Josh Kruger says we are often unwilling to take the professional, social, and sexual risks of affirming that we are HIV+. But, he says, come out. You’ll find that nobody really cares about your HIV-status.
In POZ Magazine, Michael Kaplan, CEO of AIDS United, himself HIV+ since 1992, makes the case for a national HIV+ coming out day wherein HIV+ men and women publicly disclose and affirm their HIV status. A good number of readers of this site have asked for my opinion on the matter, and as an HIV+ man, I, along with a good number of readers, have an obvious stakeholder position in this discussion.
While I make no comparison of myself to the obvious gravitas and incredible insights and experience of Kaplan, I do say that as someone who routinely writes against HIV stigmatization, about the deleterious effects an HIV negative based LGBT community has on its HIV+ members, and about the need for candid discussions on the reality of sexual health in 2013, I think this is probably the best advancement to improve the quality of life for HIV+ individuals since modern triple and quadruple therapy antiretroviral treatment.
Last year, I publicly disclosed my own HIV status on Philadelphia Magazine’s G Philly Blog. While the response to this public disclosure was overwhelmingly heartening and warm, there were still, of course, those who commented on that site and in local LGBT social settings that I was, and these are direct quotes, “a slut,” “deserving of HIV,” “hypocritical,” “dirty,” and every other standard, and idiotic, common insult thrown, at one point or another, carelessly at most people who live with HIV. Disingenuously, entire segments of the LGBT community take the personal responsibility of HIV negative sexual partners entirely off the table, force an unfair expectation of disclosure entirely onto the shoulders of those living with HIV, and, most alarmingly, contain swaths of “reformed good little boys” living with HIV, who seemingly tend to make their livings off of HIV prevention, efforts that they themselves seem to have not even adhered to by nature of their contradictory existence.
Most annoyingly, these hypocrites, when coupled with their ludicrous demands that everyone use a condom every time, stigmatize themselves by calling me, again literally, a “murderer,” “playing Russian roulette,” and “stupid.” Bizarrely, these professionals, who would not put food on their tables if HIV was, in fact, eradicated, seem to ignore completely the mounting evidence that antiretroviral treatment when adhered to nearly 100% of the time takes HIV transmission completely out of the realm of scientific possibility without condoms being necessary whatsoever. Instead, they kowtow to the demands of Durex, Trojan, and Lifestyles out of intellectual laziness and counterproductive conventional wisdom that, based upon the growing HIV infection rate in the United States, is obviously ineffective.
And, it is because of the secretive and stigmatic nature of HIV that this cycle of reckless behavior, refusal to get tested for HIV and the ensuing inevitable consequences of having sex with folks who aren’t on antiretroviral treatment, continues. With this in mind, it is high time that HIV+ Americans come out of the virologic closet and affirm that they are, first and foremost, human beings deserving of the same respect and dignity that we afford even the kinkiest members of the LGBT community without regard to their personal sexual proclivities. After all, this demand for equality of representation and equality of circumstance, particularly in the context of legal and health related issues, is the precise equality currently demanded by the Human Rights Campaign, which seems to think that HIV doesn’t exist.
In Philadelphia alone, 20,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS. We exist, and we have more votes, more impact on society, and more influence on the direction of the LGBT community, an admittedly fragmented and loosely affiliated cultural bloc that cannot even make up its mind on what to call itself, than a great number of political and social interest groups demanding more seats at the table of human discourse than the HIV+ have themselves. And, because we are afraid of people calling us sluts, of people judging our behavior, of people hypocritically barebacking while simultaneously telling us we deserved our divine sentence of a blood born virus, we are unwilling to take the professional, social, and sexual risks of affirming that we are HIV+. And, frankly, we are successfully living with HIV thanks to the hard work of more compassionate segments of the LGBT community, including a myriad of HIV/AIDS organizations here in Philadelphia and the good work of state legislators like openly gay State Representative Brian Sims. Ironically, the seeming majority of HIV+ men and women are overwhelmingly healthier and monitor their bodies and personal behavior to a degree most HIV negative people, either out of unfortunate lack of access to healthcare or laziness or ignorance, find prohibitive.
