Tag Archives: prejudice & discrimination

HIV-positive Magic Johnson locked himself in bathroom to reveal diagnosis to lovers

Magic and Cookie Johnson recently celebrated 25 years of marriage (Getty Images)

Magic and Cookie Johnson recently celebrated 25 years of marriage (Getty Images)

Dealing with the magnitude of his HIV diagnosis was never going to be an easy task, but Magic Johnson’s wife has recalled how the former basketball star went into survival mode when having to inform his lovers that he had the disease. In her new memoir, Cookie Johnson reveals that the Lakers point guard ‘locked himself in a room and called the long list of women with whom he’d been intimate.’

The designer, and spouse of the NBA Hall of Famer, writes of how her husband’s health status rocked the foundation of her marriage in her book Believing In Magic, which is out later this month.

“In just one moment our world, this perfect union we’d fought so hard and so long to have was obliterated.”

And just like the scores of women who were forced to endure the 12-day wait to find out their fate, Cookie says she felt like she was living in her ‘own personal hell’.

Although human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can cause the immune system to fail, which leads to life-threatening infections and cancers to thrive – ie. acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) – at the time, many believed they were the same thing.

“Every morning I would wake up in a panic, worried that I too might be HIV positive and die. Or worse, that my baby would be sick and not make it,” she explains in excerpts serialised by the Daily Mail. “The stress coursed through my veins like a poison, occupying practically every moment of my day.”

The book delves into the impact on his family by his decision to go public with his HIV diagnosis, and to quit the NBA in 1991. Cookie was pregnant with their first child, EJ, at the time. In the weeks leading up to the conference in 1991, the Lakers had informed press that he was suffering from flu-like symptoms and jet lag.

(Want to know more about Magic’s ‘Announcement’? Click here)

Despite retiring from the game, he returned to the game 1992 NBA All-Star Game, where he took home the MVP award, then played 32 games in 1995-96.

After enduring speculation that he was gay or bisexual, the 56-year-old former sportsman he has been working tirelessly with the Magic Johnson Foundation to eradicate the stigma that surrounds the disease.

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Faith leaders undergo public HIV test to help battle against stigma.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

Christian leaders in the Philippines have undergone public HIV tests as part of a campaign against the stigmatisation of people with HIV. The Revd Rex Reyes Jr, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), told a press conference at the World Council of Churches’ Central Council meeting in Trondheim, Norway, this afternoon that it was part of an “aggressive educational awareness programme.”

Reyes, a priest of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, said that the “strong religious flavour” in the country was a defining issue in the way some people behave towards people living with HIV; and that the public HIV tests was part of a “more practical way” of dealing with the stigma.

Church leaders were undergoing HIV tests not because they thought they might have the virus; but “to project the necessity of HIV testing for our young people.”

He said: “Our young people are afraid to go for testing because of the discrimination that comes with it, because of the religious taboo that has been hammered home for a long time, the concept of sin and the notion of immorality, and so on.”

In addition to promoting HIV testing, the campaign was also designed to challenge young people on the issue of not discrimination and human dignity, Reyes said.

The stigma associated with HIV led to a large public backlash when a photograph of Reyes undergoing an HIV test was displayed on a huge billboard on the main highway in the country. “I was bashed for that and there was strong reaction from my colleagues to issue a statement,” he said. “But we [decided to] let it pass, because at least people are talking about it.”

He said that churches in the Philippines were working together on their approach to HIV. “It is stronger that way,” he said. “The theological issues are easier to deal with when we talk together.

“We recognise churches when they have their own initiative – and that is good. But to drive the point that HIV transcends denominations [and] transcends faith. We have to deal with that in an ecumenical way and I’m very glad that the WCC is leading in this area.”

As Leicester is such a multicultural city with a wide range of people of faith, this approach could easily be adopted and help combat not only diagnosed HIV infection, but to help reduce HIV stigma in our great city.  Something which both HIV organisations and faith leaders have in common.

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Magic Johnson – The Announcment

“The Announcement” (Documentary: Tomorrow night on BT Sport 1 (Sky: 413 / Virgin 530).  Magic Johnson narrates a powerful and moving documentary about his announcement in 1991 that he had the HIV virus.

