Democratic nor a Republican issue. It’s an issue for everyone. It is heartwarming that she is still out there educating us about the challenging disease of AIDS. Thank you, Mary, for still being there. —Gladys Montague, Harvey, Illinois
Money Changes Everything It really is a rotten shame that the White House and certain members of
Congress do not see the value of human needs, medical needs for funding fully all HIV/AIDS programs [Treatment Horizons, May 2013]. Somehow we have plenty of money for the military and fighting all kinds of stupid wars. The HIV Medicine Association is warning us all about what is happening to people struggling with HIV and AIDS. The fact is that such people are going to suffer more and, in fact, some of them will die. Washington, please wake up! Human needs before military needs! —Morris Herbert-Vallagorsky Sugarland, Texas
Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org Send letters to: Mailbox, A&U, 25 Monroe Street, Suite 205, Albany, NY 12210 Or click on “Mailbox” on our Web site’s home page: www.aumag.org Tweet Us @au_magazine Facebook: http://on.fb.me/AUFANPAGE All correspondence requires name, address, and daytime phone number for confirmation. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
A&U • JULY 2013
photo by Stephen Churchill Downes
I Am A Camera
NEWSBREAK Small Protein, Big Picture
photo by L. Brian Stauffer
In order for HIV to replicate, the virus needs to carry its genetic material into new cells and then, once inside, to release it. This process is made possible in part by a protein shell: the HIV capsid, which functions to both protect the genetic material and then, at the right time, make it accessible. This makes the capsid an ideal antiviral target. One of the keys of disrupting this function is knowing the precise chemical structure of the HIV-1 capsid, and researchers, as reported in the journal Nature, have done just that. Up till now, scientists have been able to glimpse individual parts of the capsid but never a detailed molecular map of its whole, whose cone-shaped structure is formed by a polymorphic assemblage of more than 1,300 identical proteins. A dynamic view of the entire structure in atomic-level detail—namely, the interacKlaus Schulten, Swanlund Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbations of 64 million atoms—was made possible with the na-Champaign and director of the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics (TCB) use of the supercomputer Blue Waters at the National Group at the Beckman Institute, and Juan Perilla, a postdoctoral research associate Center for Supercomputing Applications at the Universi- in the TCB group at Beckman, stand in front of the HIV capsid structure. ty of Illinois. Thanks to the largest computer simulation ever run, the digital model was created by researchers Klaus Schulten and Juan Perilla at the University of Illinois, who built on previous research and their own simulations of how the building blocks of the proteins—hexagons and pentagons, arranged in ever-changing patterns—interacted and fit together, and in what numbers. The researchers discovered that the HIV capsid contained 216 protein hexagons and 12 protein pentagons, which were all joined together at varied angles. Next steps for the researchers include figuring out how the identical protein can achieve this malleability within the same capsid.
Fire in the Belly At the recent Lambda Literary Awards, a ceremony that honors LGBT literature each year, a biography of writer and artist David Wojnarowicz was named the winner in the Gay Memoir/Biography category. Published by Bloomsbury USA in 2012, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr, a columnist and arts reporter for the New York City-based Village Voice from 1984 to 2003 and who knew the artist, creates a well-researched and vital portrait of an individual who was a familiar but somewhat distant presence in the New York City art scene of the 1980s and 1990s. His work drew on various media and explored American values, spirituality, sexuality, his own childhood abuse, and mortality, among other themes. Seminal pieces in his art, as well as his activism, engaged the AIDS epidemic and his own positive serostatus with unflinching and unsentimental acuity. His outspokenness in fact prompted the National Endowment for the Arts to rescind funding for an exhibition catalogue that it had granted him. And his work continues to provoke. His short JULY 2013 • A&U
Patient model. Pill shown is not actual size.
What is COMPLERA? COMPLERA is a prescription HIV medicine that is used as a complete regimen to treat HIV-1 in adults who have never taken HIV medicines before and who have an amount of HIV in their blood (this is called “viral load”) that is no more than 100,000 copies/mL. COMPLERA contains 3 medicines – rilpivirine, emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. It is not known if COMPLERA is safe and effective in children under the age of 18 years. ®
COMPLERA® does not cure HIV-1 infection or AIDS. To control HIV-1 infection and decrease HIV-related illnesses you must keep taking COMPLERA. Avoid doing things that can spread HIV-1 to others: always practice safer sex and use condoms to lower the chance of sexual contact with body fluids; never reuse or share needles or other items that have body fluids on them, do not share personal items that may contain bodily fluids. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions about how to reduce the risk of passing HIV-1 to others.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION What is the most important information you should know about COMPLERA? COMPLERA® can cause serious side effects: • Build-up of an acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious medical emergency. Symptoms of lactic acidosis include feeling very weak or tired, unusual (not normal) muscle pain, trouble breathing, stomach pain with nausea or vomiting, feeling cold, especially in your arms and legs, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and/or a fast or irregular heartbeat. • Serious liver problems. The liver may become large (hepatomegaly) and fatty (steatosis). Symptoms of liver problems include your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice), dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored bowel movements (stools), loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, and/or stomach pain. • You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or serious liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking COMPLERA for a long time. In some cases, these serious conditions have led to death. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of these conditions. • Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you also have HBV and stop taking COMPLERA, your hepatitis may suddenly get worse. Do not stop taking COMPLERA without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to monitor your health. COMPLERA is not approved for the treatment of HBV.
Who should not take COMPLERA? Do not take COMPLERA if you have ever taken other anti-HIV medicines. COMPLERA may change the effect of other medicines and may cause serious side effects. Your healthcare provider may change your other medicines or change their doses. Do not take COMPLERA if you also take these medicines: • anti-seizure medicines: carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Tegretol-XR, Teril, Epitol); oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), phenobarbital (Luminal), phenytoin (Dilantin, Dilantin-125, Phenytek) • anti-tuberculosis medicines: rifabutin (Mycobutin), rifampin (Rifater, Rifamate, Rimactane, Rifadin) and rifapentine (Priftin) • proton pump inhibitors for stomach or intestinal problems: esomeprazole (Nexium, Vimovo), lansoprazole (Prevacid), dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole sodium (Protonix), rabeprazole (Aciphex) • more than 1 dose of the steroid medicine dexamethasone or dexamethasone sodium phosphate • St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) If you are taking COMPLERA you should not take other HIV medicines or other medicines containing tenofovir (Viread, Truvada, Stribild or Atripla); other medicines containing emtricitabine or lamivudine (Emtriva, Combivir, Epivir, Epivir-HBV, Epzicom, Trizivir, Atripla, Stribild or Truvada); rilpivirine (Edurant) or adefovir (Hepsera). In addition, tell your healthcare provider if you are taking the following medications because they may interfere with how COMPLERA works and may cause side effects: • certain antacid medicines containing aluminum, magnesium hydroxide, or calcium carbonate (examples: Rolaids, TUMS). These medicines must be taken at least 2 hours before or 4 hours after COMPLERA. • medicines to block stomach acid including cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), or ranitidine HCL (Zantac). These medicines must be taken at least 12 hours before or 4 hours after COMPLERA. • any of these medicines: clarithromycin (Biaxin); erythromycin (E-Mycin, Eryc, Ery-Tab, PCE, Pediazole, Ilosone), fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), ketoconazole (Nizoral) methadone (Dolophine); posaconazole (Noxifil), telithromycin (Ketek) or voriconazole (Vfend). • medicines that are eliminated by the kidneys like acyclovir (Zovirax), cidofovir (Vistide), ganciclovir (Cytovene IV, Vitrasert), valacyclovir (Valtrex) and valganciclovir (Valcyte).
A complete HIV treatment in only 1 pill a day. COMPLERA is for adults who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before and have no more than 100,000 copies/mL of virus in their blood.
Ask your healthcare provider if it’s the one for you.
These are not all the medicines that may cause problems if you take COMPLERA. Tell your healthcare provider about all prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, or herbal supplements you are taking or plan to take.
The most common side effects reported with COMPLERA are trouble sleeping (insomnia), abnormal dreams, headache, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, rash, tiredness, and depression. Some side effects also reported include vomiting, stomach pain or discomfort, skin discoloration (small spots or freckles) and pain.
Before taking COMPLERA, tell your healthcare provider if you: liver problems, including hepatitis B or C virus infection, or have abnormal liver tests • Have kidney problems • Have ever had a mental health problem • Have bone problems • Are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. It is not known if COMPLERA can harm your unborn child • Are breastfeeding: Women with HIV should not breastfeed because they can pass HIV through their milk to the baby. Also, COMPLERA may pass through breast milk and could cause harm to the baby
This is not a complete list of side effects. Tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you notice any side effects while taking COMPLERA, and call your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects.
COMPLERA can cause additional serious side effects: or worsening kidney problems, including kidney failure. If you have had kidney problems, or take other medicines that may cause kidney problems, your healthcare provider may need to do regular blood tests. • Depression or mood changes. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms: feeling sad or hopeless, feeling anxious or restless, have thoughts of hurting yourself (suicide) or have tried to hurt yourself. • Changes in liver enzymes: People who have had hepatitis B or C, or who have had changes in their liver function tests in the past may have an increased risk for liver problems while taking COMPLERA. Some people without prior liver disease may also be at risk. Your healthcare provider may need to check your liver enzymes before and during treatment with COMPLERA. • Bone problems can happen in some people who take COMPLERA. Bone problems include bone pain, softening or thinning (which may lead to fractures). Your healthcare provider may need to do additional tests to check your bones. • Changes in body fat can happen in people taking HIV medicine. • Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections that have been hidden in your body for a long time. Tell your healthcare provider if you start having new symptoms after starting COMPLERA. • New
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit http://www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088. Additional Information about taking COMPLERA: • Always take COMPLERA exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it. • Take COMPLERA with a meal. Taking COMPLERA with a meal is important to help get the right amount of medicine in your body. (A protein drink does not replace a meal). Stay under the care of your healthcare provider during treatment with COMPLERA and see your healthcare provider regularly. Please see Brief Summary of full Prescribing Information with important warnings on the following pages.
Learn more at www.COMPLERA.com
Brief Summary of full Prescribing Information
COMPLERA (kom-PLEH-rah) (emtricitabine, rilpivirine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) tablets ®
Brief summary of full Prescribing Information. For more information, please see the full Prescribing Information including Patient Information. What is COMPLERA? •
COMPLERA is a prescription HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) medicine that is used to treat HIV-1 in adults – who have never taken HIV medicines before, and – who have an amount of HIV in their blood (this is called ‘viral load’) that is no more than 100,000 copies/mL. Your healthcare provider will measure your viral load.
(HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)). •
COMPLERA contains 3 medicines – rilpivirine, emtricitabine, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate – combined in one tablet. It is a complete regimen to treat HIV-1 infection and should not be used with other HIV medicines.
