Browsing: Thirty Years of HIV, Part II

May – June, 2011

Blog Posts

Salt and Paper: 65 Candles by Janell Moon
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JANELL MOON’S latest novel is one of those books about which it’s easier to say what it isn’t than what it is. Salt and Paper: 65 Candles is presented as a journal, and it does have ascending dates as the year passes, offering a day-by-day record of Janell Moon’s 65th year.

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A Passionate Engagement by Ken Harvey
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[Ken] Harvey’s memoir, A Passionate Engagement, follows Ken and his partner Bruce as they come to grips with whether to marry legally once their home state of Massachusetts makes it possible.

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THE CREATION of new drugs to treat HIV/AIDS has just about run its course. The next generation of therapies will involve modulating the body’s own immune system to better control the infection, and modifying its cells to make them more resistant to continued assault by the virus. The most advanced example of this line of research was recently presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, held in Boston. It is the world’s premier meeting on HIV science.

The study involved just six patients, but it demonstrated the proof of concept that it is possible to change the DNA of a person’s CD4+T cells so that they no longer express the CCR5 molecule that the virus uses to enter cells. The modified immune cells can be put back into a patient and they appear to thrive for at least three months and counting. Just how long they might last and how well they function has yet to be determined.

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Patti LuPone: A Memoir by Patti LuPone, with Digby Diehl
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PATTI LUPONE, who became something of a gay icon in the total role of Gypsy in its 2008 Broadway revival, was born into a Long Island family filled with drama. Rumor had it that her maternal grandmother was a bootlegger who had something to do with Grandpa’s murder. One of LuPone’ aunts was a belly dancer. LuPone’s own parents were divorced at a time when divorce was uncommon. With all this drama in the family, it should come as no surprise that LuPone knew by the age of four that she wanted to become a performer.

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IN THE PERIOD of the first reports of the new syndrome of immune deficiency (1981 to 1985), before we were certain about the primary role of HIV in the epidemic, sides were taken about putative cause(s), and about what the future held for the epidemic, gay sexual life, and the gay community in general. The range of viewpoints fell into several discernible camps.

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HERE IS A BOOK that interweaves fiction, social commentary, history, and satire. Eileen Myles’ Inferno offers different attractions to different readers: …

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IN THE LATE 1960’s, America’s youth and thought leaders burst free from the confines of a staid conformist culture, demanding an end to the Vietnam War and racism, and, among a new generation of women, liberation and equality. But in the post-military draft and post-Watergate era and the height of disco-mania, former nun and lesbian political activist Virginia Apuzzo learned a very hard lesson: not all feminists are your sisters.

Having left the Bronx-based Sisters of Charity after Stonewall to fight for gay and lesbian rights, Apuzzo, a teacher at Brooklyn College with a master’s degree in urban education, found herself in 1976 arguing with leaders in the women’s movement over the inclusion of a gay rights plank in the Democratic National Committee Platform. …

It was Apuzzo who first put AIDS into the context of a larger health issue related to racism, homelessness, and drug addiction. She became one of the most prominent spokespeople on AIDS, testifying at the first congressional hearing on the subject, where she wasn’t shy about criticizing the government for its laggard response, following up with a request for the extraordinary sum of $100 million to research and fight the disease. She continued to testify at congressional hearings about the burgeoning epidemic-as well as joining other activists in street protests. …

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THE OPENING PORTION of We Were Here, David Weissman and Bill Weber’s new documentary about the early years of AIDS in San Francisco, is one of surprising humor, even celebration. Using on-screen recollections of the film’s interview subjects interspersed with archival photography and snippets of the era’s popular music, the film reminds us of the creative energy and sexual exuberance that thrived in San Francisco, particularly in the Castro neighborhood, in the mid-to-late 1970’s. And this upbeat opening is reprised in the film’s wonderfully affirmative conclusion. Between these end points, however, is a sad and sobering look at the ruthlessness with which AIDS ravaged the city’s gay community.

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SINCE THEIR CREATION in the 1980’s as a parallel social service system to serve HIV-positive gay men, AIDS service organizations (ASOs) have wrestled with questions of what they are and who they serve. But never in their five distinct “identity crises” have ASOs been less certain than they are today of their very survival as freestanding community-based agencies. Beginning with the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (haart, better known as “combination treatment” or “the cocktail”), ASOs have struggled to stay relevant as single-disease entities. As the HIV epidemic in America continues to shift from middle-class gay men to lower-income people of color—largely gay and bisexual men—it has become harder to justify the need for agencies focused only on those with HIV when clients’ needs have more to do with their income than with their HIV status.

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THE GREAT FILMMAKER Jean-Luc Godard said somewhere that art is not a reflection of reality; it is the reality of that reflection. That being the case, to judge by the feature films coming out of the Sundance Film Festival this past January, it seems that GLBT youths are finding cinema to be the outlet with which to express the oppression of living in the closet and the freedom of coming out, both as individuals and as artists.

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