TWENTY SURVIVORS SHARE THEIR STORIES. BY TIM MURPHY
T’S HARD TO OVERSTATE JUST HOW DEEPLY, WELL, weird POZ seemed when it debuted in 1994. A glossy, glamorous, well-written and beautifully designed magazine… about people with HIV/AIDS? Though public sentiment on the disease had softened a lot by 1994—with the emergence of the ﬁlm Philadelphia, of the openly gay and HIV-positive heartthrob Pedro Zamora on MTV’s The Real World, and the ubiquity of the red AIDS ribbon at the Oscars and everywhere else—most people still thought of folks with HIV/AIDS as sad victims, hobbling toward a certain death. Then suddenly here was a magazine that not only showed HIV-positive people being funny, sarcastic, glamorous, sexy, angry and purposeful, but also talked about HIV treatments (pharmaceutical and otherwise) as casually as, say, Cosmopolitan advised women on how to have a better orgasm. The public reaction was, to say the least, rather astonishing. As POZ founder Sean Strub recounts in his recently published memoir Body Counts: “Frank Rich, in his New York Times column, said POZ was ‘easily as plush as Vanity Fair’ and ‘against all odds, the only new magazine of the year that leaves me looking forward to the next issue.’” Not a bad note to start on, eh? Since then, and over nearly 200 covers, POZ did something else: We charted the byways of the epidemic as it wended its way through the various (and often vulnerable and oppressed) communities affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States and around the world: gay and bisexual men, intravenous drug users, people with hemophilia, sex workers, African Americans and other people of color, prisoners, transgender people, etc. These individuals and communities were not
only HIV’s targets but also its ﬁercest ﬁghters. The faces that have honored our covers help chart a map of the epidemic as it has evolved over the past 20 years, from a terror with few viable treatment options and a near-certain death sentence attached, to something survivable for people in parts of the world with access to treatment and care, to something that stubbornly will not go away—especially in particularly susceptible communities, such as gay and bisexual men of color. We now have many tools to halt both AIDS-related deaths and new HIV cases worldwide. The question remains: Will we effectively use these tools to eradicate HIV? Until then, POZ will continue to cover the HIV epidemic until hopefully we achieve our own obsolescence. On our 20th anniversary, we take a look back at 20 of the extraordinary HIV-positive people from many different walks of life, who lit a pathway toward survival, inspiration and even joy for POZ readers. We salute them and the many others who have graced our covers (including those we lost too soon). And here’s to you, our POZ readers. Your stories continue to reﬂect the diverse tales of the epidemic.
poz.com JUNE 2014 POZ 33