Now, nobody should be forced to come out of the virologic closet just as nobody’s sexuality should be whispered about for page views or forced to discuss their private life publicly. That is, nobody should be forced to do any of this if they are, indeed, not a hypocrite with obvious contradictions between their personal identity or behavior and what they advocate. Nonetheless, just as the glass closet keeps society guessing about the dates and husbands, or lack thereof, of media, political, and cultural figures, the virologic closet impedes happiness, sex, marriage, dating, friendships, understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and every other factor inherent in public assertion of circumstance and identity. Therefore, I encourage anyone who is HIV+ to recognize that the benefits of coming out, of being able to finally no longer tiptoe with our potential boyfriends around the issue of HIV, of no longer feeling that we deserved this virus, of no longer feeling the need to enter the backdoor of public health centers as though we are second class citizens hiding our most basic of human needs, access to healthcare, far outweigh the stupid biases of an incredibly small, and disgusting, group of thoughtless, inhuman morons who would rather gossip about HIV than genuinely care about the 20,000 Philadelphians living with HIV.
So, come out. You’ll find that nobody really cares about your HIV status aside from the fact that you are taking care of yourself, that you are using the tools the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community have worked toward for decades, and that you are, above all else, content and happy.
If you would like to possibly come out publicly about your HIV+ status, contact Josh Kruger at
This article previously appeared on Josh’s own blog here.
MT O’Shaughnessy: “In my efforts to keep safe and others safe from myself, I sometimes isolate within a huge bubble of awareness. It does me no good. I’ve wondered if it hasn’t ended up costing me opportunities to show people how similar I am to them.”
No matter how much we know, there is almost always a lag between knowing and understanding, deep into the bones of things.I can remember learning I was poz and knowing what that meant on a very clinical level.And on several cultural levels.But there were whole other areas I really didn’t think through.
One day, about a month after I was diagnosed, I got a paper cut in the office.For a moment I lost the ability to breathe.Time stopped, my heart too I think.I looked at the little bead of blood on my finger and I remember this overwhelming sense of disease.
Truthfully I had a rather hilarious reaction, if it wasn’t also so terrifying.For a split second I had a flash of the blood from the creatures in Aliens, picturing the drop on my hand falling and eating through the floor.
It’s fairly normal to start to be hyper-vigilant, to my mind, about body fluids around other people.While I don’t stop I do hesitate when I’m faced with things like dips when in a group setting.When I’ve had blood drawn I have a moment when I still for a second, just before I throw out the bandaid.
I certainly don’t think these are things everyone does or should process, by the way.
But the other night I was reminded of the pristine world that I keep myself inside.I was watching Vito: A Man For All Seasons and near the end of it there was a throw away comment by a surviving friend of Vito Russo.About how at the hospital, near the end, Vito talked about how long it had been since he’d touched anyone.
Deep into the second of the three months Little John was in the hospital, dying, I had a break.Up until this point all visitors were requested to wear gowns and gloves to protect him from outside infections and from potentially spreading any number of unnamed infections from him to us.And on one level it made sense.
"I had been discomforted for a long time by this sense of living on one side of a wall of glass, him on the other."
The problem is that my relationship with Little John was one of intimacy.From the moment it started to the last breath leaving him, it was about the connection we had.I had been discomforted for a long time by this sense of living on one side of a wall of glass, him on the other.We were able to look across that distance but never bridge it.And it killed me.
So one night, alone with him, I removed my gloves and placed my hands on his arm.And then I ran my fingers along his jaw, brushing them through his shaggy beard.It was soft in a way I can’t begin to describe.When I eventually held his face in my hands, his skin was dry and delicate.He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, relaxing.And I bent over him with my forehead on his, feeling fear but not just of the health danger it presented to both of us.
I remember being afraid of the day I’d never touch him again.Like a desert I soaked up the sensation of being connected to this man, cell to cell.
There are days when I realize it’s been a long time since I reached out and even so much as shook the hand of some one, let alone connected with another human being.It sometimes is far too easy to listen to the fears and believe that there is a reason for this.There absolutely is not.
"I’ve wondered if it hasn’t ended up costing me opportunities to show people how similar I am to them."
But in my efforts to keep safe and others safe from myself, I sometimes isolate within a huge bubble of awareness.And it does me no good.I’ve wondered if it hasn’t ended up costing me opportunities to show people how similar I am to them.
Because.There is no reason to fear contact.Those that love me, my friends and my family of choice, don’t see the disease.They can’t feel it when they hold me.They can’t smell it on my skin when they hug me.
