PositiveLite.com to end publishing March 31

Published 28, Mar, 2018
Author // Bob Leahy - Publisher

Bob Leahy on the history of a unique Canadian website by and for people living with HIV – and why it has run its course

PositiveLite.com to end publishing March 31

I need to share with you that PositiveLite.com will cease publishing on March 31. As its publisher I’m not sad but proud, because its nine year history has been one of a series of successes. And I don’t feel the least bit defeated now but rather going out on a high note and ending our run on our own terms.

This has been in the works for some time. It’s been a struggle to keep it a secret.

The reasons for closing our doors are essentially twofold. First, the people who bring you PositiveLIte.com, a team of three plus two additional board members, are not so much burnt-out as tired. Ours is an aging team and publishing PositiveLite.com has been hard work. No nine-to-five jobs these. Some of us have routinely worked long into the night. That, and running a corporation that pays taxes but receives no government funding, takes its toll. As we have grown older that has become a challenge. Retirement beckons, whatever that may look like.

The second reason we are closing our doors is due to a handful of practical and logistical reasons we need not share here. Suffice it to say that keeping PositiveLite.com going would need the kind of sustained supports that require the kind of energy we do not have.

PositiveLite.com first came upon the scene on December 1 – World AIDS Day - in 2009. Said a news release of the day, “a brand new positive spin on HIV/AIDS is set to “Go viral” with the launch of PositiveLite.com, an e-magazine for HIV positive gay men and their friends. PositiveLite.com is the brainchild of Brandon Williams and Brian Finch who are both ‘out’, long term surviving HIV positive men living in Toronto. They’ve teamed up to combine their coaching, writing, social marketing skills – and not to mention sense of humour – to create a multimedia e-magazine for HIV positive gay men and their friends.”

Brandon didn’t last long. I was a writer from the start, having had a background in blogging, becoming it’s editor and later its publisher.

PositiveLite.com was first and foremost a fun read back then, never really taking itself all that seriously and was determined to be different. It sure was. Over the years though, while still reflecting the entirety of the HIV experience and not just the medical, it became an authoritative voice. It took positions. It championed causes. It travelled the world and It collaborated with the best.

I interviewed scores of people. I remember being shocked when Larry Kramer agreed to talk to us. I loved how Canadian luminary Dr. Julio Montaner, the father of treatment as prevention, sat down with us many times and counted us as an ally. It was a coup too to be one of the first to interview U=U founder Bruce Richman back when he was an unknown. There were many others – from poz porn stars, to poz Olympians – we were all over HIV.

I think I’m proudest that we didn’t just follow but we led.  We championed treatment as prevention, now a leading tool in the prevention tool box, when almost everyone, including researchers, funders and poz leaders were badmouthing it. We gave an early voice to PrEP users when that was considered controversial. And of course we were an early adopter of U=U at a time when our colleagues in the industry were all vehemently opposed. In all these cases, we knew our stuff, stuck to our guns, fought for what was true and emerged as winners.

All that has been a wild ride, one that has taken my own life in new directions, but also taken its toll. My mind is full of thoughts of retirement. I want to continue to be involved in the movement, but not this involved. I want to focus, if not on the easy stuff, at least the stuff that comes with less stress.

So we are folding our tent and moving on.

PositiveLite.com has been a collaborative effort we can be proud of. It has proved GIPA works. It has given a voice to dozens of brilliant writers along the way, who are more deserving of praise than we are.  It has championed game-changing causes and been lauded for its influence. 

It’s time to raise a glass to my partners in crime – John McCullagh, our former publisher whose wisdom has been one of our greatest assets, to Rob Olver, our hard-working Editor who most wanted to see us continue, to Wayne Bristow whose loyalty and nocturnal work for us on our social media platforms has been our best kept secret and to Brian Finch, whose extraordinary vision, not to mention wit, made all this possible.

Now it’s time to make what we hope is a graceful exit. It’s time too to thank our partners – organizations like CATIE whose leadership I admire endlessly, CPPN, the OHTN and the Prevention Access Campaign. And finally, thanks and big hugs to our beloved readers, it’s been a pleasure serving you and the community we love.

About the Author

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Award-winning blogger Bob Leahy first made his social media mark a decade ago on LiveJournal.com where there are still to this day almost 3,000 entries of his available to be read. He was a featured blogger on Ontario’s HIVStigma.com campaign, along with PositiveLite.com founder Brian Finch. He joined PositiveLite.com at its inception in 2009 and became it's Editor a year later.

Born in the UK, Bob’s background is in corporate banking, which he gladly left in 1994, after being diagnosed with HIV the previous year.  He has chaired the board of PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network) and has been an executive board member of both the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS).  He was inducted in to the Ontario AIDS Network’s Honour Roll in 2005.  Bob is currently a member of Ontario’s GMSH (Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance). He also writes for TheBody.com.

In 2012, Bob was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his work and commitment to HIV/AIDS in Canada.

Bob continues to write for this site while in the Positivelite.Com editor’s seat, with a particular interest  in HIV prevention, theatre and the arts in general. He is accredited media for a number of Toronto theatres. He lives in Warkworth, Ontario with his partner of thirty-two years and three dogs.