It is not known if COMPLERA is safe and effective in children under the age of 18 years old.
COMPLERA does not cure HIV infection or AIDS. You must stay on continuous therapy to control HIV infection and decrease HIV-related illnesses.
Ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions about how to prevent passing HIV to other people. Do not share or re-use needles or other injection equipment, and do not share personal items that can have blood or body fluids on them, like toothbrushes and razor blades. Always practice safer sex by using a latex or polyurethane condom to lower the chance of sexual contact with semen, vaginal fluids or blood.
Who should not take COMPLERA? Do not take COMPLERA if: • your HIV infection has been previously treated with HIV medicines. •
you are taking any of the following medicines: – anti-seizure medicines: carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Tegretol-XR, Teril, Epitol); oxcarbazepine (Trileptal); phenobarbital (Luminal); phenytoin (Dilantin, Dilantin-125, Phenytek) – anti-tuberculosis (anti-TB) medicines: rifabutin (Mycobutin); rifampin (Rifater, Rifamate, Rimactane, Rifadin); rifapentine (Priftin) – proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medicine for certain stomach or intestinal problems: esomeprazole (Nexium, Vimovo); lansoprazole (Prevacid); dexlansoprazole (Dexilant); omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid); pantoprazole sodium (Protonix); rabeprazole (Aciphex) – more than 1 dose of the steroid medicine dexamethasone or dexamethasone sodium phosphate – St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)
If you take COMPLERA, you should not take: – Other medicines that contain tenofovir (Atripla, Stribild, Truvada, Viread)
What is the most important information I should know about COMPLERA? COMPLERA can cause serious side effects, including: • Build-up of lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis). Lactic acidosis can happen in some people who take COMPLERA or similar (nucleoside analogs) medicines. Lactic acidosis is a serious medical emergency that can lead to death. Lactic acidosis can be hard to identify early, because the symptoms could seem like symptoms of other health problems. Call your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the following symptoms which could be signs of lactic acidosis: – feel very weak or tired – have unusual (not normal) muscle pain – have trouble breathing – have stomach pain with nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) or vomiting – feel cold, especially in your arms and legs
– Other medicines that contain emtricitabine or lamivudine (Combivir, Emtriva, Epivir or Epivir-HBV, Epzicom, Trizivir, Atripla, Truvada, Stribild) – rilpivirine (Edurant) – adefovir (Hepsera) What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking COMPLERA? Before you take COMPLERA, tell your healthcare provider if you: • have or had liver problems, including hepatitis B or C virus infection, kidney problems, mental health problem or bone problems •
– feel dizzy or lightheaded Severe liver problems. Severe liver problems can happen in people who take COMPLERA. In some cases, these liver problems can lead to death. Your liver may become large (hepatomegaly) and you may develop fat in your liver (steatosis). Call your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the following symptoms of liver problems:
– your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice) – dark “tea-colored” urine – light-colored bowel movements (stools)
are breast-feeding or plan to breast-feed. You should not breastfeed if you have HIV because of the risk of passing HIV to your baby. Do not breastfeed if you are taking COMPLERA. At least two of the medicines contained in COMPLERA can be passed to your baby in your breast milk. We do not know whether this could harm your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby.
– loss of appetite for several days or longer
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
– stomach pain •
are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if COMPLERA can harm your unborn child. Pregnancy Registry. There is a pregnancy registry for women who take antiviral medicines during pregnancy. The purpose of this registry is to collect information about the health of you and your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can take part in this registry.
– have a fast or irregular heartbeat •
Worsening of Hepatitis B infection. If you have hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and take COMPLERA, your HBV may get worse (flare-up) if you stop taking COMPLERA. A “flare-up” is when your HBV infection suddenly returns in a worse way than before. COMPLERA is not approved for the treatment of HBV, so you must discuss your HBV with your healthcare provider. – Do not let your COMPLERA run out. Refill your prescription or talk to your healthcare provider before your COMPLERA is all gone. – Do not stop taking COMPLERA without first talking to your healthcare provider. – If you stop taking COMPLERA, your healthcare provider will need to check your health often and do blood tests regularly to check your HBV infection. Tell your healthcare provider about any new or unusual symptoms you may have after you stop taking COMPLERA.
You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or severe liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking COMPLERA for a long time.
COMPLERA may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect how COMPLERA works, and may cause serious side effects. If you take certain medicines with COMPLERA, the amount of COMPLERA in your body may be too low and it may not work to help control your HIV infection. The HIV virus in your body may become resistant to COMPLERA or other HIV medicines that are like it.
Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take: • an antacid medicine that contains aluminum, magnesium hydroxide, or calcium carbonate. If you take an antacid during treatment with COMPLERA, take the antacid at least 2 hours before or at least 4 hours after you take COMPLERA. •
a medicine to block the acid in your stomach, including cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), or ranitidine hydrochloride (Zantac). If you take one of these medicines during treatment with COMPLERA, take the acid blocker at least 12 hours before or at least 4 hours after you take COMPLERA. any of these medicines (if taken by mouth or injection): – clarithromycin (Biaxin) – erythromycin (E-Mycin, Eryc, Ery-Tab, PCE, Pediazole, Ilosone) – fluconazole (Diflucan)
trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Additional common side effects include: •
– itraconazole (Sporanox)
– ketoconazole (Nizoral)
stomach pain or discomfort
– methadone (Dolophine)
skin discoloration (small spots or freckles)
– posaconazole (Noxafil) – telithromycin (Ketek) – voriconazole (Vfend) •
The most common side effects of COMPLERA include:
medicines that are eliminated by the kidney, including acyclovir (Zovirax), cidofovir (Vistide), ganciclovir (Cytovene IV, Vitrasert), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and valganciclovir (Valcyte)
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. These are not all the possible side effects of COMPLERA. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088).
What are the possible side effects of COMPLERA?
How should I take COMPLERA?
COMPLERA can cause serious side effects, including: • See “What is the most important information I should know about COMPLERA?”
Stay under the care of your healthcare provider during treatment with COMPLERA.
Take COMPLERA exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
Always take COMPLERA with a meal. Taking COMPLERA with a meal is important to help get the right amount of medicine in your body. A protein drink does not replace a meal.
Do not change your dose or stop taking COMPLERA without first talking with your healthcare provider. See your healthcare provider regularly while taking COMPLERA.
If you miss a dose of COMPLERA within 12 hours of the time you usually take it, take your dose of COMPLERA with a meal as soon as possible. Then, take your next dose of COMPLERA at the regularly scheduled time. If you miss a dose of COMPLERA by more than 12 hours of the time you usually take it, wait and then take the next dose of COMPLERA at the regularly scheduled time.
Do not take more than your prescribed dose to make up for a missed dose.
New or worse kidney problems, including kidney failure, can happen in some people who take COMPLERA. Your healthcare provider should do blood tests to check your kidneys before starting treatment with COMPLERA. If you have had kidney problems in the past or need to take another medicine that can cause kidney problems, your healthcare provider may need to do blood tests to check your kidneys during your treatment with COMPLERA. Depression or mood changes. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms: – feeling sad or hopeless – feeling anxious or restless – have thoughts of hurting yourself (suicide) or have tried to hurt yourself
Change in liver enzymes. People with a history of hepatitis B or C virus infection or who have certain liver enzyme changes may have an increased risk of developing new or worsening liver problems during treatment with COMPLERA. Liver problems can also happen during treatment with COMPLERA in people without a history of liver disease. Your healthcare provider may need to do tests to check your liver enzymes before and during treatment with COMPLERA.
Bone problems can happen in some people who take COMPLERA. Bone problems include bone pain, softening or thinning (which may lead to fractures). Your healthcare provider may need to do additional tests to check your bones.
Changes in body fat can happen in people taking HIV medicine. These changes may include increased amount of fat in the upper back and neck (“buffalo hump”), breast, and around the main part of your body (trunk). Loss of fat from the legs, arms and face may also happen. The cause and long term health effect of these conditions are not known.
Changes in your immune system (Immune Reconstitution Syndrome) can happen when you start taking HIV medicines. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections that have been hidden in your body for a long time. Tell your healthcare provider if you start having new symptoms after starting your HIV medicine.
This Brief Summary summarizes the most important information about COMPLERA. If you would like more information, talk with your healthcare provider. You can also ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for information about COMPLERA that is written for health professionals, or call 1-800-445-3235 or go to www.COMPLERA.com Issued: January 2013
COMPLERA, the COMPLERA Logo, EMTRIVA, GILEAD, the GILEAD Logo, GSI, HEPSERA, STRIBILD, TRUVADA, VIREAD, and VISTIDE are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. ATRIPLA is a trademark of Bristol-Myers Squibb & Gilead Sciences, LLC. All other marks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners. ©2013 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. CPAC0023 03/13
film, “A Fire in the Belly,” was included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and then censored when the institution bowed to political pressure and removed it from view. Wojnarowicz died of complications related to AIDS in 1992 at the age of thirty-seven.
PrEP & Injection Drug Use Among new HIV infections in the U.S., injection drug use accounts for eight percent. Worldwide, the percentage rises to roughly ten. However, some regions are more greatly affected—in places like Eastern Europe and Central Asia, injection drug use accounts for eighty percent of new infections. According to a new, first-of-its-kind study, whose findings were published in a recent issue of The Lancet, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) may offer significant protection for individuals who inject drugs by lowering their risk of HIV infection. PrEP, a daily dose of tenofovir by itself or in combination with emtricitabine, has already been shown to reduce the sexual-transmission risk of HIV among those who engage in male-female sex and among men who have sex with men. Launched in 2005, the Bangkok Tenofovir Study enrolled more than 2,400 men and women at Bangkok city-run drug treatment clinics. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two arms—tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and placebo. (Two participants dropped out when it was discovered they were already HIV-positive.) Researchers found that PrEP reduced the risk of HIV acquisition among individuals who inject drugs by a statistically significant forty-nine percent. Those who were more adherent to the daily dose achieved even higher levels of protection—seventy-four percent. Injection drug use, sharing needles, and having multiple sex partners, among other risk behaviors, substantially decreased in both arms over the course of the trial. The CDC, with its partners in the study, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and the Thailand Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), will now tackle questions about how best to support adherence for those who may use PrEP and to implement prevention strategy (in combination with proven prevention strategies) for those who continue to inject drugs.