If anything that moment, alone in the dark hospital room, taught me how to shatter that glass wall.To be respectful of the fear that places it there in my life, in such different circumstances than with Little John, but still reach through it.
Breakfast would not be breakfast for British-born John McCullagh without a slice of toast and home-made Seville orange marmalade.
Marmalade is jam made from citrus fruit. It’s common on the breakfast tables of my native Britain, less so in Canada and the U.S. While you can buy it in supermarkets, it’s never as tasty as home-made.
The classic and, to my mind, best marmalade is made from the intensely sharp and bitter Seville oranges that, when mixed with sugar, create a mouthwateringly bittersweet jam. Originally, these oranges were grown in southern Spain, where, interestingly, they are rarely consumed, being mostly exported to Britain. They are now cultivated across the Mediterranean region as well as in California. It’s from that state that the Seville oranges found in Canadian stores come from.
Seville oranges are available only in January and February each year so now’s the time to buy them. Unfortunately, they’re not always easy to find in North America, so you may have to hunt for them in high-end grocery and fruit and vegetable stores. In a pinch, you can substitute a mixture of regular oranges, lemons and grapefruit but it’s not the same as traditional Seville orange marmalade.
Marmalade is made much the same way as jam, except that the peel is included during the boiling. All citrus fruits are high in pectin. This is contained principally in the pith and the stones (or pips, as they’re called in the U.K.) and is most easily extracted by tying them into a muslin or gauze cloth which is then added to the fruit in the pan.
Before any sugar can be added, the fruit needs fairly prolonged cooking to soften the peel and reduce the flesh to a pulp. As a rule, one to one-and-a-half hours should be adequate for this softening-up process and to drive off the excess water. The boiling time after sugar is added should be no longer than 15 to 20 minutes for a good set. Unnecessary boiling over the specified time will result in a dark-looking and badly set marmalade.
1.5 kg (3 lb) Seville oranges
juice of 2 lemons
3.5 litres (about 6½ U.S. cups) water
2.75 kg (about 12 U.S. cups) granulated sugar
You’ll also need a preserving pan or a large saucepan, a 25 cm (9 in) square of muslin or gauze, a juicer or lemon squeezer, a funnel and ten 350 ml (1 lb) capacity Mason jars.
Wash the oranges then cut them in half. Squeeze out the juice and pour into the pan, reserving the stones. Tie the stones and any remaining pulp into a piece of muslin or gauze and add to the juice in the pan. Slice the orange peel without removing the pith into thick or thin shreds, according to your preference, then add to the pan.
Pour the water into the pan with the lemon juice and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for one-and-a-half hours or until the peel is very soft and disintegrates when squeezed between the fingers. Remove the muslin or gauze bag, squeezing the juice back into the pan.
Add the sugar and stir continuously over a low heat until it’s dissolved. Then boil rapidly until the setting point is reached (see below). Skim the marmalade as soon as it reaches the setting point to remove the scum. Allow to cool slightly and then pour it into clean, dry and warm, but not hot, Mason jars with the aid of the funnel. Cover immediately, label and store in a cool, dark place.
This recipe should make about 4.5 kg (or 10 lb) of marmalade.
There are several ways to check for the setting point. You can dip a wooden spoon into the boiling marmalade, allow it to cool slightly so that a thin skin forms, then pour it back into the pan. The setting point is reached when the drops of marmalade run off the tilted spoon in a large blob. Or you can use a thermometer in the centre of the jam but without letting it touch the bottom of the pan. The setting point is reached at a temperature of 104° celsius (or 220° fahrenheit), providing sufficient acid and pectin is present.
The easier way, however, is the saucer test. Chill several saucers in the refrigerator before you start to make the marmalade. When you think the marmalade is ready, put a teaspoon of it on one of the cold saucers and leave to cool slightly. Gently push your finger through the marmalade, the surface of which will crinkle if it’s at the setting point. If it’s not, continue to boil and give it the same test at ten-minute intervals until it does set.
Now you’re ready to make some toast and try your marmalade. Enjoy!
Source: Burrow, J. (1979). Home Preserves. London: Sundial Books.