Magic Johnson is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).  After winning championships in high school and college, he was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers.

He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s

After a physical before the 1991–92 NBA season, Johnson discovered that he had tested positive for HIV.  In a press conference held in November, 1991 he made a public announcement that he would retire immediately and stated that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV, and that he would dedicate his life to “battle this deadly disease”.  He went on to play on the 1992 gold medal Olympic Team and said he considered a comeback, but was disheartened when other players said they were scared they would contract the virus from his blood.

At the time, November 1991, his decision to announce his diagnosis to the world was considered exceptionally brave, since HIV/AIDS was heavily stigmatised to a greater degree than today.  Magic’s campaigns were pivotal in demonstrating to the world that the risk of infection was not limited to a specific creed of people.  Magic stated that his aim was to “help educate all people about what HIV is about” and teach others not to “discriminate against people who have HIV and AIDS” and when Johnson announced he had the virus, people started to realise the disease could – and was – affecting anyone.

The announcement became a major news story in the United States, and in 2004 was named as ESPN’s seventh most memorable moment of the past 25 years.  Many articles praise him as a hero, and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush said, “For me, Magic is a hero, a hero for anyone who loves sports.

After announcing his HIV status he created the Magic Johnson Foundation to help combat HIV and later, diversified the foundation to include other charitable goals.  In 1992, he joined the National Commission on AIDS, but left after eight months, saying that the commission was not doing enough to combat the disease.  He was also the main speaker for the United Nations (UN) World AIDS Day Conference in 1999 and has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

Twenty years on and the former NBA great still devotes much time and effort to raise money for research and is an inspiration to many.  He remains a living face for HIV education and activism and for many, is an inspiration to HIV positive individuals and their friends and families.

He said he never considered not coming forward with the details of his diagnosis, because he wanted to be a face to help de-stigmatise  the virus and raise awareness for the less famous or privileged victims dying daily.

Johnson is still reportedly in good health, which he credits with Anti-HIV medicine, exercise, and a great support system.

He travels nationwide giving motivational speeches and works with public officials from the UN and international AIDS foundations to fight for policy, awareness and clinics that benefit victims worldwide. Though he says he is sometimes reminiscent of his basketball days, he is most proud of his accomplishments off the court to help fight the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Now, over twenty years after contracting a disease that was supposed to kill him, Magic Johnson is killing the disease by using his celebrity to raise millions for HIV/AIDS research.

The Announcment” is a documentary, directed by Nelson George and narrated by Magic Johnson and is Magic’s second film on HIV (The award-winning “Life Support” for HBO in 2007, starring Queen Latifah is the first).  He said, “For me, “The Announcement” is not just a look back at a fraught, unforgettable moment in U.S. history, but a vehicle for re-introducing the subject of HIV/AIDS to an audience that may not know that [people] are still getting infected and, yes, still dying from this big disease with a little name.

Article collated from Wikipedia, ESPN Films, TSN and Positivelife.

It’s worth watching and if you have BT Sport 1, set your recorder for 11:30pm tomorrow (Tues 19th) night.

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu urges Uganda to drop the “Anti Homosexuality Bill”

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Our International Patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been a tireless campaigner for health and human rights, and has been particularly vocal in support of controlling TB and HIV.  He is also Patron of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, a registered Section 21 non-profit organisation, and has served as the honorary chairman for the Global AIDS Alliance and is patron of TB Alert, a UK charity working internationally.  In 2003 the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre was founded in Cape Town, while the Desmond Tutu TB Centre was founded in 2003 at Stellenbosch University. Tutu suffered from TB in his youth and has been active in assisting those afflicted, especially as TB and HIV/AIDS deaths have become intrinsically linked in South Africa.

On 20 April 2005, after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI, Tutu said he was sad that the Roman Catholic Church was unlikely to change its opposition to condoms amidst the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa: “We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/AIDS.”

In 2007, statistics were released that indicated HIV and AIDS numbers were lower than previously thought in South Africa. However, Tutu named these statistics “cold comfort” as it was unacceptable that 600 people died of AIDS in South Africa every day. Tutu also rebuked the government for wasting time by discussing what caused HIV/AIDS, which particularly attacks Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for their denialist stance.