A film competition, titled Female Condoms Are _______ and organized by PATH, the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), and the National Female Condom Coalition (NFCC), put out an international call for submissions that would spotlight how female condoms can improve women’s health. Almost thirty short films from twelve countries, conveying diverse perspectives about what female condoms mean to the filmmakers and their communities, were submitted. Female condom awareness and availability remain low, and yet they could easily become a popular tool in family planning and contraception, and HIV/STI prevention for both women and men, say the organizers, all of whom help to promote this female-initiated option. Global distribution of female condoms has more than quadrupled since 2005, but more work needs to be done. The organizers hope that the film contest will highlight the benefits of the female condom and encourage policymakers, health professionals, and individuals to support access to female condoms in their communities. The entries were reviewed by a panel of five judges, who drew on their expertise in film, HIV/AIDS, and reproductive health to select winning entries. The panel included Beth Barrett, director of programming for the Seattle International Film Festival; Aaron Bramley, co-founder and executive director of Lights. Camera. Help.; Tam Ho, executive director of North America and Asia Pacific Programs at the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund; Vastha Kibirige, coordinator of the AIDS Control Program for the Uganda Ministry of Health; and Nina Strøm, a senior advisor for sexual and reproductive health and rights at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). The top prize went to “Female Condoms Are My Power, My Protection, My Pleasure!” from Pathfinder International, a non-profit family planning and reproductive health organization working with developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The film follows two young activists in Mozambique named Deolinda and Benjamin who are passionate about reaching out to their peers about female condoms. The film was submitted by Linda Suttenfield, Estrella Alcalde, Nelson Fakir, Jaime Jacobsen, Felix Mambucho, Elizabeth Ortiz, Samboko, Nina Yengo, and Matchume Zango, on behalf of Pathfinder International. Second place went to “Female Condoms Are Preferable,” a drama from Cameroon, and two films tied for third, “Female Condoms Are Pretty Nice” from Malaysia and “Female Condoms Are A Woman’s Bargaining Power” from Kenya. Cash prizes were also awarded. The four winning entries debuted at the Women Deliver 2013 conference this past May in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To watch the winning film, log on to YouTube: http://bit.ly/11myfOW. For more information about the Female Condoms Are_______ Film Contest, including information about the prize winners and links to their films, is at www.femalecondomfilm.org.
A&U • JULY 2013
photo by PATH/Chan Khen Loke
Female Condoms Are _______
SPRING INTO LOVE!
P zMatch.c m HIV+ Owned Since 1998
Ruby Comer: How did that come about, Frank?
Frank Rodriguez: I found out last September when I was twenty-six. My first HIV test was at twenty-four. I was having pain in my stomach and thought it was just an infection so I went to a clinic and found out then. I’m still dealing with the diagnosis and the stigma that comes with it. In my teens and early twenties I engaged in unprotected sex with strangers. It wasn’t through being an escort, as I am always safe. [To get comfy we both unlatch our seat belts.] My doctor prescribed Stribild, so I’m presently taking that. Sounds like you’re under good care….Say, when did you first hear the word “AIDS”? Well, I first became aware of it in the nineties as a child when both awareness and fear were prominent. Back then, movies spoke to me, like Gia [true story of a supermodel who died of AIDS-related complications]. Angelina Jolie, who played Gia, gave an intense performance and it played an important part in how I viewed the disease. [He pauses and chuckles.] I know she speaks out about HIV/ AIDS; it’d be fun to partner up with her to generate better awareness about the disease!
I could see you two as a team! When she reads this maybe she’ll contact you. Have Frank shows off his hometown tattoo—Laredo— you lost anyone to the disease? in a recent model photo shoot. I recently discovered that a distant uncle, who was gay, died of an
AIDS-related illness. Have you participated in any AIDS events? Though I assisted seniors with Alzheimer’s for five years, it’s only been a few months since my diagnosis, so I haven’t had the opportunity to volunteer. I will in the future. I think it is important to shed awareness on the disease and I love the thought of marching with my peers, head held high and proud.
ruby illustration by Davidd Batalon; photos courtesy of Frank Rodriguez
’m aboard a flight headed home to the land of “lights, camera, action!,” when extreme turbulence erupts. At one point my fudge brownie falls into the lap of the guy next to me. Quite affable and very friendly, we begin to chat once the roughness eases. His name is Frank Rodriguez [alias Marc] and he’s currently embarking on a modeling career. In the meantime he works in hotel hospitality and as an escort. When I hear this, I am intrigued, as I’ve always wanted to be a Madam, think Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which by the way is where Frank lives—San Antonio, to be exact. The spirited man is straightforward, candid, and genuine. He shares that he’s recently been diagnosed HIV-positive.
continued on page 44
A&U • JULY 2013
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We actually know each other on Facebook and throughout the community, but I wanted to write you this letter in confidence. My partner and I moved away to work on our relationship and now we are considering moving back to the area. After many discussions my partner is finally opening up to the idea of polyamory. I’ve been a polyamorist for a long time and my partner didn’t like the idea of a third person in our relationship, but, now, since we have talked, he is open to the idea. Well, we have found a third, but there is a slight problem. He likes to bareback. Since we are all trying to keep each other HIV-negative, my boyfriend and I refuse to have unprotected sex with him. Let me say, he agreed that he will not have unprotected sex with me or my boyfriend because he doesn’t want to hurt us in any way. He is HIV-negative and only has bareback sex with guys who tell him that they are undetectable, and he gets tested every six months. I understand that may lower the risk of HIV transmission, but I’m still feeling kind of funny about it. What should I do? Any advice is greatly appreciated. —PC
As a polyamorist myself, I feel first we need to describe what polyamory is to our readers. Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Okay, so are we all on the same page? Great!! Now back to you, Mac—I mean, PC. The fact that you and your partner are agreeing to this makes me feel happy because it means that the lines of communication are open. A lot of couples go through this and suffer permanent damage from either party not being able to convey the kind of love they want. Okay, he is having unprotected sex with guys who tell him they are undetectable. So, you know they could be lying just to have sex, right? I would advise him of that and make sure he gets tested every three months and not six months; to me, early detection of any health issue is key to survival. I suggest having a sit-down talk with him, your boyfriend, and yourself. This will give you the opportunity to talk things through with all parties represented. Communicate your fears and concerns with the issue; after all, HIV isn’t the only STI you would have to worry about. Now, if you can deal with him
having unprotected sex outside of your relationship, okay, but, if you are still feeling funny about it, then there could be a molehill that could have the potential to be a mountain of a problem. Remember: Polyamory is a serious relationship among individuals who must honor each other with perfect love and perfect trust. My husband and I are polyamorist and protect each other and other people. We have been open and honest with each other from the very beginning about what and who we want. There are others (who shall remain nameless) who are not as honest, but we are always continuing to explore different avenues of love. Judging others because they are getting the love they want will not get us anywhere. Having an open dialogue will let us learn and teach us how to protect ourselves from HIV and other STDs, no matter what kind of relationship we are in. Being polyamorist does not spread HIV. Having an honest relationship will allow that polyamorist relationship to remain strong and defend itself against STI/STDs—but only if all parties are honest. We need that strength because we still live in a society that looks down upon polyamory in some respects. Let me know what happens!
◊ A&U • JULY 2013
photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. all rights reserved
Justin B. Terry-Smith has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Now, with this column, Justin has found a way to give voice to the issues that people write to him about. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at email@example.com.
budget cuts are cracking the founby Patricia Nell Warren dation of HIV/AIDS treatment
n San Francisco in 2011, a homeless man living with AIDS was found huddled dead in a doorway on Castro Street. He’d been dead for a day before anybody noticed. The San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office determined that forty-four-year-old Pedro Villamore, Jr., died of pneumonia complicated by AIDS. Homelessness is spiking in the U.S. since the economic collapse of 2008. The National Alliance to End Homelessness says, “Thousands of people with HIV/ AIDS experience homelessness on a given night.” According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, here are stark statistics: four percent of the some 3 million estimated homeless adults are HIV-positive. Four percent of 3 million is 120,000. One distressing report from the National Minority AIDS Council connects the dots between AIDS housing and America’s high incarceration rate: “Punitive public policies restrict the eligibility of formerly incarcerated persons for public housing, income supports and other safety net programs. Stable, appropriate housing is consistently found to be the greatest unmet need of persons with HIV/ AIDS reentering the community from prison and jail, and a history of incarceration has been found to double the risk of subsequent homelessness.” HOPWA says, “The CDC estimates that over one million Americans are living with HIV and AIDS….Stable housing is the cornerstone of HIV/AIDS treatment, allowing persons with HIV/AIDS to access comprehensive healthcare and adhere to complex HIV/AIDS drug therapies.” That mantra—“stable housing is the cornerstone of treatment”—always sounds great. But at the start of 2013, a blow was aimed at treatment by a big HOPWA budget cut. On top of this, Congress insisted on imposing sequestration—automatic cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over ten years. Recent news coverage puts a harsh spotlight on how these cuts hamper AIDS housing. In Atlanta, Jerusalem House, an organization helping with housing, will lose $1.2 million over just two years.
This translates into a reduction of thirty homes. In Fort Worth, housing vouchers that were already granted are now being withdrawn. According to the National Housing Trust Fund, there are other lethal factors. “While sequestration will reduce the amount of affordable rental housing made available by the federal government, market conditions are the cause of the majority of the existing housing shortage….Severe housing cost burden—where low-income renters pay 50% or more of their income for rent—is a problem in every state in the nation.” Indeed the mortgage-speculation bubble that started bursting in 2008 creates a shocking disparity. That year, Reuters was already reporting that 18.6 percent of foreclosed homes were empty while 3.5 million Americans were homeless. By 2011 our government was sitting on 248,000 of those empty homes—the result of defaults on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans. Then there are policy barriers to help. HOPWA may turn you down if you have: no rental history, past evictions, sporadic employment history, criminal history, insufficient income, poor credit history, a large family (three-plus children), or a recent history of substance abuse. Efforts to right housing wrongs meet stiff resistance. In New York State, the advocacy group VOCAL-NY demonstrated at the Albany capitol in favor of a bill providing rental help for New Yorkers disabled by AIDS. The bill would reduce Medicaid spending, and guarantee that individuals would pay no more than thirty percent of
their income for rent. But Governor Paterson, still in office at the time, vetoed the bill. But some progress is being made in San Francisco, where Pedro Villamore died. Here, the new AIDS Housing Alliance/SF says of its goals: “We are the only source of emergency financial assistance for those of us who are still working and at risk of losing our housing….It is much better to protect the housing people already have, than to try to find replacement housing.....Our protest at City Hall over the loss of one-third of our AIDS housing in just 3 years led to the creation of $1 million in new HIV/AIDS housing funding in San Francisco’s budget.” President Obama says he wants eightysix percent of people with HIV/AIDS to have stable housing by 2015. But why not aim for 100 percent? To access the HOPWA Rental Assistance Guidebook, log on to: www.onecpd.info/resources/documents/ HOPWARentalAssistanceGuidebook.pdf. Author of fiction bestsellers and provocative commentary, Patricia Nell Warren has her writings archived at www.patricianellwarren.com. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. A&U • JULY 2013
illustration by Timothy J. Haines
Combating the Blues
there’s one essential to living with hiv/aids and battling depression—you!
