Tag Archive | "hiv/aids"

What’s Your Status? Today is National HIV Testing Day!

HIV. There is no way to sugarcoat reality. It is important to know your status and to get tested regularly. Luckily, today is the 19th annual National HIV Testing Day and there is no better time to get tested. The CDC currently estimates that 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV. Sadly, 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it. Do you know your status?

According to Doctor Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, “Every time someone gets tested for HIV, we are one step closer to ending the AIDS epidemic. Learning your HIV status opens the door to powerful HIV prevention and treatment options that could save your life or the life of someone you love.”

“If more Americans were tested as recommended, we could prevent thousands of needless HIV infections and deaths. National HIV Testing Day serves as a reminder to take a stand against one of the key issues driving this epidemic — not knowing your HIV status,” Mermin reiterated.

Also helping with the fight against HIV/AIDS is OraQuick. OraQuick is the first FDA-approved at-home test for HIV-1 and HIV-2. The test is painless and you get the results in 20 minutes. Plus, you can test in the privacy of your home. To find OraQuick in a store near you, click here.

No matter how you test it is important that you know your results. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “The Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] has already expanded access to free HIV screening for many people.”

However, according to Georgia Equality, “Sequestration and other budget cuts already have resulted in cuts of $375 million from the federal government’s response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic.” So what does this mean for Georgia programs that our community relies on? “We can predict that cuts to HIV prevention will lead to fewer HIV testing and outreach efforts which will lead to increased infections.”

It is because of such cuts that free testing programs, like those at Pride Medical, are so incredibly important. Take advantage of this valuable resource while it is still free.

“Take the Test and Take Control.”

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Three Decades of AID Atlanta

It was 1982. Ronald Regan presided over the country. Walt Disney World opened the doors to its Epcot theme park, “Tootsie” hit the big screen, Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” played over the airwaves, and Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller” dropped.

It was also the year scientists renamed the disease once known as gay cancer and GRID (Gay Related Immuno Deficiency) as AIDS. In response to the crippling epidemic spreading across America, a group of friends founded AID Atlanta that same year in the hopes of raising awareness of the vicious disease.

Thirty years later, the organization remains and it is stronger than ever before. We had the opportunity to talk with Tracy Elliot, who resigned as executive director of AID Atlanta on June 18, about the organization’s past, present and future.

Fenuxe: How has working with AID Atlanta personally affected you?
Tracy: It made me much more dedicated to the elimination of HIV and AIDS through prevention and ultimately—I hope—a vaccine and a cure.

Fenuxe: What factors do you think have contributed to the longevity of AID Atlanta?
Tracy: Pure perseverance in the face of whatever challenges have come up. The people who founded and the people who have kept this place going for 30 years have simply just been tougher than all the problems they have faced.

Fenuxe: How many people keep AID Atlanta going?
Tracy: It is literally in the thousands. You have the staff members who are unbelievably dedicated and talented, the development department which keeps the money coming in, and the donors who provide us with the resources to do our work; they are all just fundamental to the success of this place. All the people who march in the AIDS Walk, the people involved in Cotillion, the members of our Loop and Red Ribbon societies, they are also all fundamental to our success.

Fenuxe: What accomplishment with AID Atlanta makes you most proud?
Tracy: Unifying the staff. When I arrived the departments were very divided—the staff was not a unified whole. We weren’t a single garment, and we have since become a single garment organization. I am very proud of the fact that we have made huge strides to become that single garment Martin Luther King spoke so eloquently about.

Fenuxe: What challenges does the organization face?
Tracy: Finding the financial resources to do everything we know needs to be done is the biggest challenge. The other is the indifference of society toward HIV/AIDS.

Fenuxe: What’s in the future for AID Atlanta?
Tracy: The goal is to be more deeply embedded in the community and be deployed in more places where HIV/AIDS is raging. Building our financial stability is important. At the end of the day, what we want to do is go out of business because we want AIDS to be gone.

Fenuxe: If there were a cure for AIDS tomorrow, what would happen to AID Atlanta?
Tracy: I think it depends on how it ended. If there’s a cure but not a vaccine, we would become a prevention agency. If there’s a vaccine but not a cure, we’d become an agency that primarily serves people who are infected and help them navigate their way through the system.

Fenuxe: What are your thoughts on AID Atlanta turning 30?
Tracy: I’m very proud to be here while it’s turning 30. I’m proud I have been part of its life for five years. I’m proud we’ve been able to survive through the roughest economic environment in the history of the agency. We survived and are thriving.

Mark Your Calendar:

  • Atlanta Cotillion XI, September 15
  • AIDS Walk Atlanta & 5K Run, October 21
  • Candlelight Vigil, Piedmont Park, December 1

Did You Know:
In 2011 AID Atlanta provided 65,833 HIV management/care coordination services, 5,715 direct care medical services, and 79,735 HIV prevention and testing services.