Ride a horse for a few hours on October 22nd at Sea to Sky Valley near Squamish. Their trail rides take you through lush coastal and temperate rainforests and along the gorgeous Squamish and Cheakamus rivers
Sea to Sky Stables in Paradise Valley
Ride a horse for a few hours on October 22nd at Sea to Sky Valley near Squamish. Their trail rides take you through lush coastal and temperate rainforests and along the gorgeous Squamish and Cheakamus rivers. Glacier viewing, eagles and other wildlife such as deer, coyote, wolf and the occasional bear are highlights of the ride.
What: Horseback riding
When: Saturday October 22nd 9.00am leave Vancouver Ride 10-12. For those who want to, gather for lunch in Squamish.
Cost: One Hour $45.00 Two Hours $75 (plus tax)
and please indicate whether you need a ride or are able to offer a ride and indicate how many passengers you can take.
Please give your driver a few bucks for gas. Thanks. Someone will respond to you in the week of the October 17th.
For more information on the Positive Living Society of BC, please visit their website.
Aaron Laxton was diagnosed with HIV just four months ago. But in those four months his YouTube accounts of living with HIV and his advice for HIVers have been getting lots of attention.
SEE AARON'S VIDEO MESSAGE TO POSITIVELITE READERS AT THE FOOT OF THIS POST.
Bob Leahy: Hi Aaron. First off I have to say how much I’m admiring your YouTube channel “My HIV Journey”. I’m struck by a number of things. Number one is how good you are at it. Do you have a background in broadcasting or something?
Aaron Laxton: Thank you for your kind words. It has been a work in progress that has definitely morphed into something quite different than what I originally had intended for it to be. Everything that you see I've learned from one video to the next. I don't have any history or previous experience in broadcasting.
You’re a natural. You could have been a DJ or a newsman or something
I actually get that quite often and I consider it a compliment. I really strive to produce videos that are informative, entertaining as well as professional.
How old are you?
I’m 32 years old.
And you have dogs? I’m a dog person too. I want to know what kind you have.
I have two beagles, the oldest is Maxwell and he is a lemon beagle; the youngest is Oliver and he has made a cameo on some of my latest videos.
Another thing that strikes me is that you're extraordinarily knowledgeable about HIV, even though you haven’t been diagnosed all that long. We’ll get to that diagnosis part in a minute but where does all your knowledge come from?
Honestly, anywhere and everywhere. I read whatever I can get my hands on. Thebody.com was one of the first websites that I went to after my diagnosis. It’s simply jam packed with some great information. I take the role that I have as a video maker very seriously. People watch my videos and expect that I 'm giving them the right information, so I try to be as knowledgeable as possible.
You’ve volunteered in St Louis. That’s where you live now, right?
Yes I live in St. Louis, Missouri.
So your favourite HIV resources - places to go for information – that you’d recommend to others are?
Aaron, I want to ask you a bit about what it’s like to be newly diagnosed, in 2011. You were diagnosed June 6, 2011, right?
Yes. I received the news around 10.45 that morning.
Do you want to talk about that? Was this a routine test or did you think something might be up?
For sure! I had engaged in some risky behaviour. A short time later I had noticed that I had swollen lymph-nodes in my neck and other areas of my body. I had spoke with a friend of mine and confided in him that I was scared that I would test positive. During this conversation he encouraged me to go get tested and told me that he would go with me to get tested. A few days after this conversation I woke up, called my doctor’s office and told them that I needed to get tested and that was basically it.
Do you remember the exact words they used to tell you that you were HIV positive?
I think that those words will forever be in my mind just like they are in every person that has ever heard that they are positive. My doctor told me that the test had came back and that I was positive for HIV. That yes, life would change but life was not over. It is important to know that I have gone to the same doctor for awhile and when I got tested I let him know that I was prepared for a positive test. I was hoping that it wasn’t but from everything my body was telling me I knew that I was.
And so do you remember what you said?
I didn’t say much. In those moments every possible scenario was running through my head. I think for the first time this was a moment in which I was relatively speechless.
I remember when I got my diagnosis – this was way back in 1993 - feeling very, very strange, very different, on my way home from the doctor’s office, as if my life would never be the same again. In fact I thought I would never be happy again. Can you relate to that?
I can. I actually whipped out my iPhone and recorded a video and it was then that I determined that I was going to do something positive (no pun intended) with my diagnosis.
Who did you tell first? And was that easy or not?
