Browsing: Thirty Years of HIV, Part II

May – June, 2011

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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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From the Closet to the Courtroom: Five LGBT Rights Lawsuits that Have Changed Our Nation by Carlos A. Ball
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In From the Closet to the Courtroom, Carlos Ball personalizes the history of the GLBT legal rights movement of the last thirty years by providing a lively narrative account of five extraordinary court cases and the ordinary people behind them.

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GREAT EMPIRES may come and go, but, like the tides, they leave behind a tangled assortment of treasures and trash. In the case of the British Empire, this included much that one might admire, but also a British Protestant morality that was codified in laws that persist to this day. Section 377 of the colonial Penal Code is a striking example. It classed consensual oral and anal sex as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and made it a crime punishable with imprisonment for life. When the British administrators withdrew, they took their soldiers, but left their law books behind. Section 377 was recently repealed in India, but it is still very much on the books in Bangladesh.

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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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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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AS WE ENTER the fourth decade of AIDS, the crisis continues largely unabated. About 1.1 million Americans live with hiv/aids, as do 33 million people around the world. Every year, about 56,000 more Americans are newly infected; roughly half are gay men and half are African American. While the overall HIV incidence in the U.S. remains flat, infections among gay and bisexual men are increasing-the only risk group for which this is the case. Infections are increasing especially among young black gay men.

Globally, 2.7 million people were newly infected in 2008, down from a peak of 3.5 million in 1997. Despite this progress, for every two HIV-positive people who get into treatment globally, another five are newly infected. Most of the 33 million people living with HIV around the world don’t have access to anti-retrovirals (ARVs), the HIV medications that revolutionized treatment in the mid-1990’s, and are not likely to any time soon. In sub-Saharan Africa, where most of these people live, access to something as basic as palliative care (pain medication) is often beyond reach.

On a more positive note …

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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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REMEMBER the “good old days” of AIDS service delivery, back when AIDS itself was still a terrifying epidemic? Not knowing how long we could keep our friends alive, wondering who would be next to fall ill-the tension kept us on edge. In the beginning, those of us touched by the virus, whether ourselves, our friends, or our lovers-we were alive back then, even amid the terror, anger, and death.

We held meetings, founded nonprofit service agencies, and started free clinics. We formed support groups, held auctions, dances, and AIDS walks, and sponsored bike rides. We scraped for money any way we could. We demonstrated, lobbied, wrote letters, organized. We wept, grieved and then wept some more. We found ourselves so far past grief that all we could do some days was laugh at the lunacy of death’s intrusion upon our young lives. We fought with those who feared and hated us. We fought with each other, our allies, among ourselves. We felt immersed in the moment and the times. We experienced a deep connection to each other-and to those who had died. We struggled together to make sense of it all, to bring some meaning into the sadness and sorrow.

By the late 1990’s, it appeared that we were succeeding, too. …

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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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