For more information, please visit AidAtlanta.org.

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Real Men Communicate About Sex

SEX! Did we see your eyes light up with excitement? Safe sex! And the spark dims. Sure, talking about protection and HIV status sometimes kills the mood, but shouldn’t it always factor into sexual encounters?

Both Chandler Bearden of Positive Impact and Steven Igarashi of AID Atlanta think so. After compiling data from the 2012 Fenuxe Sex Survey, we asked the two gentlemen to share their thoughts on some of the results.

Fenuxe: Almost 20 percent of the survey takers are in open relationships.
Chandler: The CDC has released data stating that 40 percent of new HIV infections are from partners of relationships in which there was sex occurring outside of the relationship. You never know what your partner is doing. Sometimes decisions get made while under the influence of alcohol (or hormones for that matter). People get caught up in the heat of the moment and don’t necessarily make the wisest decisions. A lot of people associate getting an infection with being promiscuous or being unsafe. They don’t really think they could possibly get this from their partner.

Fenuxe: About 75 percent of respondents admit to having unprotected sex with a monogamous partner, while 23 percent admit to having unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners.
Steven: It’s human nature to desire intimacy, and that intimacy is often sought in skin-to-skin contact with our partners. At the very least, for many, using a condom can feel cold and sterile. My concern, however, is more for that 23 percent. Engaging in unprotected sexual activity with multiple partners with no discussion about HIV status or protection is the riskiest of behaviors.

Fenuxe: Forty-four percent of respondents never ask someone’s HIV status.
Chandler: Since it is a law in Georgia that you have to disclose your HIV status I think a lot of people just assume that’s going to happen. There’s basically just a lack of communication and disclosure.
Steven: I often say that if you’re comfortable enough to be naked with someone, you should be comfortable enough to talk to them. The biggest issue in our society is people not knowing their status; one in five people infected with HIV are unaware of their status. In Georgia, we are number six in the nation for new HIV infections, and 60 percent of those infections are concentrated in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Gwinnett. We cannot pretend that we are not affected by this. This is everyone’s problem.

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South American Star Reaches the Masses Through His Voice and Actions


Dino Thompson-Sarmiento, Fenuxe Contributor

Latin singing sensation Andres Cuervo has eagerly embraced the HIV/AIDS cause and developed a campaign in the U.S. called “Pay It For-Red”―named after the iconic red ribbon―to fight the disease by motivating folks to get tested. His foundation, “Saber Amar” (Know How to Love), is in full force promoting awareness and raising funds for organizations already in place across America.

Andres debuts his national campaign in Atlanta on May 31 at 6 p.m. at the Wimbish House. Funds raised will benefit Positive Impact, whose mission is to eliminate the risk of HIV transmission and to empower those affected through culturally competent and inclusive prevention, education, mental health and substance abuse treatment services.

Andres graciously sat down with us to discuss his visit to Atlanta and his passions, both professional and personal.

Dino: Andres, thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us. Where are you from and where do you live?
Andres: Hello, Dino and Fenuxe readers. I am from Barranquilla, Colombia, and now live in Miami.

Dino: Tell us a little bit about your career.
Andres: When I first came to the States to chase my dreams of becoming a singer, I made ends meet through modeling. Eventually, after hard work and persistence, my first album was produced in 2007 with the help of the famous music producer Rudy Perez. My first album was a success and included two number one hits. My new album, “Este Soy Yo” (This Is Me), is a reflection of who I am.

Dino: Tell me about the Saber Amar Foundation. What has driven you to take on such a huge project?
Andres: It was crucial to my existence to establish this not-for-profit. I realized that anyone can make a difference. One doesn’t have to be a multi-millionaire to make an impact. I began this foundation to give back to the universe, to give back to the world I love. Right now my number one mission within Saber Amar is to get folks tested for HIV/AIDS. There is a lot of work to be done, especially within the Latino community. Together we can break down the barriers and begin to help those in need. Saber Amar embraces many causes and is culturally diverse. I have also written the “Saber Amar” single to help bring light to these important causes. The song is not what you expect for a charity; it is a dance song meant to make you feel good, make you feel beautiful and connected to the world around you. We are in the midst of creating the music video, and I will be performing it live in Atlanta.

Dino: Extraordinary ambitions, Andres. I applaud your determination. I also understand that the celebrity world has begun to support Saber Amar and join forces with you.
Andres: Yes, this is true … from Latina super star Lucia Mendez to singers and actresses Edith Marquez and Laura Leon to Univision star Pablo Azar. The support has been overwhelming, and it continues to grow. Each talent is helping to bring light to these causes to their fan bases, so our ability to make change increases dramatically.