finally felt “fixed.” But I was twentyseven-years-old! I had gone all those years making impulsive decisions and doing things that were harmful without a thought, undiagnosed and existing under the radar. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon with those living with various mental illnesses. But living with HIV/AIDS and depression—or any mental illness—is not easy. I still struggle at times. Especially for us “old timers,” depression often becomes an automatic part of living with HIV/AIDS. We’re sick, exhausted and burned-out, feel alone and defeated, and often feel sad and isolated. And all of these negative feelings can have tremendous debilitating effects on our already taxed bodies, not to mention our psyches. I do yoga (when my neuropathy isn’t too bad) and meditate, both of which help to reduce stress and stimulate my brain. I take my “head meds” and have a prescribed Emotional Support Animal, my best four-legged friend, Buddy. But there are still days I’d rather just stay in bed and have a good cry. Occasionally that can be therapeutic, too. My therapists have always told me I need to find something to do “just for me.” It could be anything healthy, and it had to be for my own pleasure—it had to
make me feel good. So I paint as a hobby, and have found writing as that healthy outlet. I’ve kept journals for years, sometimes just scribbling four-letter words on several pages to release frustration and anger! I write poems and stories, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had some of my work published, which is just icing on the cake. But I really write for me. And I talk—sometimes loudly, but always honestly—to my mental health care professional(s). That can be the most helpful of all: having an objective “sounding board” to listen without judgment but calls me on my crap. Through therapy I’ve learned that everything passes, and it’s crucial for me to mind my head as much as my body. My life depends on it. (You do not want to see this old queen OFF my bipolar meds and manic!!) The physiological destruction caused by depression and other mental illnesses on our immune system is well-studied and documented. I owe it to myself to do everything I can to prevent any more damage.
illustration by Timothy J. Haines
’ve suffered with depression and mental illness since high school, though it went undiagnosed and I decided to “treat”/medicate myself with enough booze to run a gay cruise to the Caribbean Islands and back. I was voted “Most Likely to End Up on Skid Row” in my class of 1979’s yearbook; not a single photograph of me sober—including my class picture! In 1981 I wanted to start fresh, moving to L.A. after being accepted in a small film school. My depression just worsened as I continued to try to hide my sexuality, for one thing. But I just never felt right. I left film school after only six months, landing my first production job at MGM Studios in a casting office, working on TV shows and films in the eighties. I had other jobs in “the biz,” and eventually was the youngest make-up artist at CBS Television City and NBC Studios in Burbank. However, despite my success I was still sinking, and fast. After years in Hollywood— addicted to anything I could find that would shut off my head and numb the pain I thought would never go away—I finally admitted myself into rehab. By then I had literally lost everything, all of it spent on whatever I could find to swallow and/or snort. But rehab didn’t change much for me, though I did “clean up” from my addictions. Long story short: I made a rash decision to leave L.A. to become a flight attendant. (Something my head “told me” was a good idea.) I ended up in a much smaller town, starting all over. That’s where I found out I was HIV-positive on October 23, 1988. There, I began working with a wonderful therapist right away. She finally saw my symptoms of severe clinical depression, and had strong suspicions that I had bipolar II disorder, along with what’s known as “rapid cycling.” (My moods could—and did—turn on a dime.) A psychiatrist concurred and joined my “team” of physical and mental health professionals. I was treated with proper medication and
Chuck Willman has had poetry, essays, fiction, and erotica published or forthcoming in anthologies, journals, magazines, and e-books. Find links to some of his work on his Facebook page.
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LOS ANGELES OCT. 13, 2013 A fundraising walk starting and ending in West Hollywood Benefiting
and more than 20 other L.A. County AIDS service organizations.
SIGN UP TODAY!
213.201.WALK Text WALKLA to 292929 to register! A Special Thank You to
Created and produced by MZA Events. AIDS Walk Founder/Producer: Craig R. Miller. ÂŠ MZA Events, 2013
Why We Dance
Because we do the electric slide into the clinic to the tune of crying babies. Because every day we fox trot in and out of intensive care. Because we breakdance after rounds while waiting for lab reports. Because we waltz into patients’ rooms waving their sheet music. Because we’re sick of doing the hokey pokey with hospital administrators. Because we tell strangers what we do and they shimmy away from us. Because we square dance while death calls out partner changes. —Terry M. Dugan
Terry M. Dugan worked as a researcher at the pediatric AIDS clinic at Bellevue Hospital in the 1980s and continued to work on HIV/AIDS research at other sites until funding became scarce. She has won awards for poetry and fiction examining the lives of people with HIV/ AIDS and those who care for them. She has lectured on human rights and AIDS in Africa at Oxford and was invited to read her poetry at the United Nations. She is currently completing an MFA at Manhattanville College.
Adam Lowe is a writer, publisher and producer from Manchester, U.K. He was 2013 (U.K.) LGBT History Month Poet Laureate and 2012 Olympic Poet for Yorkshire.
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SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 2013 Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, Chicago To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit www.danceforlifechicago.com or call 312-922-5812 COMPANIES SCHEDULED TO APPEAR DanceWorks Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, River North Dance Chicago, Thodos Dance Chicago INDEPENDENT ARTISTS Two World Premiere Performances choreographed by Harrison McEldowney & Jeremy Plummer and Randy Duncan, Abigail Simon & Mauro Villanueva perform Le Corsaire Pas de Deux Benefiting AIDS Foundation of Chicago, The Dancersâ€™ Fund and Chicago House
MEDIA PARTNERS A&U Magazine, BestGayChicago.com, ChicagoPride.com, GRAB Magazine, Positively Aware Magazine, SeeChicagoDance.com, Viral PR Agency, Windy City Media Group DANCER Andrew Murdock PHOTOGRAPHY Sandro DESIGN Brian Jones & Rutger Thiellier
TICKETS STARTING AT $50
Artist’s Voice In His Words as well as His Art, Héctor Toscano Reveals What Makes Him Tick, What Ticks Him Off, And How He Learned To Be Comfortable in His Own Skin by Chip Alfred
éctor Toscano is a man who’s difficult to define. Is he an artist? A poet? A philosopher? Or maybe all of the above? In any case, not only has Toscano created an impressive body of work to see, this guy also has a lot to say. Diagnosed in 1994, the internationally exhibited artist focuses on his experience with HIV and his take on societal attitudes toward people living with it. “When I found out that I was HIV-positive,” he says, “the only thing that helped me was my art and to be able to use it as an outlet to express what was going on in my body and my mind. In my work there’s always something implicit about what I’m going through at a specific time.” Born and raised in a modest neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Toscano grew up Catholic, a distant, introverted child with a penchant for art and culture. “I was the weird character in my family because I always showed artistic inclinations. Since I was little, I liked opera and classical music and no one at home listened to either.” By age ten, he was studying painting and drawing. As a teenager, he attended a special school for the arts and developed a passion for photography—mentored by Horacio Coppola, a preeminent photographer and a key figure of the golden age of the art in Argentina. Toscano’s first solo exhibition, “Vía Crucis HIV+” (1997), the one he holds closest to his heart, was well received. “This could be said to mark the before and after of my artistic career,” he remarks. “Vía Crucis (Path of the Cross)” includes a series entitled “I am HIV+” featuring a number of Toscano’s signature images—nude self-portraits, which he employs as “a way to show my sense of vulnerability.” In this series, he is alone, wearing nothing but a surgical mask to personify “the solitude of the moment of knowing
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cross,” he explains. “Society puts us
Opposite page: Self-portrait from the series, “I Am on the cross and stigmatizes us or any HIV+,” 1997, photo, 7.87 by 11.81 inches
person with disabilities.”
Another recurring image throughTop: Self-portrait from the series, “Mirrors,” 2000, out Toscano’s art is his own sex orphoto, 7.87 by 11.81 inches Right: From the series, “Blood Samples,” 2012, photo collage, acrylic, 19.5 by 19.5 inches
that one is HIV-positive.” “The doctor who examined me did not know how to tell me something I already knew,” Toscano, thirty-nine, recalls. “In the past there was a very ugly hospital sector for ‘HIV people.’ People thought that HIV-positive patients deserved to be HIV.” At least one piece from the collection is suggestive of a crucifixion. The artist’s bare flesh is adorned with body paint “in the form of real protection,” reminiscent of the Indian ritual of painting the body. “I lived as an analogy of the suffering of Jesus [on his way] to the JULY 2013 • A&U
gan. In his description of “Phallic,” a series of photographic collages, he elucidates, “The phallic element can damage or give pleasure. Our bodies…brighten, darken with blame of some sin of the present or the past. The mirror reflects our wounds, the body cannot hide what lived and suffered.” In “Mirrors,” Toscano’s lens captures the contrasts of his own reflection from a different perspective. “Finally I see, hear, listen, how nice it is to live. I will not break the mirror. I’ll just give you my heart on these images.” A few years later, he created We Are All Positive, with flowers overlaying a background of a positive HIV test result.
“A simple virus, that demon that we cannot overcome. My house has no door, and I cannot leave,” he opines. “I have hate, I have anger, and I feel alone and unprotected.” continued on page 46
THE GOOD FIGHT
Human Rights Pioneer Gloria Allred Empowers Victims, Blasts Bigots, Combats Injustice, and Recalls Her First Thirty-Seven Years as a Warrior by Dann Dulin Photographed Exclusively for A&U by Fred Brashear, Jr.