The first person that I told was my best friend. It was a very brief conversation, short and to the point. I followed the news by telling him that he'd better not tell anyone. I find that interesting now since I tell everyone, but in those first few days I was struggling to find my footing after receiving the diagnosis.
You made a video seven days after you were diagnosed; in it you said you “refused to participate” and you seemed very down, very depressed. But you didn’t say you were positive. Why was that?
Yes, the first videos that I made were a series of videos compelling my viewers to get tested for National HIV Testing Day. It was actually a video title “It will never happen to me” on June 30th when I revealed my status. The video that you mention was one that I'd never really intended to post, however I wanted my viewers to see me during my bad days and my good days. That is really what life is about, taking the good with the bad.
You made several more videos before you actually came out as HIV positive, while you were promoting HIV Testing Day. Was it difficult to make those videos when you knew you were positive yourself? How did all that feel?
That is a great question. I would say that I was probably numb but it was something that I knew that I had to do. I am very much a people person and I would like to say that I'm relatively well-known in the St. Louis LGBT community. I knew that HIV was not something that people talked openly about and that I had to use my story to try to get others tested as well as reducing stigma.
You’ve said “when you are diagnosed it’s one of the loneliest places to be” even though you may have friends and a support system (See Aaron talking about that here.) I think I know exactly what you mean, but can you explain what you meant for those who aren’t positive - this dichotomy between the support you will likely get and the loneliness?
This is an interesting concept that really is difficult to explain. It's sort of one of those things that is unique to someone that has received a diagnosis of HIV or possibly cancer or other disease. When I first found out I spent more time consoling friends and those around me rather than being consoled and I always found that quite ironic. People want to be there for you because they are your friend or they love you yet many times they simply can't find the right words - and in the end there are no “right” words that can make it better. I think that this is simply part of the process of dealing with the diagnosis. At the end of the day when no one is around and you're all alone there is one surety and that is that you'll still have your diagnosis. For me I would look down and think “OMG I have this virus pulsing through my veins” and yet I'd put on a smile and deal with the world. I guess that’s the best way that I can describe it.
Now becoming infected in 2011 has its own story, I think. Some people say it’s harder to get a diagnosis in 2011 than it ever was. I’m not sure that’s entirely correct because a diagnosis back in the day meant you were going to die pretty soon. But is there, do you think, a feeling out there now that people who are diagnosed in 2011 must be stupid or something, to ignore all the messaging we’ve had for decades?
Interestingly enough I recently competed in a leather competition for the title of Mr. Midwest Leather 2011. During the interview I was asked a question similar to this so I'll give you the answer that I told the person that asked it. I knew the consequences of the things that I was doing. I knew that if I had bareback sex that there was a risk that I would become infected. Just the same as a person that gets behind the wheel of their car while drunk could get in a wreck and kill someone. You never think that it will happen to you. I accept accountability for my diagnosis and hope that by telling my stories to others it will help them to make better choices than I did.
How about the fact that you were pretty well versed in HIV prevention? Did that make the experience worse for you, or what? Do you think people were judging you?
Not at all. Look, people are free to think whatever they will; however their thoughts do not change my diagnosis. People make mistakes and poor choices. Even while people are reading this interview I'm sure that they can think of a time that they have made a poor choice or two. Does this mean that they should be ridiculed or judged solely on these poor judgements? No. Allowing others to beat you up for your diagnosis or for that matter beating yourself up over your diagnosis is not going to achieve anything other than making you sick. In the end, for me it was a diagnosis. Yes, life would change but I would like to think that it has changed for the better and now I am on this HIV journey.
Good answer. Let’s change the subject. I want to talk about how you use social media. Back to your YouTube channel. Why do you do it?
When I first started it I was learning about this thing called HIV. Yes I had some knowledge but nowhere near the amount that I do right now. I wanted others who were positive to know that they were not alone and that the things that they were feeling were OK. Sometimes it's easy for us to get into a mindset that we're going through something alone or that no one else could possibly know how I'm feeling. That's simply not true and a myth that I wanted to quell with my videos.
What you are doing is really amazing. Clearly you want to help people. But how much is it about helping YOU, because that’s important too – what we do for ourselves, right?
Oh, I will be the first one to tell you that I've learned so much on this journey of making these videos and doing other advocacy work that I do. Not only do I learn but I also get a chance to talk to amazing people from around the world. People will message me on facebook, twitter or YouTube and they proceed to tell me about their diagnosis or their medication - and this helps me just as much as it helps them.
