Scott Fried shines light on AIDs epidemic December 7, 2016 The Signal page 5
By Thomas Infante Reviews Editor
When you’re young, you often feel invincible. Those who are fortunate enough to be in good health often shrug off risky behavior with no further reasoning than “Nothing bad will happen to me.” Scott Fried had the same thought the first time that he had unsafe sex with another man. As he would later find out, he was wrong. “Nothing bad ever happens the first time, right?” Fried asked the audience in the Physics Building. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Fried’s partner was HIV positive, and the encounter would change Fried’s life forever. Fried has been HIV positive for 29 years and travels around the country to educate people about the virus. A proud Jewish-American with a youthful smile, Fried combatted his positive diagnosis with an even more positive attitude. In honor of World AIDS Day on Thursday, Dec. 1, PRISM hosted Fried as he shared tender and humorous anecdotes. Fried opened the event with some kind words to the audience. “You are a beautiful generation,” Fried told the audience. “Each and every one of you are beautiful and deserves to be alive.” Fried believes most of our problems come from the part inside us that feels unloved or insecure. By appealing to this side of people, Fried hopes they will feel strong enough to not be pressured into unsafe sex. As a gay man, Fried has been subject to discrimination throughout his life. The first standout moment was in 1981, when Fried was at
David Colby / Photo Assistant
Fried entertains students with a blend of humor and touching anecdotes.
George Washington University. He was having a great time for the first few weeks until, one day, he found a picture taped to his door. “It was a picture of a muscular guy in a G-string,” Fried said. “In black ink someone wrote, ‘Hey Scott, this picture is for you. I love you, fag.’” The anonymous message shook Fried to his core, and he transferred to New York University soon after to study dance. By the time he graduated, the AIDS epidemic throughout the U.S. was in full swing. Many groups were being blamed for the spreading of the virus, including homosexuals. Still, Fried told himself, “It won’t happen to me.” By 1987, Fried was working a starting position on an offBroadway show set. One day, the carpenter on the set approached him out of nowhere and said, “I know your secret. You should call me sometime” and gave Fried his
phone number. Fried was both taken aback and intrigued. “It was such a new feeling,” he said. “He seemed dangerous and attractive. It was exciting. Do you ever go to a restaurant and the waitress tells you, ‘Don’t touch that plate. It’s hot.’ How many of you touch the plate anyway?” he asked and most of the audience members raised their hands. He eventually called the man and a few days later, Fried found himself going to his apartment. Inside, the man sat down at a keyboard and played a song he said he wrote for Fried. “The song sucked,” Fried said. “And I knew he was lying. He didn’t write that song for me, but when he asked me if I liked it, I told him it was great. Our first real interaction was predicated on lies.” Fried asked the man if he had ever been tested for HIV, and the man told him that he had been tested six weeks prior. He didn’t ask
what the results of the test were, and even if he did, a six-week-old test could have been totally irrelevant if he had unprotected sex since then. In addition, neither of them had a condom. “I didn’t even care what the results of the test were,” Fried said. “I was willing to go so far for someone that knew my secret just to feel comfortable again. I was at the intersection of risk and need, and I didn’t know how to say, ‘No.’” A few weeks later, Fried began developing sores on his stomach and feel ill. He went to get tested for HIV among other diseases, and his partner was upset that he did so. “He told me that if I ever told someone that he infected me with AIDS he would kill me,” Fried said. “Then he moved to (Los Angeles), and I never saw him again.” When Fried’s HIV test came back positive, he asked himself if he was finally ready to accept who he was.