f you don’t recognize her name then you haven’t watched television, read a newspaper, listened to the radio, or been on the Internet in the past thirty-some years. Gloria Allred is a fighter. Well, not a boxer, though she does duke it out in court. Gloria Allred is a civil rights lawyer who fights for human rights. She’s represented such high profile clients as Rachel Uchitel, who had a relationship with Tiger Woods, the Nicole Simpson family in the O.J. Simpson case, Amber Frey in the Scott Peterson trial, and she brought lawsuits against Mike Tyson and Charlie Sheen for assault. Gloria also defended Paul Jasperson, in one of the first, if not the first HIV/ AIDS discrimination cases. All of these cases were a collaborative effort between Gloria and her firm, Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, located in the MidWilshire district of Los Angeles. Gloria met Maroko and Goldberg while attending Loyola Law School and they’ve been partners for thirty-seven years. The firm employs ten attorneys and a support staff. During our time together she mostly used the term “we” when referring to any legal action taken on a case. She’s forthright and upfront, pointing out that she does not do it alone. “I give great thanks to my partners to put up with me for thirty-seven years. They are brilliant attorneys in their own right,” she offers, in her velvety yet authoritative voice. “They’re real mensches.” Today Gloria is positioned on a creamy
white leather vintage desk chair in the stylish, contemporary meeting room of the firm. A huge light-hued marble top conference table dominates the room, which overlooks CBS Television City and Griffith Park Observatory, and offers a spectacular view of the Hollywood Hills. Photographs of Martin Luther King, marching suffragettes, Amelia Earhart, and César Chávez grace the walls. Gloria is dressed all in snazzy black—a turtleneck, pants, and boots—and hugged by a waist-length soft peach-colored light linen buttoned jacket. The former Watts teacher has topped it off with a smart ensemble of a large gold necklace, tiny-hooped earrings, and a sparkling diamond ring on her finger. She sports peachy colored lipstick, and champagne-blonde streaks in her bouncy hair. She’s a Carolina Herrera dream. Her svelte figure, hearty glow, and radiant smile belie the fact that she is seventy-two. Gloria looks twenty years younger. The passion and compassion she has for her work contributes greatly to her youthfulness. Last year she was reveling in her new syndicated TV show, We the People with Gloria Allred, and she was also elected to be an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention. Her show is slightly different from other court shows in that actors reenact real cases instead of real people presenting their own cases. “It’s really been a lot of fun,” she says about the first season. “It’s scripted to the point where
the actors play the plaintiff and defendant, but they don’t know what I’m going to ask. Neither do I.” Gloria has had other avenues of notoriety as well. She’s been parodied on Family Guy and Saturday Night Live, has appeared in such TV series as JAG and The Fran Drescher Show, and in movies like Rat Race and John Q. Bebe Neuwirth [A&U, December 2011] even portrayed the lawyer in the 1990 telefilm Without Her Consent, which dealt with a rape survivor whom Gloria represented. Gloria’s assistant pours us some bottled water. When the topic of AIDS is broached, Gloria lights up like a trial attorney about to raise an objection. “I think HIV/AIDS has dropped in the marketplace of ideas and has been relegated to a lower level of discussion than we used to have,” she announces, pondering, stressing the importance for more research funding and HIV prevention education. “Politicians generally pay attention to issues that are in the public’s mind, in the public marketplace of ideas, and they’re the ones who control the major funding of AIDS, not the private funding. The good news is that the LGBT community still cares deeply about it and they are better organized than they were thirty years ago. They know how to fundraise and know how to exercise political clout and muscle. That’s important because that means elected officials and those who hope to be elected officials need to be more accountable in order to win the A&U • JULY 2013
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support of that important community.” Ms. Allred should know. She’s been active in the LGBT community since the seventies. (“Every year for nearly forty years, no matter where I am, I fly back for the gay pride parade. I’m there!” she boasts. Just weeks ago at this year’s gay pride parade, she cruised down Santa Monica Boulevard sitting atop a convertible dressed in a wedding gown, complete with veil and bouquet, in support of marriage equality.) Way before it was fashionable, in 1983, she fought for two lesbian life-partners who were refused seating in one of the six private rooms at the posh Los Angeles restaurant, Papa Choux. The
two women won their discrimination case and were awarded $500 in damages and the owner of Papa Choux was ordered to pay their substantial legal fees. Three years later, she represented thirty-five year old Paul Jasperson, a respected hairstylist, who had AIDS. The case was filed against Jessica’s Nail Salon in West Hollywood, which cancelled Paul’s appointment for a pedicure, after the receptionist overheard him talking to others about his recent diagnosis of AIDS. They told him they weren’t accepting any new male clients. As Gloria states in her book, Fight Back and Win, “The salon’s actions were astounding to me, especially since West Hol-
lywood had just enacted one of the strictest city ordinances prohibiting businesses from discriminating against those who were HIV-positive or had AIDS. Its conduct was also a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in all business establishments.” In January 1987, the lawsuit was filed. Like Louise Hay [A&U, April 2010], Elizabeth Taylor [A&U, February 2003] and several others, Gloria was not afraid to step forward during this time of extreme fear and plague-like frenzy. Paul’s civil case went to trial in February 1988. Judge Waddington ruled in favor of the nail salon saying, “There is an extremely small, but A&U • JULY 2013
nonetheless real, risk of exposure to AIDS from the procedures of a pedicure.” Gloria and Paul were livid. This decision could further the panic surrounding AIDS, plus it totally ignored West Hollywood’s new ordinance. They appealed, but, before the case went to court, Paul died in 1989. At the appeal, the salon’s attorney made a motion to dismiss the case since there was no need for an injunction as Paul was dead. “Ordinarily, a case is moot if the client is no longer alive,” says Gloria in a serious, measured cadence. “But we fought that motion in this case arguing that if the court granted it, other defendants would JULY 2013 • A&U
delay AIDS-related cases until the plaintiff died and then make similar arguments that their case should be dismissed. Then laws protecting persons from discrimination on account of AIDS or HIV-positive status would be rendered meaningless,” clarifies Gloria. “Lawyers for such victims might think it was useless to pursue such cases since their clients might not live until the end of the long legal process. As a result, if that were to be permitted then AIDS discrimination would run rampant and unchecked. Think about it….” She coughs lightly then takes a sip of water. “Civil rights lawyers, if they knew that they had an HIV-positive person or person with AIDS coming into them about a case of discrimination, they might think, ‘Well, there’s no point in pursuing it because this client may not live long enough till the end of the case and then I will put in all this work for nothing.’ The defendants often do drag it out. They don’t want that final Day of Judgment to come. They’ll drag it out, hoping that the plaintiff will die.” Gloria stated to the court there needed to be an exception for those who have HIV/AIDS. It was a thunderclap moment. In a precedent-setting decision, the court agreed with her. “It allowed victims of AIDS discrimination to seek an injunction even after death, which was extremely unusual. It assured people with AIDS that ordinances passed for their protection were valid and…,” she pauses for effect, “in December of that year, 1989, the Court of Appeals reversed Judge Waddington’s decision—and we won.” The case carried on for another sixteen years due to a lengthy battle with the nail salon over attorney’s fees. “That’s the second longest case I’ve ever done,” notes Gloria. “But it was well worthwhile. We are so proud of Paul that he wanted to pursue it. It was a pioneering lawsuit and it is one of the most important cases our law firm has ever won.” She crosses her arms and smiles. “It really was very sad that he wasn’t there to see the appeal in the end, but in a way, I felt that his spirit was still with us.” After Paul’s case, Gloria handled many other AIDS discrimination lawsuits, as well, some public, some private. In 1991, she filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing for Everado Mariscal, twenty-six, who was suspended from his job because he publicly disclosed that he was HIV-positive. Several other of her cases involved suing dentists who denied services to their patients who had HIV/AIDS. At one point, Gloria represented a physician who was HIV-positive in a discrimination case against the hospital where he worked. The case resulted in a
confidential settlement. “It’s easy to forget that AIDS was viewed like leprosy,” she declares, earnestly. “For Paul, he had to not only cope with the illness, and there were obviously fewer medications available then, but he had this whole issue of being humiliated and shut out.” Gloria is visibly moved and her piercing brown eyes become moist. She continues with a slight cry in her voice, “It was just so unfair. So how do you not want to support someone who is going to be willing to fight this battle and to fight it publicly? He said, ‘This is just so wrong!’—and…I…loved…him…for…that.” She takes a moment, clearing her throat, and rocks faintly in her armchair. “It was definitely heartbreaking to me when he did pass away. But he knew we were continuing to fight for him and this was an important legacy that he was leaving behind. It took heroes like Paul to begin to raise public awareness by challenging those who discriminated against people who were HIV-positive or who had AIDS.” Gloria has made things happen. She’s changed the course of history. She’s made a positive change in many lives. “Little did I know that when I started out,” she reminisces, briefly glancing at her cell phone and black leather key holder that lay next to her on the table, “I had no idea that I’d still be doing this thirty-seven years later. If God gives me another thirty-seven years I’ll be very happy. I do feel the clock ticking and I feel I have to make sure that I invest every moment that I can in doing my part in helping to empower others.” When asked who else she thinks has helped to empower others in the AIDS epidemic, she replies instantly, “Anyone and everyone who has done what they could in this battle because nobody is required to do anything. So those who do what they can in their own way, whether it’s to educate, whether it’s to help fundraise, whether it’s to caregive, whatever it is, they all deserve acknowledgement and gratitude.” She strikes a pensive pose. “The epidemic is a challenge—and an opportunity for all of us. Some have more risk than others, but I don’t think anyone has less responsibility than anyone else. Even as ill as Paul became, he still wanted to fight on. He did. And he won.” Read the full interview on-line at www.aumag.org. For more information about the work of photographer Fred Brashear, Jr., visit his Web site at www.Fredbphotography.com. Dann Dulin interviewed Scott Bakula for the June cover story.
IRON MAN At a crossroads when he lost his mother to AIDS, weeks shy of his high school graduation, IronE Singleton turned to God, then muscled beyond the demons of his past to rise up and later slay them on TV by Sean Black
“In 1993 I lost my mom, ’94 a cousin, ’95 an uncle, ’96 another cousin. In 1997 my uncle’s girlfriend—who I’d grown up with; then a very close friend of mine—he passed from it in 2000.” The list rolls off the tongue of the vigorous former athlete who found his way out of the projects and into the theater while playing football for the University of Georgia; a hard win for him in the game of life. His “right-arm,” business manager, full-time mom, and photographer (see this cover story’s exclusive shoot) sitting next to him in our interview is his wife, Commaleta, whom he’s known since high school, when they were fourteen.
From their suburban Atlanta home, she echoes the toll that AIDS has taken in her life as well. “My newest case just happened about a month ago,” she shares. “I found out that a cousin, a very young cousin of mine has HIV.” Making her point she settles back to her husband, “He’s been touched by this plague his entire life.” Having survived a physically and emotionally abusive mother addicted to crack, an absent father, playgrounds infested with drugs and a neighborhood riddled with violent crimes, IronE Singleton contends of this painful roster of loved ones, “I could name at least ten more people I was one-degree away A&U • JULY 2013
photo by Randee St. Nicholas
t’s astounding, the number of people around me who have died from HIV complications,” reflects actor and author Robert “IronE” Singleton as he reminisces about the family and friends he’s lost to AIDS. It’s a wonder, in fact, that he’s neither a casualty nor a statistic himself. Marking his transformative strength in 2002 he branded himself with the nickname “IronE” on a road trip seeking the Hollywood dream. As he forged ahead, his solid persistence has become a testament to his might, and his steely fortitude has paved his way in becoming a sought-after actor, most recently in a starring role in AMC’s blockbuster hit The Walking Dead.