Presently, Desmond Tutu urges Uganda to drop bid to jail gays and lesbians.

He has urged Uganda to scrap a controversial draft law that would send gays and lesbians to jail and, some say, put them at risk of the death penalty.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to become law after Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga offered it to Ugandans as a “Christmas gift.” The bill is believed to exclude the death penalty clause after international pressure forced its removal, but gay rights activists say much of it is still horrendous.

“I am opposed to discrimination, that is unfair discrimination, and would that I could persuade legislators in Uganda to drop their draft legislation, because I think it is totally unjust,” Tutu told reporters here on Tuesday at the All Africa Conference of Churches meeting.

Desmond Tutu is the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and was a hero of the anti-apartheid movement, he has emerged as a leading pro-gay voice both in the church and across Africa.

With African church leaders passionately preaching against homosexuality as sinful and against African culture, Tutu said the church must stand with minorities.

“My brothers and sisters, you stood with people who were oppressed because of their skin color. If you are going to be true to the Lord you worship, you are also going to be there for the people who are being oppressed for something they can do nothing about: their sexual orientation,” he said.

Tutu said people do not choose their sexual orientation, and would be crazy to choose homosexuality “when you expose yourself to so much hatred, even to the extent of being killed.”

“Kill The Gays” bill: Read the actual bill about to be debated by Uganda’s Parliament | VIDEO

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Please Don’t Infect Me, I’m Sorry…

We often talk about prejudice and stigma relating to HIV / AIDS, and in everything we do, attempt to combat this stigma. Not enough people stand out, and sometimes those that do, speak about stigma on a grand scale. Coming up, Rich Juzwiak, an editor at Gawker has posted a wonderful, honest and frank article about understanding the nature of HIV in the context of sex between men from a presumed HIV negative viewpoint.

What is particularly noteworthy is Rich’s unbiased honesty and openness throughout his article. By asking the right questions to people he is meeting for sex (or not) he’s gained a much improved understanding of viral load, and the risk factors involved when meeting people for sex. Sharing his experiences not only provides an education and insight to HIV negative people, but also informs HIV positive people just how little knowledge there is on viral load and transmission.

In addition to the work of organisations like LASS, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and many, many more, the real advocates are the people (regardless of HIV status) who ask questions, understand what’s going on and share their knowledge to the wider public so we can all know our HIV status and enjoy shared companionship whether that intimacy is based on sex, or conversation.

Article follows…

(Would you like to listen to this article instead? Click the play button below…)

The first guy I ever turned down on Grindr for having HIV, my patient zero if you will, is all kinds of hot: hot in the face, hot in the body and hotheaded. In May, he asked me to come over and make out. We chatted a little bit more, he told me about his status and I slipped out of the conversation, just like that. Randomly in July, I noticed him at a movie theater: On Grindr and online, people lie with pictures all the time, choosing ones that distort their appearance in a captured second, but I was able to pick Miguel right out of a crowd. His picture is a symbol of habitual honesty, maybe, but also because he’s so attractive, he has no reason to lie.

“This always happens: someone will feel bad and then they’ll see me out and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, you’re so fucking hot,'” Miguel told me while we waited for our table outside of a Chelsea brunch spot one Saturday in early July after I reconnected and asked him to talk to me.

Miguel told me that being turned down for sex because he’s HIV-positive is something that happens “all the time,” and that “almost every time, the minute someone gets to know me, their mind changes.” Exposure to a gay friend often converts homophobes swiftly; the same can be said of an HIV-positive guy meeting others who are fearful. It’s somewhat reassuring that that’s all it takes in many cases, but it also underlines the exponential burden put upon positive guys. They are either in a constant state of proving themselves socially or they are sitting on a secret.

Me

As a gay man in New York with an active, multiple-partner sex life, the chances are that I have hooked up with an HIV-positive guy or five and didn’t know it. Maybe I didn’t know it because he didn’t know it. Maybe I didn’t know it because he was a liar. Maybe I didn’t ask.