“I got infected with HIV because I didn’t know if I was enough,” Fried said. “No one ever came to my school to tell me that I’m beautiful.” Fried is thankful to live in an age in which one with HIV can live with few inhibitions. Thanks to daily medication, his HIV count is so low that the virus is unable to replicate. He is classified as “positive and undetectable.” Fried said if he stopped taking his medicine tomorrow, the virus would kill him in about six months. He spoke highly of post-exposure prophylaxis pills that act as a preventative measure for those who fear that they may have been infected. When taken within 48 hours of having unsafe sex, it can be extremely effective in stopping the transmission of HIV. He also advocated for clean needle exchange programs that would curb the rising HIV rates in areas with rampant drug addiction problems. Fried closed the evening with a slideshow of his friends who have died from AIDS. “The moments we create with each other are eternal,” Fried said. “I know some of you may have felt awkward hearing these things. My friends wished for more time to do things like this. All the awkwardness leads to healing.” Few have witnessed as much healing firsthand as Fried, who said Jonathan Larson, author of the play “Rent,” used to sit in on their HIV group therapy sessions. It was there that one of Fried’s friends said, “I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of losing my dignity.” Now, Fried is making sure that America’s youth will never have to face that fear again.
Mail / Some students’ votes never reached the ballot box
Some students are not able to vote in person. continued from page 1 said. The secretary told her there was no way she could vote unless she drove all the way back home. Lai vented her frustration on Facebook where she found an unexpected solution. Someone commented on her post, suggesting she call a voter protection hotline. From there, she was told to call a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, which, according to its website, works to defend citizens’ constitutional rights. Lai was given a lawyer free of charge, and he defended her right to vote in court.
“I signed some forms, and he went in front of a judge,” Lai said. “In the end, I was able to vote via email.” Voting by email is usually reserved for people serving overseas in the military, but in Lai’s case, the judge made an exception, and she was able to vote in the election. When trying to figure out who is at fault, sophomore biology major Jessica Kopew did not blame the College or her county clerk’s office in Camden, N.J. She did not receive her ballot until two days after the election. She said she had applied for it in either late September or early October. “It could be Camden County itself, but
I know plenty of people who don’t live in my county who didn’t get their mail-in ballot, so I think it’s the post office,” she said. Anne-Marie Manko, the Camden County supervising elections clerk, said students who called to complain to the elections office about their ballots were those who applied too late. She said students also have to consider that the College’s mail system does not operate on weekends, and that the applications must be submitted at least a week before the election. However, both Kopew and Lai said they did abide by those policies and did not receive their ballots on time. Lai said her only regret was waiting until Election Day to check her mailbox. “If I do an absentee ballot again, I’m going to know this time that I should be getting it weeks in advance,” Lai said. “So if I don’t, I know to call in advance.” Regardless of who is at fault, Lai said she was very annoyed when she realized she could not vote in the election. She knew that a lot of other college students who also did not get their ballot on time. Lai said all of the mail-in ballots that did not come in time for the election could have made a difference. The Supervisor of Mailing and Receiving Services at the College, Sebastiano Carnevale, denied that the late ballots were the College’s fault. Carnevale said the College gets its mail from the West Trenton Post Office around 9 a.m., and the mail gets distributed to the residence halls the same day that it arrives in the mailroom. He said he saw a lot of ballots in the mail being sent and received. While he
does occasionally get some service complaints, he did not receive any complaints from students about their ballots not being mailed to them on time. Halbert C. Clark, the postmaster of the West Trenton Post Office, said he did not have time to discuss the issue, while other post office representatives could not be reached to comment. There are other ways mail-in ballots might never reach their destination besides getting lost in the mail. According to npr. org, some applications weren’t accepted because they were filled out incorrectly or the signature on the ballot did not match the one on people’s voter registration forms. Even if the ballots had been sent out on time, there was still room for error somewhere down the line. According to cavotes.org, mail-in ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the appropriate county elections office no later than three days after Election Day. Some county elections offices allow their website users to check if their mail-in ballots were received. The application for the ballot must be received by mail at least seven days before the election. Lai said a lot of her friends were fed up with the application process. They didn’t vote because they didn’t feel like going through the hassle. “I know some people don’t even bother with the application because they find it too annoying,” she said. “My friends have been throwing out this term ‘voter suppression.’ It’s so difficult for you to vote, and so you end up not wanting to vote.”
The 12/7/16 issue of The Signal, The College of New Jersey’s student newspaper