Photographed Exclusively for A&U by Commaleta Singleton
photo by Gene Page/AMC
from, whom I was close to, who’ve died.” Keenly alert he pauses, “It’s very alarming and that’s why we have to continue the fight.” It’s an arduous fight that began for IronE (known at the time as Robbie) when he was just eight-years old, while growing up in one of the South’s largest and most notorious housing projects, which has since been completely demolished. Sharing one of the three bedrooms in grandparents Ray and Ethelrine’s apartment in the typical two-story, barrack-style brick structure on Atlanta’s northwest side, IronE slept in tight quarters with his mother, “Momma Cat” (short for Catherine), and his older brother Tracy. Perry Homes was hardly a safe haven for a child but it was the place the sometimes eleven-member Singleton family called home and IronE endured. Eluding most temptations of an illicit gangster lifestyle, his mother’s cruel berating, physical assaults and her erratic mood swings, and the roaches scurrying in the recesses of the walls, young Robert sought solace first in a bathroom mirror venting his frustrations before ultimately taking his pain outdoors. Playing ball, swimming, working-out at the local gym and readily availing himself of state-funded activity programs for at-risk-youth like P.A.L. (Police Athletic League)—all of these activities bolstered his commitment to a better life for himself as well as his strong athletic frame. Looking back on his childhood, IronE vividly recalls his first scrape with the virus with the premature death of a thirdgrade classmate’s mother, a haunting precursor to the loss of his own. “She was my mother’s good friend and they hung a lot. They partied together and because they didn’t have anyone to babysit, our mothers would end up taking us with them.” Sadly, at the time, when his friend’s mother died IronE couldn’t recall if anybody really said anything about it to the little girl. No acknowledgement, no condolences. The children were so young and naturally immature. “It was like, ‘okay, let’s go out and play,’” he remorsefully recalls. “I look back and wonder how traumatic that it must have been for her as a small child but [at that age] I really didn’t know what to say or how to say it—it was hard for me to express myself at all.” At thirty-eight, IronE Singleton is fully able to express himself today, in real-life and through the characters he’s portrayed in both movies and television.
A&U • JULY 2013
JULY 2013 • A&U
Characters like the drug-kingpin Alton in his game-changing turn in The Blind Side opposite Sandra Bullock, who won the Oscar for her tenacious role, or as T-Dog who, much to his avid fans’ chagrin, met a grisly demise sacrificing his own life for a friend’s, midway through the recently aired Season Three of The Walking Dead, the hit zombie thriller born of the creative juices of Frank Darabont. Asked how he turned his life around, IronE Singleton recalls a divine intervention at the time of his mother’s passing and his graduation from Archer High School. It was a turning point that brought him to a more fulfilling path, one involving God. “There are at least two paths that are laid out for you, and many paths in between,” assures IronE. “You can go down the path of God and realize that there is a bigger calling for your life, but you have to seek that guidance from Him and try to understand what it is.” In his recently released autobiography, Blindsided by the Walking Dead, co-authored by Juliette Terzieff, IronE describes in graphic detail his escape. Against great odds, he recalls hurtful tales of his turbulent upbringing, the painful horrors of an unstable and troubled mother, and his sexual exploits as an attention-starved adolescent growing up in the hood. Through the pain he touchingly dedicates the book to his mother: In loving memory of my mother Catherine Singleton and all the others that left us too soon. You will always be remembered. He also deals with abominable mistakes head-on, coming clean about his infidelities, committed despite his wife’s unflinching love. Along with building a more secure and trusting relationship with Commaleta over the years, IronE has involved himself in fundraisers to fight AIDS such as RED Party events on World AIDS Day but has also raised awareness by taking on roles that have touched bigger audiences. While at UGA he took on the role of Belize, a former drag queen, in a school production of Angels in America. “I’d like for you to guess who I had breakfast with back in 1997—he wouldn’t have a clue though; he’d be like ‘IronE who?’ [as] I was going by Robert back then—Tony Kushner. We, the entire cast, had breakfast with him at a Dunkin’ Donuts or something like that in Athens, Georgia, and it was quite an eye-opening experience,” he proudly laughs. In his book he discusses a role he took a few years later, in 2000, still early
photos courtesy IronE Singleton
in his acting career. “Secrets scared me and they scared Eddie [the main character] too,” he writes about the play. IronE played a high school football player like himself who was recruited to play college ball. The lines he delivered for his character rang true for the actor himself: “A person can look completely healthy and still have the virus.” The play, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, targeted at-risk communities and focused on bringing awareness about HIV/AIDS. Its production team demanded that all cast members get tested before the show opened. Concerned over his own results, IronE writes, “With my history of sexual activity and Momma Cat’s death, I was scared out of my wits.” “I was getting a small taste of the fear Momma Cat must have experienced in her battle against the disease and the fear was pretty close to debilitating. The mere thought something invisible, incurable, and deadly could be coursing silently through my veins left me light-headed and nauseous.” Fortunately, IronE fared better than his character, Eddie, who ended up testing positive for the virus. His message today is, “I would have to say to the young people that life has a bigger purpose and that traumatic experience should serve as an opportunity to direct them on their paths to finding their true purpose and the betterment of humanity. For some reason we tend to distort the reasoning behind adversity
(losing a loved one) and we use it as an excuse to indulge in the temptations of life. I would implore them to be smarter—to use their common sense, because your conscience speaks to you and it lets you know when what you are doing isn’t right.” “My experience with death hitting so closely to home, put things into perspective and gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I was chatting on-line with Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer of The Walking Dead, yesterday, and she lost a loved one, and I was trying to offer her some words of encouragement. Again, I realized that when I lost my mother, I had this renewed sense of purpose and it made me realize why I march this journey. It is about helping other people and helping them find their purpose. Death is interesting, as I was telling her, you never really get over the pain—it lingers for a long time but it brings about a certain strength as well.” Looking back on his two-and-a-half season run as T-Dog, IronE describes the apocalyptic drama filled with gore as a study of the human condition with underlying messages on topics such as racism, anger, hope, friendship, desperation, and love. “There might not be flesh-eating ghouls threatening to break through the doors, but every man, woman, and child faces a lifelong series of challenges and choices that help define their ability to survive and thrive. I had found a way, by keeping love in my heart and my faith in
God ever in my mind.” Asked what’s next and he mentions reviving his one man show, IronE: The Resurrected. The 2008 self-produced play features re-enacted snippets from his own life experience. Ironically, his original production debuted to a handful of viewers in the 14th Street Playhouse in Midtown Atlanta with one, however, being a casting director responsible for his life-changing role in The Blind Side, a role he calls “God ordained.” Thriving and keeping love alive today, IronE lives with Commaleta and their three children (Heavven, sixteen, Nevvaeh, twelve, and “EZ”—short for Etheral Zephyr—nine) in a lush suburban corner of Georgia, the state he calls home. “We are blessed to have a family dynamic that was absent in the home I knew as a child. The family life that I have now is a total contrast to what I had growing up. It is functional. There is no screaming, cursing, shooting, or sirens throughout the day and night. Our home is full of peace and serenity. I am truly thankful and blessed.” For more about IronE Singleton’s memoir and his many other projects, log on to www.ironesingleton.com.
Family photos: IronE’s mother, Catherine (left), whom he lost in 1993; IronE stands, football in hand, with his mother, seated (right) JULY 2013 • A&U
To see more of Commaleta Singleton’s work, visit www.newnsight.com. Editor at Large Sean Black interviewed Duane Cramer for the May cover story.
The War on Common Sense a new report advocates decriminalizing drug use to reduce hep c
of Switzerland. “Repressive drug policies are ineffective, violate basic human rights, generate violence and expose individuals and communities to unnecessary risks. The hepatitis C epidemic, totally preventable and curable, is yet another proof that the drug policy status quo has failed us all miserably.” To lower the rate of hep C transmission worldwide, the report recommends that governments: • Publicly acknowledge that strict law enforcement practices perpetuate the spread of hepatitis C and HIV. • End criminalization and mass incarceration of people who use drugs. • Redirect resources away from the war on drugs and into hepatitis C prevention and care for the most affected communities. • Remove all restrictions on sterile injection equipment. • Establish national hepatitis C strategies and action plans. • Improve the quality and availability of information on hep C. • Negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of new and existing meds. The Global Commission also calls on the United Nations to take a leadership role in promoting and enforcing these recommended reforms. This is the third report published by the Global Commission, which includes leaders such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil
(and chair of the Commission); Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana; Pavel Bem, former Mayor of Prague, member of the Parliament, Czech Republic; César Gaviria, former President of Colombia; Michel Kazatchkine, professor of medicine, former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and entrepreneur Richard Branson. Its first report, War on Drugs, was released in 2011, and boosted international debate about the urgent need for a paradigm shift on the global drug prohibition regime. The second report, The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS, was published in June 2012 in advance of the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. Download the full report by logging on to: www.globalcommissionondrugs.org. Larry Buhl is a radio news reporter, screenwriter, and novelist living in Los Angeles. His young adult novel, The Genius of Little Things, debuted in January 2013. His comic mystery novel, We’re Here to Help, will be available later in 2013. A&U • JULY 2013
illustration by Timothy J. Haines
he so-called “war on drugs” is creating an epidemic of hepatitis C. That’s the finding of a new report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which finds that drug war policies have caused millions of needless infections, and notes that 10 million out of 16 million people globally who inject drugs have hep C. The report, titled “The Negative Impact of the War on Drugs on Public Health: The Hidden Hepatitis C Epidemic,” was released in May in advance of the Second International Harm Reduction Conference, taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania. Nearby Eastern Europe and Central Asia are home to the fastest growing hepatitis C and HIV epidemics and are largely being driven by injection drug use. The twenty-two world leaders on the commission condemned the drug war as a failure and recommended decriminalization of drug use and expansion of “proven, science-based solutions,” including sterile syringe access, safer injection facilities and prescription heroin programs. The report provides evidence that, throughout the world, repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where the risk of hepatitis C and HIV spike. “Hepatitis C has to be one of the most grossly miscalculated diseases by governments on the planet,” said Commissioner Michel Kazatchkine, in a prepared statement. Kazatchkine is the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “It is a disgrace that barely a handful of countries can actually show significant declines in new infections of hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.” In some of the countries with the harshest drug policies, over ninety percent of people who inject drugs are living with hepatitis C, with highest numbers reported in China (1.6 million people), the Russian Federation (1.3 million people) and the U.S. (1.5 million people). “The war on drugs is a war on common sense,” said Commissioner Ruth Dreifuss, who is the former President
by Jeannie Wraight