Granted, I generally play it safe, keeping fluid exchange at a minimum, using condoms, opting for oral over anal almost every time, and especially with strangers. (Although, as we are coming to realize, oral sex maybe isn’t as safe as we’d like it to be). Even with that in mind, getting tested is never less than horrifying, no matter how regularly I do it. There have been times, especially after suffering from a weird flu-like bug that no one else around me seemed to contract, that I have been sure that I would test positive.

I haven’t yet. I think I’m HIV negative, but since the virus can take three months to show up in blood, I can’t really be sure. In fact, none of us who are sexually active can be sure – except for those who are HIV positive.

Therein lies the hypocrisy in turning down a potential hookup who a) knows his status, and b) is honest about it in favor of one who doesn’t or is lying about it. That kind of discrimination is motivated by fear of the known while taking an agnostic approach to the unknown. It’s especially foolhardy considering that guys who know they are HIV-positive tend to be healthier and with lower viral loads than guys who don’t know they have it and are going untreated. The kind of optimism that assumes someone’s word is as good as a hard copy of a test result is potentially life-altering.

And yet, I’ve turned down guys who are open about their positive status. I watched the onset of AIDS in the ‘80s through the confused eyes of a child. I had it drilled into me that this was a disease to stay far, far away from. I also know better than to sleep with someone who announces himself as HIV positive. Or knew. Now I’m not exactly sure what to think. I feel guilty and scared, but not necessarily in that order.

Giovanni

I forgot to ask Giovanni* his status on Grindr before he came over. I remembered once he was inside of my apartment, discovered that he was HIV positive and asked if he’d like to be interviewed instead of hooking up. He agreed.

One of the first things we talked about was what complicates the situation the most: The widely held idea (at least among the HIV-positive guys I talked to for this story) that antiretroviral medication, which reduces the amount of HIV in a person’s blood to undetectable levels, is a contagion cure-all. That is to say that many people believe that it is virtually impossible for guys who identify as “poz but undetectable” to transmit HIV to a sex partner.

“I feel a little bit discriminated against just because if someone is taking care of themselves, there’s no risk on it, unless you have cuts or you’re bleeding,” Giovanni said. “But even then, you have to have a high viral load. If your status is undetectable, it’s very rare that someone else can catch from sucking.”

Giovanni contracted HIV about three years ago from his boyfriend who lied to him about his status: His partner said he was negative, they repeatedly had bareback sex, it turned out his partner was positive and it destroyed their relationship. “I blame myself,” he told me. His regard of personal responsibility is also present in his current philosophy regarding disclosure. If he’s not asked directly, he doesn’t open up about his HIV status.

“There are people that never ask me about my status, so I just go and assume that they have it,” he told me. “If you don’t ask me, I assume something’s wrong with you.”

I found this point of view disturbing, but most of what else Giovanni said was endearing. He told me that he empathizes with the people who are too scared to hook up with him and who turn him down: “I was there before it happened to me…I know how a person feels. When someone says you’re positive, your world changes.”

And so does the world of the person who has it. “It’s not hard to find somebody that accepts me the way that I am, but I don’t know…” he trailed off.

Before he left, I gave Giovanni a big hug. We were intimate and raw and we never took our clothes off. We talked about staying in touch and getting together again soon but it never ended up happening.

Chad

In early June, I lost interest in Chad when he told me he was “poz/undetectable” on Grindr. I didn’t respond to something he said, and 10 minutes later we shared this exchange:

Chad: Haha is that a no? I can take it 🙂
Me: It’s so weird, the situation. I don’t want to seem like a dick or discriminate. You know?
Chad: People discriminate all the time. But if u think I would put you at risk, I disagree. And guys think honesty makes things more dangerous.
Me: Tell me more about how it wouldn’t put me at risk.
Chad: Safe sex with an undetectable guy has no real risk, never been a documented case of transmission. But if you’re feeling spooked it’s no fun for either person ;). Xx.
Me: I need to do more research. I didn’t know that.
Chad: Take care.

I attempted to engage Chad again and he didn’t respond, not that I blamed him. In July, though, we met face-to-face through a mutual friend. I already knew who he was the second I set eyes on him from afar. From there we resumed communication and I’m glad: he’s attractive with intellect balanced out by an easygoing attitude. He’s exactly the kind of guy I want to be around. He’s also an AIDS activist, and thus particularly informed on the matter at hand.