Is it easy to build a following? Do you have a sense of how well you are doing?
Honestly, it is something that I work at every day. I use social media, twitter, facebook and tumblr to get viewers. I had previously used social media during the Joplin Tornado that killed 155+ people in May. Using only social media, I was able to organize five semi trucks with supplies that were donated to victims of the tornado. The links to the interviews that I did with a local news station here in St. Louis about it are here and here.
Now I get more people who will recommend my YouTube channel to their friends or through word of mouth. Also if you type in "HIV" into YouTube my videos pop up, so it is kind of a numbers game.
You get quite a bit of feedback, right – comments and personal stories that people share with you?
I get all sorts of stories from people and they're really what's keeping me doing this, since it lets me know that the channel is making an impact on those that are infected as well as those that are negative. I get a mix of people that will reach out to me. I have heard stories from people who lived through the 80’s and have lost many of their friends or others who simply want me to know that they can relate to what I am going through.
I’m curious what you think about the way we do HIV prevention now. My impression is that our HIV agencies (ASOs and such) don’t have the outreach they think they have and that there is a huge underserved population – I’m thinking youth in particular – that aren’t really tuned in to their messaging. But they ARE turned in to the internet. And I don’t think the HIV community – those who do prevention work – have been good enough at trying to reach them. I mean putting up a website just doesn’t cut it, in my book. What do you think?
I would agree. I try to create a safe place where people know that they can talk to me about anything and everything. I do not judge and that is really the environment that we have to create. We have a lot of work to do and we have to utilize every tool that we have available. The great thing about the internet is that people can view it from the privacy of their own home. Besides that, youth are on the internet a lot, I am on the internet a lot. If we ever plan on being successful in working with young people we have to communicate in ways that they are comfortable with and willing to listen to.
You’ve said people don’t really want to talk about HIV. Could that also translate to mean people don’t want to LISTEN to people like you and me talk about HIV?
I think that if people talk about HIV then that is admittance that there is a virus out there that they could possibly get. No one wants to face their own mortality, but we have to address this in a proactive manner rather than a reactive manner. There is also a sense that condom use is not sexy and safe sex is not sexy - and that simply is not true. We have to get people to start having the conversation at the bar or wherever they meet someone prior to going home. In this manner it’s far easier to set the rules for safe sex and to not get caught in a situation where your safety is put into question.
I also think that you will understand when I say that I am going to talk whether people are listening or not; however I want to talk in a manner that makes people want to listen.
Why don’t they want to talk about HIV, do you think? Are they scared of it, or bored or just don’t think it’s about them.
As with most things in our society, we are desensitized and we are not scared. That is the wrong attitude. Yes there are some great medications out there. I am on Atripla and I love it! That being said, for people living in the United States there is an issue of being able to afford these great medications that can cost as much as $3-5,000 a month. The bottom line is that even though HIV treatment has changed, the prognosis for an AIDS patient without treatment and medication is the same as in the 80’s. To me that is scary - and it should be!
So how do you break that barrier?
I wish I had a formula for you. I think that we have to continue the work that we are doing and working to inform people. I also think that sharing our stories will help to open the lines of communication and dialog surrounding HIV/AIDS and other STD’s and STI’s.
What’s you biggest challenge, do you think, in doing the work you do in social media?
Creating fresh videos that are entertaining and educational can be a challenge sometimes, but it's a passion and one that I'm going to keep doing for a long time.
Facebook or twitter?
All the above. I am on facebook, twitter, tumblr and Hi5. Some people may use one but not another, so you want to broaden the ways in which people will be able to find you.
So where is all this going? Will we see more use of social media, do you think, as time goes on – more blogging, more vblogs, more interactive stuff we haven’t even thought of yet?
This is just the beginning. I have been told by many that I am along the lines of Dan Savage and when I hear things like that I am obviously flattered. I would be lying if I said that I did not want to be just as big because that would offer me a larger platform in which to reach people as well as those that are affected by HIV.
Aaron, if you could just get one take-away message across, just one, that you hope would really resonate with people what would it be?
Wow! That’s tough! It would have to be that HIV is preventable and treatable and that a diagnosis is not the end of the world although it may feel like it.
OK. A second one – because I know you have several audiences.
