Subscribe to our RSS feed

Popular News Stories

  • Fuck poz guys!
  • Tom Hanks in Philadelphia Changed my Life
  • Canadian AIDS Society’s AGM and PHA Forum in Ottawa: some scholarships for HIVers available
  • Semen goes viral – or does it?

Television

Sep14

Remembering Joan Rivers, fierce and early voice against AIDS

Sunday, 14 September 2014 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Activism, Arts and Entertainment, Current Affairs, Performances, Television, Opinion Pieces, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

From TheBody.com comes this tribute to Joan Rivers' work with the HIV community that goes way back. “In a community that is no stranger to grief, the death of an ally like Rivers is hard for many.”

Remembering Joan Rivers, fierce and early voice against AIDS

This article by Mathew Rodriguez first appeared on TheBody.com here.

Joan Rivers, legendary comedienne, self-proclaimed feminist, and icon, passed away at the age of 81 on Thursday, Sept. 4, after throat surgery. She was "surrounded by family and close friends," according to a statement from her daughter, Melissa Rivers. "[Joan's] greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon." And thus, I invite you to laugh now. 

When Joan Rivers appeared on Louis CK's TV show Louie in 2012, she did so to share some wisdom about what it meant to be a comedian. 

"I've gone up, I've gone down, I've been bankrupt, I've been broke. But you do it, and you do it because, because we love it more than anything else. That's why you're doing it. You want a real job, there are a million things you can do. But what we do is not a job. It sounds so stupid, but what we do is a calling, my dear. We make people happy. It's a calling." 

Rivers had the power to evoke laughter even out of what some would deem the least funny situations. On her husband's suicide, she said, "My husband killed himself. And it was my fault. We were making love and I took the bag off my head." 

She loved to make people laugh not just to make them laugh, but to lighten a world that was often so heavy. It is no surprise, then, that Rivers was one of the earliest -- and fiercest -- voices in support of people living with AIDS. 

Karen Ocamb, former news editor at Frontiers magazine, wrote of Rivers on her Facebook, "While so many will remember this pioneer in her funny one-liners, sometimes jaw-droppingly outrageous, and her fashion sense ('Who are you wearing?') -- please also know that she was out front helping people with AIDS at the very beginning of the AIDS crisis when so many others turned away in fear." 

Rivers talked with disco icon Sylvester about her history of AIDS fundraising, a time she describes as "when you weren't supposed to do it," in the same year that Reagan finally decided to let the word "AIDS" pass from his lips. Watch the first video below, and if you want to skip the awesome performance and get straight to the talk about her AIDS fundraising, you can go straight to 5:58 in the video. 

Rivers continued her work around HIV/AIDS even in later years, and right up until her death. In 2008, longtime activist and now San Diego Human Rights Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez presented Rivers with an award for her HIV and AIDS work from the city of San Diego. "When it comes to HIV and AIDS she stands out as our own little Joan of Arc," she said. Ramirez has also been quoted as saying, "Joan Rivers was the first celebrity that started doing AIDS. And then came Elizabeth Taylor and the others." 

On May 10, 2009, Rivers won NBC's The Celebrity Apprentice and donated her winnings to God's Love We Deliver (GLWD), of which she was an early supporter and a board member up until her death in 2014. Watch the second video below as she describes the work of GLWD on Apprentice. 

She talked to Giuliana Rancic of E! News about her work with GLWD and the early days of the epidemic, when "we would go around on bicycles and deliver food to people. And [GLWD] has grown into this amazing organization where we give something like 4,500 meals a day to our clients. We also send meals -- if you live with a caretaker, your caretaker gets a meal. If you have children, your children get a meal." 

On why she began supporting GLWD, Rivers said, "In those days, so many of my friends started getting 'gay pneumonia,' and then when it became known as AIDS, people didn't want to touch these people, literally, or go to their apartment. They couldn't get help. There was one hairdresser that was a very good friend of mine and we said 'Let's start bringing him food,' and it started to grow." 

On May 7, 2014, Rivers helped to deliver GLWD's 15 Millionth Meal. "This is another important milestone in the history of God's Love," President and CEO Karen Pearl said to the New York Nonprofit Press on the day of the occasion. Rivers added, "I'm so honored to be a part of God's Love We Deliver and I'm thrilled to know that over the past 29 years we have delivered an astonishing 15 million meals!" 

In a community that is no stranger to grief, the death of an ally like Rivers is hard for many. Her persona, her voice, her wit, the void she's left behind -- all larger than life. But as we always do in times of mourning, we have each other and the future to keep us going. 

About the author: Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez

Arts and Entertainment Section

Activism Section

  • Bedding Andrew

    Bedding Andrew

    Bob Leahy in an extended conversation with Toronto neg guy Andrew Morrison-Gurza about life with a disability, sex on wheels, his film “Bedding Andrew” and what he shares with people living with HIV
  • A bridge to nowhere

    A bridge to nowhere

    Michael Yoder on the Denver Principles and how people living with HIV are doing in relation to GIPA/MIPA and their “nothing about us without us” sentiments.
  • Remembering Joan Rivers, fierce and early voice against AIDS

    Remembering Joan Rivers, fierce and early voice against AIDS

    From TheBody.com comes this tribute to Joan Rivers' work with the HIV community that goes way back. “In a community that is no stranger to grief, the death of an ally like Rivers is hard for many.”