“Lack of communication and lack of conversation around HIV is a big issue,” he said when I asked him about anti-HIV discrimination. “You have this turning point where the drugs start working well enough so that people won’t be outed by their physical appearance and then talking about HIV becomes a choice. Gay people were very tired of being associated with HIV and AIDS and it just kind of went underground. That’s the birthplace of the stigma. As soon as it became something you could disguise or put away, then it became a question of character.”

Chad’s activism doesn’t turn off when he logs onto Grindr. He says he regularly schools people on the app, as he did with me. He makes education sound like foreplay: he says the type of guys he’d be attracted to anyway are those who are knowledgeable on the subject or willing to learn. He told me that based on the information at hand, he can do “basically everything” in bed, just as long as he’s safe about it.

We talked a little bit about the rejection he’s faced from others like me, which sounds more patience-testing than soul-crushing. He bemoaned guys who “just go totally cold” and make things awkward when he reveals his status in person when he picks them up IRL (he says he always tells people in advance of meeting them if they initially connect online). “If you’re uncomfortable, fine. But communicate. It’s not the end of the world and you’re certainly not going to hurt my feelings. But it’s annoying to go through this beat-around-the-bush rejection process,” he told me.

I wondered about the other extreme: guys unafraid of having unsafe sex with him. He says he’s only experienced a “handful” of these, most of them “dedicated pigs who value raw butt sex.” Whether he would appease them depends on the dude.

Toward the end of our conversation, I apologized to Chad for brushing him off. He told me it was nothing, a blip in his life.

“If the situation presented itself again, you think the guy’s attractive and you’re still not comfortable, what do you say?” he asked, testing my apology.

I stammered and then finally: “It would depend on the level of attraction. But I don’t think I’m a firm no.”

“You’re weak now?” he asked, grinning.

Eddie

There is an East vs. West Coast divide on attitudes about HIV positive guys, or so I hear from a new friend, Eddie, who I recently met through other friends. A resident of San Francisco, Eddie told me that uptightness or reluctance on this issue is something he’s only experienced on the East Coast.

“People in San Francisco especially, but on the West Coast [generally], as soon as you say you’re undetectable, it becomes like a free pass,” he explained. “‘Oh, you’re undetectable, and the risk is so minimal, and I’m a top and you’re a bottom, and that’s even less of a risk.’ I’m like, ‘I guess?’ I’m not willing to take that risk.”

He told me that when he was in the gay mecca of Provincetown, Mass., last year, he found himself in a group that was ridiculing someone they knew who was recently diagnosed. That pissed him off, and he told them as much. “On the East Coast, [contracting HIV is considered] your fault, on the West Coast, it’s, ‘That could be me, and so I understand where you’re coming from.'”

Eddie says his experiences with HIV hookups have been “80 percent positive, 20 percent negative.” He was diagnosed in 2003 and says it was “probably the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with.” It may seem unlikely, but sex ended up being therapeutic for him:

“When I started [dating and hooking up], and it wasn’t a big deal for other people, that really helped me. It really helped me realize that I can incorporate it into my identity.”

Eddie’s own journey to comfort exposes the contradictory cultural status HIV has right now: it’s both no big deal and a huge deal. It’s no big deal because the drugs that make HIV undetectable in blood have largely converted the disease into a manageable inconvenience. For many, it is not the death sentence it was. But for others it is: drugs are expensive and the high cost means that every minute, four people die of AIDS-related illness (as related in David France’s upcoming documentary How to Survive a Plague). The drugs can also have debilitating side effects, diminishing the quality of the life they are also saving. A relaxed, non-stigmatizing attitude is a nice thing for the world but complacency with a plague that continues to rage on is not.

Eddie said he understands his risk of transmission to be incredibly low. “I’ve dated people, and we’ve had unprotected sex, and we haven’t transmitted it. But, that’s in a different context than just hooking up with somebody, because you have that conversation and you make those decisions together,” he told me.

Eddie said he feels more discriminated against than stigmatized and pointed to the number of ways gay men can be socially awful to each other. “I think there are plenty of places where the gay community hurts itself—whether it’s through race, or class, or internalized homophobia. And also with HIV status.”