he legalization of medical marijuana has been a hot topic for years, often provoking fierce opinions on both sides. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center (“Majority Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana”) shows that for the first time the majority of U.S. citizens now support the legalization of pot. Regardless of whether the fight for the right to party ever comes to fruition in more than a few states, one benefit of this battle has become evident. The discussion on medical marijuana and the increasing support of legalizing weed has cracked open the door for universities and biotech companies to research the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids and the results pouring in are nothing short of astonishing by any standard. The benefits of marijuana have long been reported for people suffering from HIV/AIDS and cancer treatment, although there is not a lot of direct research on the medicinal value of the cannabis plant for symptoms related to HIV. The fact that marijuana as a whole can’t be patented does not fare well for it being researched by Big Pharma as there is therefore limited profit to be made from therapeutics from the plant itself. The legal status of marijuana and its stigma also hampered research as medical marijuana is not legal in all fifty states. However, a wealth of anecdotal data on the benefits of cannabinoids for HIV and cancer patients does exist. Numerous studies describe findings of self-reported benefits, including a decrease in nausea, stimulation of appetite, decrease in nerve pain, particularly in people suffering from HIV-related peripheral neuropathy and relief from depression, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Mounting data shows that cannabis, or more precisely, cannabinoids (a group of compounds present in the cannabis plant) may hold the potential to play much more of a role in the treatment of HIV then just the relief of symptoms. Growing evidence has shown that cannabinoids may be invaluable in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as HIV, as well as inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. These effects appear to be mainly mediated by cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors. CB2 receptors are located in the JULY 2013 • A&U
cannabinoids may be effective in treating hiv, not just relieving symptoms
immune system and hematopoietic cells (cells which give rise to other cells such as T-cells and macrophages—the main targets of HIV). CB2 receptors are activated by cannabinoids. Unlike CB1, which is located throughout the body and particularly on nerve cells in the brain, CB2 does not mediate the psychoactive effects for which cannabis is known. Various agents that activate CB2 receptors and how this process works are currently being researched in HIV. As our knowledge of cannabinoids and CB2 agonism grows, so does the likelihood that this research will equate to the successful development of cannabinoid-based antiviral agents to combat HIV. Research conducted at Temple University School of Medicine and published in the May issue of Journal of Leukocyte Biology has focused on macrophages and inflammation. Whereas the available HIV treatments as well as the majority of HIV research focus on T-cells, macrophages appear to play a pivotal part in HIV. Macrophages, long-lived cells targeted by HIV, may be the primary source of HIV reservoirs and thus the main hindrance to eradicating HIV from the body, evidence suggests. Inflammation, which persists in people with HIV despite effective viral-suppressing ARTs, is the leading cause of many “non-AIDS related” complications such as neurocognitive dysfunction, cardiovascular disease (CVD), bone diseases, and cancers. This study showed that the administration of cannabinoid agonists, used as an anti-inflammatory agent, decreased the level of HIV in macrophage cells, providing more evidence that cannabinoids hold the ability to limit HIV replication. Senior investigator, Yuri Persidsky, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine, and his team examined the connection between CB2 and the neurocognitive damage which results from inflammation associated with long-term HIV infection. It is hypothesised that macrophages may be responsible for introducing HIV into the brain, which eventually initiates
HIV-associated cognitive disorder. Persidsky’s research suggests that reducing HIV in macrophages may reduce inflammation in the central nervous system and thus the neurocognitive damage caused by HIV. A 2012 NIH-funded study conducted by Mount Sinai School of Medicine demonstrated the ability of cannabinoids to suppress HIV infection by blocking the signaling process between HIV and CXCR4, one of the main receptors on T-cells which HIV attaches in order to penetrate and infect the cell. Several cannabinoid-based therapeutics are being studied and developed as CB2 agonists. Cannabis Science, an emerging biotechnology company, is working to develop a phytocannabinoid-based HIV Tat inhibitor (CS-TATI-I) to inhibit HIV-associated Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS). Harvard Medical School studies found that cannabinoids inhibit KS tumor growth. When asked of the potential for cannabinoids to be used as treatments for diseases such as HIV, Dr. Bob Melamede, president and director of Cannabis Science, stated: “If people are able to objectively look at the medical research on cannabis, there would likely be no debate regarding the widespread need for cannabis-based medicines.” Full text of the Pew study: www.people-press.org/ files/legacy-pdf/4-4-13%20Marijuana%20Release.pdf. Jeannie Wraight is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of HIV and HCV Haven (www.hivhaven.com) and a blogger and writer for TheBody.com. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Health People and an advisor to TRW (Teach me to Read and Write). She lives with her husband in the Bronx, New York.
Promises to Keep A New Doc Helps Build Momentum by Chael Needle
Keep the Promise: The Global Fight Against AIDS, a new doc, gives its viewers a front-row seat to the front lines. Filmed during the inaugural Keep the Promise Rally & March, which was organized by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and took place last July in Washington, D.C., as the XIX International AIDS Conference was starting up, the documentary is the fruit of a collaboration between AHF and the HIV Story Project, a San Francisco-based non-profit founded by Marc Smolowitz and Jörg Fockele that helps HIV/AIDS organizations and community-based artists to develop media, marketing, and messaging across multiple platforms. Let’s get loud The film intercuts shots of speakers and performers on stage at the rally with interviews with activists and experts from around the world, all of whom came to D.C. to implore government officials to keep their promise to fund HIV/AIDS-related research, treatment, and prevention and to ensure lower drug pricing. They came to D.C. to find strength in numbers and unity in difference. They came to remember those lost and to renew their calls for action. They came to inspire and be inspired. They came to multiply their voices. Both accomplished filmmakers and media gurus, Keep the Promise directors/producers Jörg Fockele and Marc Smolowitz capture the movement’s still-building momentum and amplify a still-relevant message. Written by Chris Metzler and narrated by
Margaret Cho [A&U, September 2000], who also emceed the rally and marched with participants down Pennsylvania Avenue, the film combines live action, often with different shots fused by split screens, with motion graphic sequences, courtesy of Josh Kurz, that provide clear and compelling timelines and facts about global AIDS, region to region. The filmmakers realized that utilizing these sequences could help transport the viewer to diverse contexts and provide a “powerful, statistical, visual frame” around the human stories related by the interviewees, shares Smolowitz. Although thousands attended the rally and march, and many more attended the conference, the filmmakers were conscious that multitudes of activists would not be able to come to D.C. and that the film could be another way to experience and tap into the energy, shares Smolowitz. We wanted “to remind them, through the stories of our ac-
tivists from around the country and around the world, that they are doing great work in their home communites and to keep them excited, to keep them activated and inspired to keep working on the homefront, wherever they live and wherever they are.” Fockele adds that many are living in communities that are not supportive and stigmatize those living with the virus; for them, the film can serve as a reminder that they are “not alone.” In the film, we meet activists like Max Bros from Tampa, Florida; Veronica Brisco from Chapin, South Carolina; and Jenny Boyce from Durban, South Africa; and experts like Dr. Chhim Sarath, AHF Bureau Chief, Asia Pacific, and Dr. Zoya Shabarova, AHF Bureau Chief, Europe, among many others. We hear speakers at the podium—Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, Rev. Al Sharpton—and a video message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And performers like Wyclef Jean, spoken word poet Roxanne Hanna-Ware, and cheerlead-
ers and drummers help the participants create some beautiful noise. Fockele says that they wanted to make a film where experts, celebrities, and activists had equal footing. “We wanted to treat everybody alike in that regard—they were all in this together. Everybody is an activist. Everybody has a story to tell around HIV and AIDS and how it’s affected their life.” Diverse voices populate the film, solos that momentarily step out from the chorus. “As a filmmaker that’s how I was experiencing the week,” says Smolowitz, “I would meet people from different countries and, regardless of who they were, whether they were an activist or a doctor or someone in the media, it made me want to know more about them: What is life like in your country, in your city, where you live, around HIV and AIDS? So I felt we had an opportunity to give a panorama because the budget and resources it would take to go to South Africa, to go to Estonia, to go to Cambodia would be huge and it would take many, many years!” Global stories, refreshed That kind of globetrotting, film-finding trip is on Smolowitz and Fockele’s wish list, however. It would be a logical extension of the HIV Story Project’s mission, which, in part, is to build community through sharing stories, whether through local or global networks. The project, started in 2009 within the San Francisco/Bay Area community, has helped organizations create PSAs and fundraising event videos, and it has also provided video production training for non-profits, a social media and blogging workshop, and produced community-based content, like its video series of San Francisco Board of Supervisors Election 2010: HIV Community Listening Sessions. It also encourages local artists and individuals deeply affected by HIV to tell stories about surviving and thriving through the medium of short film; one result is the feature-length compilation, Still Around. Says Smolowitz: “We’ve been refining our mission over time, these last four years. Initially, in 2009 we both saw an opportunity. There was this terrible economic downturn happening and we were reminded that HIV/AIDS non-profits were having to cut their budgets. The first thing that they cut were line items for marketing, messaging, [and] outreach at a time A&U • JULY 2013
photo courtesy AHF/The HIV Story Project © 2013
E R U T CUL S THE
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the culture of AIDS
when they need those things the most! “Locally in San Francisco as we set out to make Still Around, our first film, we embedded in the local non-profit community and saw this real need to provide support with media production, with digital strategy, with social media, with helping staff, volunteers and boards at these organizations shore up infrastructure, which they had lost because of the economic downturn. In that sense, suddenly, we found ourselves not just as filmmakers providing help but actually providing a critical service where there was a hole.” Even as the economy has improved, the HIV Story Project has reason to be still around, the founders realized. Says Smolowitz about the project’s sustainability: “We’ve actually built an infrastructure that is here to stay, that can be about using media in interesting ways to combat stigma around the global HIV/AIDS crisis.” The founders envision that this could become a multi-city, non-profit franchise, an HIV Story Project embedded in and attuned to different communities affected by HIV/AIDS. The HIV Story Project also gives everyone an opportunity to tell their stories and share concerns through its interactive Web community, which includes, for example, user-generated content culled from Generations HIV, the HIV Story Project’s touch screen video-based storytelling booth where participants can share stories, ask questions, answer questions—teach and learn and come together. It also produced Keep the Promise Webisodes for on-line viewers. Of course, the HIV Story Project will continue to look for film projects, and especially stories that communicate present-day struggles and triumphs, particularly ones that show individuals living and thriving with HIV and AIDS. For the filmmakers, it’s a conscious shift away from the recent spate of films about the history of AIDS, important as those are. “I think it’s particularly important to continue what we’re doing now, making films as stuff happens, right here, right now, and chronicle as it is happening and unfolding” says Fockele about projects like Keep the Promise. “People in the future will appreciate this.” Activism in real time Both filmmakers were inspired by the new generation of activists who joined the old guard at the rally and elsewhere in D.C. Fockele was emboldened by the fact that all came together, all were committed to the fact that the fight was not over, and all were humble but fired up and ready to take the message back to their communities.