Current Affairs Section

Events Section

  • Rob Ford comes in last

    Rob Ford comes in last

    In a PositiveLite.com exclusive, Bob Leahy reports on the pig race that saw Rob Ford come in last this past weekend – right in his own rural community – not once but twice. A sign of things to come, he hopes.
  • The Crescent continues

    The Crescent continues

    What do you do when you’re an AIDS Service Organization and your funding isn’t renewed. You carry on! Here’s more of our continued coverage of how an organization like the UK’s The Crescent is doing just that. Iain Murtagh reports.
  • Throwing cold water on things

    Throwing cold water on things

    Ken Monteith comments on the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the lessons we can learn from it about fundraising for HIV-related causes.

Features and Interviews Section

Health Section

  • All-American Truvada family

    All-American Truvada family

    Another post from HIV Negative Spouses, a blog for HIV negative women that have HIV positive spouses and would like support around this issue comes this entry about the pros and cons of using Truvada as PrEP
  • Houston, we have an HIV PR problem!

    Houston, we have an HIV PR problem!

    Dave R says HIV education is ripe for an overhaul. Relying on 30 year old information, we’re bombarded with the moralising that goes with it. No wonder stigma exists. Negative LGBT folks are often poz folks worst critics. Why?
  • Smoking and HIV

    Smoking and HIV

    A UK perspective on smoking and HIV and why, if you smoke, you should probably think about quitting, from GMFA

International Section

  • Smoking and HIV

    Smoking and HIV

    A UK perspective on smoking and HIV and why, if you smoke, you should probably think about quitting, from GMFA
  • The bottom line

    The bottom line

    UNAIDS asks does the global HIV response understand anal sex?
  • Encouraging vaccine news

    Encouraging vaccine news

    From aidsmap.com, news of a vaccine that has managed to completely block infection with SIV, the monkey equivalent of HIV, in monkeys. This finding gives new hopes for the development of a vaccine which could prevent HIV infection.

Legal Section

Lifestyle Section

  • I am too dumb for a smartphone

    I am too dumb for a smartphone

    Wayne Bristow admits he didn’t read the fine print on his smartphone contract, and he made a bad purchase, but he likes the photographic capabilities it comes with
  • Sex in the City: Part I

    Sex in the City: Part I

    Guelph Ontario is a city of 120,000 people about 100 kilometers west of Toronto. What does the sex trade look like in small cities like this and what issues does it raise? Olivia Kijewski reports
  • The condom conundrum: what good are they anyway?

    The condom conundrum: what good are they anyway?

    Dave R: The accepted first line defence against HIV is the condom but are we being led to believe that it’s the only thing that will protect us? Just how efficient are condoms anyway, in the fight against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections?

Living with HIV Section

  • LTR

    LTR

    The UK’s Alex Sparrowhawk on what five years with HIV means to him. “HIV wasn’t the long term relationship I was looking for in 2009, but I fail to see how it’s been anything other than a successful one.”
  • Houston, we have an HIV PR problem!

    Houston, we have an HIV PR problem!

    Dave R says HIV education is ripe for an overhaul. Relying on 30 year old information, we’re bombarded with the moralising that goes with it. No wonder stigma exists. Negative LGBT folks are often poz folks worst critics. Why?
  • I am too dumb for a smartphone

    I am too dumb for a smartphone

    Wayne Bristow admits he didn’t read the fine print on his smartphone contract, and he made a bad purchase, but he likes the photographic capabilities it comes with

Media Section

Opinion Pieces Section

  • All-American Truvada family

    All-American Truvada family

    Another post from HIV Negative Spouses, a blog for HIV negative women that have HIV positive spouses and would like support around this issue comes this entry about the pros and cons of using Truvada as PrEP
  • LTR

    LTR

    The UK’s Alex Sparrowhawk on what five years with HIV means to him. “HIV wasn’t the long term relationship I was looking for in 2009, but I fail to see how it’s been anything other than a successful one.”
  • Bedding Andrew

    Bedding Andrew

    Bob Leahy in an extended conversation with Toronto neg guy Andrew Morrison-Gurza about life with a disability, sex on wheels, his film “Bedding Andrew” and what he shares with people living with HIV

Population Specific Section

  • All-American Truvada family

    All-American Truvada family

    Another post from HIV Negative Spouses, a blog for HIV negative women that have HIV positive spouses and would like support around this issue comes this entry about the pros and cons of using Truvada as PrEP
  • LTR

    LTR

    The UK’s Alex Sparrowhawk on what five years with HIV means to him. “HIV wasn’t the long term relationship I was looking for in 2009, but I fail to see how it’s been anything other than a successful one.”
  • Bedding Andrew

    Bedding Andrew

    Bob Leahy in an extended conversation with Toronto neg guy Andrew Morrison-Gurza about life with a disability, sex on wheels, his film “Bedding Andrew” and what he shares with people living with HIV

Sex and Sexuality Section

  • All-American Truvada family

    All-American Truvada family

    Another post from HIV Negative Spouses, a blog for HIV negative women that have HIV positive spouses and would like support around this issue comes this entry about the pros and cons of using Truvada as PrEP
  • Bedding Andrew

    Bedding Andrew

    Bob Leahy in an extended conversation with Toronto neg guy Andrew Morrison-Gurza about life with a disability, sex on wheels, his film “Bedding Andrew” and what he shares with people living with HIV
  • The bottom line

    The bottom line

    UNAIDS asks does the global HIV response understand anal sex?

MarketPlace