The Counselor

All of this is great and enlightening and galvanizing, but I still wasn’t sure about the information I was receiving. I know that part of taking care of yourself as an HIV positive individual involves educating yourself, and I have faith that these guys know their shit – much more than I did, at least. But the information that all of them hold true – that hooking up with a guy who is positive but undetectable will almost never or actually never result in the infection of a negative individual – it behooves them to hold true. Because they profess to be ethical people, they wouldn’t have casual sex if they didn’t believe this.

I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just saying that they could be biased. They are human, after all.

Through a friend, though, I was able to connect with Bryan Kutner, a counselor who was in South Africa working with an HIV-prevention group when I reached out to him. His is a key populations specialist and a consultant with Columbia University and the Harm Reduction Coalition.

Kutner pointed me to a recent study suggesting that just because HIV is undetectable in blood doesn’t mean it is undetectable in semen. It’s one study of a small sampling of HIV-positive men (81), but it does suggest that being undetectable isn’t the “free pass” that some would like it to be, maybe. The paper raises yet another contradiction: as antiretroviral therapy has become more popular, HIV has experienced a resurgence. At the very least, we shouldn’t rest on our antiretrovirals just yet.

But what does that mean?

“You won’t get a hard answer from me on it, simply because there’s not enough science for us to know exactly the state of affairs for men who are gay or have sex with other men,” Kutner wrote me in an email. “Studies have quantified the lessened risk, but I wouldn’t generalize their findings to the lives of gay men. That said, the consensus is that undetectable viral load is a good thing, all evidence on the subject points toward lessened transmission risk, and there may be more we still don’t know but we’re just gonna recommend that low viral load has some beneficial effect on lessening HIV risk even if we can’t exactly quantify it yet among the gays and other [men who have sex with men].”

But the lack of hard facts does not mean that we must abandon reason. It does not mean that it is impossible to make educated decisions based on the scraps of knowledge that we have. Here is how Kutner broke down the choice faced by Grindr users on the poz/neg divide:

[Say] one profile says nothing about status, another says he’s negative, another says he’s positive and undetectable, etc. As a thought experiment, let’s imagine that what people say online about themselves is always true – which is a stretch to begin with, but let’s go with it for now. The guy whose viral load is undetectable might be the better choice for reducing the chance of transmission; he knows his status, he takes his meds, he has no measurable HIV in his blood. The other guys don’t say their status or they say they’re negative. The unknown status guy could have HIV but not want to say anything about it…Then there’s the negative guy. He’s either truly negative or he just thinks he’s negative; if it’s the latter, then in all likelihood his viral load is more of a transmission risk than the guy who knows his status and has undetectable viral load. Based on counseling NYC men testing for HIV, plenty of “negative” guys fuck without a condom and naively think they and the guy they just fucked is negative – so what they say about being negative is true, but it isn’t accurate since a guy’s HIV status is subject to change before he knows it has changed.

So of those three choices, the guy who’s willing to be out about his status might seem like the easier one to trust. Of course, it’s so much more complicated – who wants to think about HIV during sex when it’s hard enough to contemplate it after sex?

So, right. No firm answers to be had here, except that abstinence is the only way to stay truly safe. And abstinence, as we know, is impossible. How terrifying.

Miguel and Me, Redux

“This always happens: someone will feel bad and then they’ll see me out and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, you’re so fucking hot…'”

Miguel is 32 and was 21 when he was diagnosed. A former drug abuser, he told me that when he found out he had HIV, it barely fazed him. It wasn’t until he got clean that he realized the true value of himself – now he says he’s healthier than he’s ever been. He has an insanely cut-up torso to prove it.

Though he told me he isn’t angry, his words suggest otherwise. He gets visibly riled when we discuss HIV-related ignorance within the gay community.

“I’ve had people tell me, ‘I’ve ever been with anyone with HIV.'” he said. “Are you fucking kidding me? Do you live under a rock? ‘Well no one’s ever told me.’ That’s exactly it, and you never bothered to ask. So now you’re an idiot. And then they get mad and it’s like why are you getting mad at me? You’re the dumbass who’s probably going to get HIV because of your mindlessness.”