Smolowitz was inspired by the demonstrations throughout the week and the city’s impactful messaging during the conference. “I felt that there was a very strong sense that activism is alive and well and that there is still fire in the belly….” Smolowitz, who has been involved in activism since the 1980s, was heartened to see communities of color worldwide were out in force and that diverse individuals were truly invested in collaborating for each other’s best interests. AHF knows well how to bring together a vast network of different communities. Not only is it the largest non-profit HIV/ AIDS healthcare provider in the U.S., but it provides treatment and advocacy support for over 200,000 individuals living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in twenty-eight countries. AHF partnered with the HIV Story Project to document the rally and march because the organization knew that it was going to be a historic event, filled with many “magic moments,” and of course that documentary film is a way to reach people where you can’t in many other ways, shares Terri Ford, AHF Senior Director of Global Policy and Advocacy, and who appears on-screen in the film to share her expertise and served as executive producer on the film. Ford continues: “We knew there were going to be many, many personal stories that were going to be involved in it, mainly of the advocates that we were trying to empower to bring their voice to Washington. So when we were planning the march and [we knew] that we were going to end up bringing people, disenfranchised people without a voice, to Washington on planes, trains, and automobiles—and buses—we knew that there was dramatic messaging there that could possibily have an impact on people to understand the message, that these people are really crying out for our President and our world leaders to keep the promise on AIDS.” Ford hopes the film wakes up an audience that may not be aware of the current challenges in the fight against AIDS and who may think it’s okay to pull back on support. “Many think mistakenly that HIV/ AIDS is under control, which it’s not. There are still many, many people who can’t access care, particularly in the South. And the majority of people coming in on trains and buses into Washington were from the South and they are in a crisis, particularly African-American women. Their voices are not being heard.…” Says Ford: “We’re not going to go quietly. And this is the message of the film. This march happened last July and it’s still pertinent today, this minute. It’s gotten worse. What we were talking about on the stage, what we were fearing, is happening.”
Since the first rally and march, Ford points out, President Obama has become the first American president to cut back on global AIDS funding, which has resulted in the shuttering of PEPFAR-funded clinics and testing initiatives. Some who are funded by PEPFAR are even afraid to speak up for fear of losing what little funding they have, attests Ford. Lives are being lost; health is put at risk. Scaling back now is inexplicable to Ford, especially at a time when Congress on both sides of the aisle is united in its support for HIV/ AIDS, as a recent D.C. lobbying effort by AHF reconfirmed for Ford. Smolowitz and Fockele have seen this widespread and engaged support, too, particularly when Keep the Promise had its world premiere earlier in the year at the Vail Film Festival, a mainstream venue that could have easily shied away from a subject not known for being a popular draw. The filmmakers share that festival attendees kept approaching them with praise for the film—how it affected them, how it helped them understand the enormity of the global AIDS crisis. “And the conversations would go a little deeper and I realized, I’m talking to people from all political backgrounds and affiliations,” says Smolowitz. “It was an interesting reminder that when it comes to health and illness that all of us have been impacted regardless of where we sit on the spectrum of experience and ideology.” Keep the Promise will have its West Coast premiere at Outfest in Los Angeles on July 20, and Smolowitz and Fockele are looking ahead to World AIDS Day 2013 as an opportunity for the film to be shown at more venues. They’d also love to work with AHF to distribute the film through its global network so that those who could not make it to D.C. realize that they are not alone in the fight. The film has the potential to multiply the effect that the rally and march had on those who participated. Terri Ford already sees a positive impact on activists who are now organizing new Keep the Promise marches. “They’re stronger. They’re empowered. They feel they’ve been given a voice. They feel like somebody cares about them. It’s a really great thing,” says Ford. “People speaking up is what it takes to stop a bad thing from happening. And that’s what we’re trying to do. And we’re hoping the film plays an important part in that.” Visit www.thehivstoryproject.org and aidshealth.org for more information. Chael Needle is Managing Editor of A&U. A&U • JULY 2013
SPRING INTO LOVE!
P zMatch.c m HIV+ Owned Since 1998
Havelock Ellis opined, “Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself.” Since 1992, Dance for Life has raised millions of dollars to support “life itself” by bringing exciting and innovatively choreographed performances to Chicago audiences. Local dance troupes unite to spotlight AIDS awareness and support those making a difference in the lives of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Two world-premiere performances by renowned choreographers Randy Duncan, Harrison McEldowney and Jeremy Plummer and six other performances will dazzle audiences with artistry and awareness. Participating companies include Giordano Dance Chicago, Thodos Dance Chicago, River North Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and DanceWorks
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’m aboard a flight headed home to the land of “lights, camera, action!,” when extreme turbulence erupts. At one point my fudge brownie falls into the lap of the guy next to me. Quite affable and very friendly, we begin to chat once the roughness eases. His name is Frank Rodriguez [alias Marc] and he’s currently embarking on a modeling career. In the meantime he works in hotel hospitality and as an escort. When I hear this, I am intrigued, as I’ve always wanted to be a Madam, think Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which by the way is where Frank lives—San Antonio, to be exact. The spirited man is straightforward, candid, and genuine. He shares that he’s recently been diagnosed HIV-positive. Ruby Comer: How did that come about, Frank? Frank Rodriguez: I found out last September when I was twenty-six. My first HIV test was at twenty-four. I was having pain in my stomach and thought it was just an infection so I went to a clinic and found out then. I’m still dealing with the diagnosis and the stigma that comes with it. In my teens and early twenties I engaged in unprotected sex with strangers. It wasn’t through being an escort, as I am always safe. [To get comfy we both
Chicago, as well as independent artists Abigail Simon and Mauro Villanueva. The fundraiser benefits the HIV/AIDS-related services of AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Dancers’ Fund, and Chicago House. Date: August 17; time and location: 5:00 p.m. (Gala Reception: Hilton Chicago International Ballroom, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois), 8:00 p.m. (Dance for Life Performance: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, Illinois); tickets: $50–$75 (performance only), $200–$500 (includes admission to 5:00 p.m. gala reception and premiere seating at the performance). To purchase tickets, please call (312) 922-5812 or log on to: www.danceforlifechicago.com.
unlatch our seat belts.] My doctor prescribed Stribild, so I’m presently taking that. Sounds like you’re under good care….Say, when did you first hear the word “AIDS”? Well, I first became aware of it in the nineties as a child when both awareness and fear were prominent. Back then, movies spoke to me, like Gia [true story of a supermodel who died of AIDS-related complications]. Angelina Jolie, who played Gia, gave an intense performance and it played an important part in how I viewed the disease. [He pauses and chuckles.] I know she speaks out about HIV/AIDS; it’d be fun to partner up with her to generate better awareness about the disease! I could see you two as a team! When she reads this maybe she’ll contact you. Have you lost anyone to the disease? I recently discovered that a distant uncle, who was gay, died of an AIDS-related illness. Have you participated in any AIDS events? Though I assisted seniors with Alzheimer’s for five years, it’s only been a few months since my diagnosis, so I haven’t had the opportunity to volunteer. I will in the future. I think it is important to shed awareness on the disease and I love the thought of marching with my peers, head held high and proud.
photos by Ed Negron
Once I become a successful model—I don’t strive for it just for fame and fortune—I will have a platform to spread awareness of this ongoing plague. Tell me more about escorting. You charge for sex…. First and foremost, Ruby, a client does not pay to have sex with me—ever. They pay only for my time and anything else that may happen between consenting adults. Note well taken. Has escorting been a favorable experience? I find I can enjoy myself with all of my clients, some more readily than others. And what kind of clientele do you have, my dear? Clients come in every race, age, and body type. Give me the nuts and bolts of being an escort. I think I had a former life as one. Some clients just want to talk with someone. They seem very lonely to me and when we part company I feel like I have helped them feel less alone somehow. Some clients are in town for business and want a handsome young man on their arm escorting them around an unfamiliar city for a night or the weekend. The majority are closeted married men who want to spend their A&U • JULY 2013
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Gallery continued from page 27
The artist takes us below the surface of the body’s protection from pathogens—our skin—for a closer look at the liquid coursing through our veins in “Blood Samples.” He characterizes this grouping as “putting a microscope on my body and trying to see what happens in it. Like a mad scientist looking at my own blood to find a cure for this virus, my mind never rests, as the virus [never rests].” Though much of Toscano’s work may seem somber, it also helps him see the light. “I think I have created quite a lot during this time, but it never feels like enough. Sometimes I feel that I work a lot and I don’t enjoy the recognition that other artists do.” Describing art as a “channel of love,” he says, “I talk about it as a means to combat the depression that may occur as a result of my seropositive status. I see art as a mechanism to overcome darkness. Every piece becomes a mechanism whereby I can exorcise my fears and anxieties.” Toscano attributes his battles with anxiety and depression to an unhappy childhood and adolescence. “My family didn’t show me how to love myself,” he admits. “I was on the streets since I was so young. A boy alone on the streets is tempting for some men.” As a result, Toscano ended up spending many years alone or in destructive relationships. He says the anger prevalent in his work stems from the loneliness he endured and his frustration that he can’t accomplish the “many goals and dreams that I have.” One of those goals is to make a living solely from his craft, which he has never been able to do. Still, his attitude remains positive. “I accept my condition of HIV-positive. I’m Self-portrait from the series, “Mirrors,” 2000, photo, 7.87 by 11.81 inches not afraid that others know,” he declares. “I am just looking to be loved and valued as an artist and as a in relation to looking after yourself We must continue with our heads held person.” Today, he’s grateful for his high and without fear.” and safe sex. Many people know that normal, healthy relationship of more there are medications and think this than eight years, but he acknowledges For more information about Hector Toscano is a solution. They don’t understand it was a long, uphill battle to find the and his work, visit www.visualaids.org/artthat there’s something that cannot be right man. ists/detail/hector-toscano#.UaC7qEBwqSo cured with medications, and that is As a former sexually active youth, or http://ht-obras.blogspot.com. social stigmatization.” His message Toscano does have concern as well to young people affected by HIV is to as some advice for the next generaChip Alfred is an Editor at Large of A&U and learn as much as they can about the tion. “I think that, nowadays, there a nationally published freelance journalist is a resurgence of irresponsibility virus. “I tell them they are not alone. based in Philadelphia.
A&U • JULY 2013
JULY 2013 • A&U
photos by Alina Oswald/www.alinaoswald.com
AIDS in New York This summer, get ready to learn about the history and possible future of the AIDS epidemic through a series of events hosted by the New-York Historical Society, in Manhattan. On May 31 the Society invited journalists, and attendees from Ending the Epidemic, a panel event by the World Science Festival held earlier that day, to a press preview of its new exhibition, AIDS in New York: The First Five Years. Visitors had a chance to take a first peek at the impressive collection Teachable moment: At AIDS in New York: The First Five of photographs, video clips, and audio recordings, and also Years, an array of photographs, clips, and writing, among other artifacts, awaits visitors. letters, journal entries and newspapers, all of which help bring back to life the events and related emotions of those days. In stark contrast with the bright day outside, the dim lights inside the exhibition paved the way from one artifact to another, evoking different moods for different people, but returning to its common theme: undeniable evidence of the human spirit in the face of one of the greatest threats we’ve ever seen. The exhibit sketches out a face of the epidemic quite different than the “victory” it’s often painted as— we’ve gotten better at fighting it, but it would be deceiving if we were to take our eyes off the ball. AIDS in New York opened June 7, as did its companion exhibition, Children With AIDS: 1990–2000, which highlights twenty black-andwhite photographs from The Changing Face of Children with AIDS collection by Clair Yaffa. For more information about admission to New-York Historical Society visit: www.nyhistory.org/visit/plan.
A&U • JULY 2013