No matter how alone a person may feel there is someone that there that loves and would miss you if you were not there. If nothing else, I want anyone who needs to talk to reach out to me and I will talk to them and get them connected to the resources that they need.
Aaron, you really are quite special. Thank you so much for talking to PositiveLite.com. Is there anything else you want to say?
I appreciate everything that you are doing and regardless of what our role is we are all in this fight together. Thank you so much for talking with me.
Bob Leahy wraps up the North American Housing and HIV/AIDS Research Summit, plus the trials and tribulations of doing the HIV conference circuit plus photos of the lovely city of New Orleans. .
Conferences in exotic places like New Orleans – and New Orleans is a rather exotic city, at least for North America – are funny things. You want to cover the conference and all it has to offer, but you also want to see the host city. Typically the very full schedules these conferences have limits your ability to do both. This latest one was no exception.
Let me just say a few words about HIVers and travel. Conferences like this are accessible to HIVers even from far flung destinations. Scholarships covering things like travel, accommodation and registration are often available, but typically quite limited. You have to make a good case, fulfill the requirements and convince the organizers that you will be sharing the information you learn in a meaningful way. Being “well connected|” helps, but isn’t essential. It does help though to be tapped in to an ASO that routinely makes HIVers aware of opportunities when they arise. It doesn’t hurt, too, to work the internet so that you learn about such opportunities independently.
Be prepared to work once you get there, though. Consider beforehand if you are up for the challenge. It can be tiring in the extreme. The organizers are investing A LOT of money in you and are expecting you to deliver on your side of the bargain.
Anyway, back to the Housing Summit in New Orleans. I was extremely busy, particularly wearing a PositiveLite hat most of the time. I covered every minute of the conference proper, tweeted as best as I could live from the conference room as highlights unfolded, and did six video interviews. Two of those were quickies for PositiveLite of which you see the second today (see below) and four on-camera ones for the OHTHN/PositiveLite collaboration which sees us jointly produce videos for content on both sites.
Doing those, even though I try not to let it be, is a big deal for me. I am reasonably comfortable on camera, but the lead-up can feel a little bit nerve-wracking, particular if the interviewee is high-powered. There is always preparation involved and never enough time to do it. You have to know your questions in advance, and often know the answers too, however technical the subject matter. In New Orleans too, we were faced with a tight schedule too, and challenging logistics.
In any event, everyone came through and I thought we got four good OHTN interviews.(Thanks Ryan, Lori and the entire OHTN gang!) Those videos will be appearing here once the OHTN folks get done editing them. In the meantime, here are the details
Brandon Marshall, British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS on housing as prevention for people who use drugs
The Hon Libby Davies MP, Vancouver East on her history of advocating for a Canadian national housing strategy - and more
Eric Rice, University of Southern California on the internet and social media as tools for HIV prevention for homeless youth
Kevin Fenton, Director, National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on “big picture” policy issues concerning housing and HIV
All in all it was an intense learning experience for me, pushing home time after time the connections between accessible, affordable and appropriate housing and healthy outcomes. You can read my earlier post here where I wrote about that in more detail.
One personal note – and I know one that Brian Finch, for one, will identify with - I went to New Orleans with the intent of providing as live coverage as possible. My principal weapons would be my iPhone loaded with a travel plan that avoided the roaming charges the unwary can be saddled with, a newly bought wifi-enabled laptop and two cameras with video capability. That wifi thing though can be the ultimate challenge. My room had it – at a price (which fortunately the OHTN covered) but the conference room itself did not. Oy vey! Back to the iPhone, a challenge in itself for my stubby fingers. Still we tweeted, as did others. But struggling with that whole social media aspect, away from home, was a bit overwhelming, as it was for Brian in Rome. Next time I will be better.
As for New Orleans itself, I loved it. My huge regerta was that I couldn’t explore more of it – or eat my way around it, for it’s a foodies' city par excellence. But I did get out to the French Quarter, where I loved the architecture, the quirkiness and the feeling of being in a quite unique place. Today’s photos celebrate that uniqueness.
Today's post also has a bonus - the wonderful Libby Davies, NDP MP for Vancouver East, saying hello to PositiveLite on video. That interview was extremely rushed – a victim of the crazy logistics issues we were dealing with at the time – but she is such a warm, likeable person that it was a real pleasure to get to talk with her. Scroll through through to the end of the pics toi see it. Enjoy.