He isn’t exaggerating. Probably. Using CDC figures, I’ve calculated that 1 in 14 men who sleep with men in America has HIV. I’ve heard estimates as high as 1 in 5 in New York. The stats get fuzzy when you take into account how many guys have it but don’t know it (though there are stats for that percentage, too). In general, the hard facts are elusive. HIV is everywhere or not so much and maybe you’ll get it from someone who is undetectable or maybe you won’t and then maybe you’ll be fine after taking some meds. Maybe.

Where having HIV is concerned, you’re damned to a life of uncertainty and anxiety if you don’t, condemned to one of shoddy treatment from your gay brothers if you do. Even if I never contract HIV, it will remain a concern of mine for life. I have contracted an issue.

Miguel informs everyone of his status up front, and told me that those who don’t “are the people who create this stigma with us.” He said he has a “pretty damn active sex life,” hooking up with “a couple of guys a week.”

But “hooking up” means different things to different people. “I mainly just do what happened earlier. That’s about it,” he added.

Right. Earlier.

After Miguel and I set up our brunch date earlier that day via text, he casually mentioned that he was jacking off. I thought that was hot. It inspired me to do the same and I told him. He sent me shots of his hard cock and asked me to, as well. I explained to him why I never do that (I write in public)…and then I caved. Part of it was out of obligation – I had already turned him down enough – but the bigger part of it was that it was sexually exciting, a slight risk (what if the pics leak?) to make a hot situation hotter. He sent me his ass pic as well, and we said nasty things to each other. “Shoot ur load,” he eventually directed me. “I’m going to in a bit,” I said back. He sent me video of himself ejaculating and then said, “Show me.” And so I did.

At brunch we talked about how hot that was, and how lovely our conversation was going. “I feel like this is much more intimate than a hookup,” I told him, verbalizing what I had felt back when Giovanni sat on my couch and spilled his story to me. “Me too. I would much rather do this,” said Miguel.

After we wrapped up our interview and brunch, Miguel and I stepped onto the bright Chelsea sidewalk outside of our restaurant and kissed passionately. We walked down the subway together, our arms spilling all over each other and I felt proud in the presence of this beauty and flattered that Miguel shared his knowledge and story with me.

* Except for Miguel and Bryan Kutner, the names that appear in this piece are pseudonyms.

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Magic Johnson – The Announcment

Magic Johnson is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).  After winning championships in high school and college, he was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers.

He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s

After a physical before the 1991–92 NBA season, Johnson discovered that he had tested positive for HIV.  In a press conference held in November, 1991 he made a public announcement that he would retire immediately and stated that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV, and that he would dedicate his life to “battle this deadly disease”.  He went on to play on the 1992 gold medal Olympic Team and said he considered a comeback, but was disheartened when other players said they were scared they would contract the virus from his blood.

At the time, November 1991, his decision to announce his diagnosis to the world was considered exceptionally brave, since HIV/AIDS was heavily stigmatised to a greater degree than today.  Magic’s campaigns were pivotal in demonstrating to the world that the risk of infection was not limited to a specific creed of people.  Magic stated that his aim was to “help educate all people about what HIV is about” and teach others not to “discriminate against people who have HIV and AIDS” and when Johnson announced he had the virus, people started to realise the disease could – and was – affecting anyone.

The announcement became a major news story in the United States, and in 2004 was named as ESPN’s seventh most memorable moment of the past 25 years.  Many articles praise him as a hero, and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush said, “For me, Magic is a hero, a hero for anyone who loves sports.

After announcing his HIV status he created the Magic Johnson Foundation to help combat HIV and later, diversified the foundation to include other charitable goals.  In 1992, he joined the National Commission on AIDS, but left after eight months, saying that the commission was not doing enough to combat the disease.  He was also the main speaker for the United Nations (UN) World AIDS Day Conference in 1999 and has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

Twenty years on and the former NBA great still devotes much time and effort to raise money for research and is an inspiration to many.  He remains a living face for HIV education and activism and for many, is an inspiration to HIV positive individuals and their friends and families.

He said he never considered not coming forward with the details of his diagnosis, because he wanted to be a face to help de-stigmatise  the virus and raise awareness for the less famous or privileged victims dying daily.

Johnson is still reportedly in good health, which he credits with Anti-HIV medicine, exercise, and a great support system.

He travels nationwide giving motivational speeches and works with public officials from the UN and international AIDS foundations to fight for policy, awareness and clinics that benefit victims worldwide. Though he says he is sometimes reminiscent of his basketball days, he is most proud of his accomplishments off the court to help fight the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Today, Twenty years after contracting a disease that was supposed to kill him, Magic Johnson is killing the disease by using his celebrity to raise millions for HIV/AIDS research.

The Announcment” is a documentary, directed by Nelson George and narrated by Magic Johnson and is Magic’s second film on HIV (The award-winning “Life Support” for HBO in 2007, starring Queen Latifah is the first).  He said, “For me, “The Announcement” is not just a look back at a fraught, unforgettable moment in U.S. history, but a vehicle for re-introducing the subject of HIV/AIDS to an audience that may not know that [people] are still getting infected and, yes, still dying from this big disease with a little name.

Article collated from Wikipedia, ESPN Films, TSN and Positivelife.

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HIV and AIDS Stigma Defies Traditional Care in the Pacific

From left to right: Director of Social Transformation Programmes Division, Dr Sylvia Anie, Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith, Vanuatu Justice Minister Ralph Reganvanu and Dr Marilyn Waring.

“When your labour is not available for sale, what does social protection mean to your unpaid caring work and the lives of all in your household”

The traditional Pacific care system in Papua New Guinea has broken down due to the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, leaving the sick and their carers isolated and vulnerable.

A two-day Commonwealth roundtable on ‘Sustaining gender-responsive social protection and economic resilience’ learned that centuries old communal care in the Pacific has been unable to overcome the stigma and discrimination, with orphans in Papua New Guinea more likely to be rejected by extended families if they are sick with HIV and AIDS.

The roundtable from 3 to 4 October is being held at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London and attended by academics, experts and officials from around the Commonwealth, including Vanuatu’s Justice Minister Ralph Reganvanu. It is reviewing the outcome of research on unpaid carers in the household looking after those with HIV and AIDS in Bangladesh, Botswana, Canada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.

The research has been published in a new book ‘Who Cares: the Economics of Dignity’, commissioned by the Secretariat and based on research by Dr Marilyn Waring, Dr Anit Mukherjee, the late Dr Robert Carr, and Dr Meena Shivdas.

The book highlights that unpaid carers are living in ‘servitude’, with little choice or state support to care for family members sick with HIV and AIDS.

Dr Waring, a feminist economist and public policy expert specialising in the economics of unpaid work, told the roundtable on 3 October that governments need to take urgent action on social protection to guard the rights of unpaid carers.

But first she said the definition of social protection, which relates to policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability, must be expanded to include unpaid carers.

She said: “Current discourses on social protection assume that a person is work-ready or available to access public works programmes. But when your labour is not available for sale, what does social protection mean to assist your unpaid caring work and the lives of all in your household.

“To take care of a terminally ill person is to descend into poverty, in anybody’s language,” she said.

Naren Prasad of the International Labour Organization said economic statistics from the past 50 years has shown the benefits of social protection policies.

“Countries that have seen social protection as a necessity and have spent more money on social protection have developed much better, such as the Nordic countries and Japan,” said Mr Prasad.

The social protection programmes discussed by the roundtable include a school feeding programme in Botswana, cash for work, cash transfers, public works programmes, and free prescription drugs for pregnant women with HIV and AIDS. Major issues were land and inheritance, recognition of children’s capacity to make life decisions, and community defined and directed social protection programmes.

The outcome of the roundtable will contribute to the development of a social protection framework for the Secretariat.

“The Secretariat will continue to advocate for social protection, mindful that for our small states, affordability and sustaining outreach to vulnerable populations are important factors for consideration in instituting social protection measures,” said Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith.

‘Who Cares: the Economics of Dignity’ was launched at the Secretariat’s headquarters at the end of the first day of the roundtable by Mr Smith and the book’s authors.

Original Article via The Commonwealth.org

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