Dino: Where can Fenuxe readers learn more about you and Saber Amar and listen to your music?
Andres: They can visit my website at www.andrescuervo.com. There they can find links to both Saber Amar and iTunes for my music. There are several remixes to choose from by DJ Manny Lehman, Ocelot, Klubjumpers, Dark Horse and Billionaire.

Dino: I heard that there is a clothing line associated with you, too.
Andres: There is. Together with impresario Richard Coles we have developed an Urban Elegant clothing line. It is a unique look that has tremendous appeal by combining a touch of class to everyday wear. There is also a masculine perfume being introduced. The beauty of these projects is that they are the seeds helping to grow my foundation so that I can continue to help our world through Saber Amar.

Dino: Thank you, Andres. I urge our readers not miss this fantastic event on Thursday, May 31, at the Wimbish House on Peachtree Street. Libations sponsored by Cuervo Tequila and BV Wines, bites by Food Network reality star Chef Alexis Hernandez and Andres Cuervo singing live. All for $10, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Positive Impact Atlanta.

Buy your tickets at http://www.xorbia.com/e/pi/AndresCuervo/

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Google Honors Late Gay Artist Today

Ryan Lee, Associate Writer: News & Current Events

Google’s daily doodle is dedicated to famed pop artist Keith Haring, who would have turned 54 Friday.

Haring, who was gay, created the iconic bubble figures that have been widely reproduced since his death in 1990. The artist’s work is closely associated with the AIDS epidemic, as Haring partnered with numerous AIDS agencies to help bring attention to the disease.

Haring died in 1990 at age 31, embodying how the epidemic wiped out a generation in its prime. However, his work has helped his spirit become immortal.

Happy Birthday, Keith Haring!

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Time to Take One Giant Step Toward a Cure for AIDS

Ryan Lee, Associate Writer: News & Current Events

As devastating and depressing as the AIDS epidemic has been, few events are more uplifting and hopeful as when thousands of people from all walks of life descend on Piedmont Park for the annual AIDS Walk.

Registration for this year’s event, which takes place Oct. 21, is now open, with a $10 fee for walkers and $30 for runners; although those are the minimum donations and participants are encouraged to raise more. Folks can register as individuals, or create a team to make a unified contribution with their friends, co-workers or neighbors.

For those who live outside of Georgia or won’t be able to attend the AIDS Walk, there is also a “virtual walker” option that allows you to donate whatever you can to a worthy cause.

Last year, AIDS Walk raised $1 million for AID Atlanta and eight other local AIDS non-profits, and has helped save countless lives in the more than two decades that it has taken place. Organizers are hoping to reach another $1 million for AIDS Walk this year, and have raised more than $4,000 in the first 24 hours of open registration.<\font>

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‘Standing’ Up to HIV/AIDS: New Campaign Seeks to Empower ATL’s Black Gay Youth

Ryan Lee, Associate Writer: News & Current Events

AID Atlanta debuted an ambitious new social marketing campaign this weekend, seeking to affirm black gay youth while encouraging them to take ownership of their sexual health.

The “From Where I Stand” effort is months in the making, and includes several components: a website, coffee table book, a documentary and billboard advertisements. The organizers and participants in “From Where I Stand” celebrated the new project at a launch party Friday evening, and soon the uplifting images will be seen across Atlanta.

The scenes in the campaign feature young African-American gay men as artistic, loving, fashionable and as part of a larger community. They capture the modern vibrancy of black gay life without the gloom that often comes with AIDS prevention messages.

Given the often static and sanitized nature of HIV/AIDS prevention, it’s wonderful to see AID Atlanta boldly portray the black gay experience – including intimacy and fellowship – in such an uplifting light.

It’s also inspiring to know that Atlanta AIDS activists such as project creator Charles Stephens are coming up with branded strategies that have the potential to change the way people look at HIV/AIDS.

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White House ‘Elevates’ Discussion of HIV/AID Among Gays to a Presidential Level

Ryan Lee, Associate Writer: News & Current Events
With its panels of scientists and community health workers, its discontent with the vigor and focus of the fight against a deadly disease, and even with its boxed lunches, Thursday’s White House LGBT Conference on HIV/AIDS couldn’t help but feel like most other such conferences that have taken place in the 31-year history of the disease.

However, yesterday’s conference at the Morehouse School of Medicine signaled that the discussion about gay America’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is taking place at a presidential level.

“Certainly, I think one of the very significant things about it is that this is sponsored by the White House,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. “The fact that the White House is the sponsoring organization and that the White House has pulled this together really allows us to elevate these issues, many of which we’ve been talking about for years if not decades, to the highest level of leadership here in the country.”

On hand at the conference was the White House’s newly installed AIDS czar, Grant Colfax, as well as Kevin Fenton, head of the CDC’s anti-AIDS efforts.
While Thursday’s event didn’t reveal new data or strategy, Emory University researcher David Malebranche warned attendees of expecting to get solutions to the AIDS crisis at a conference.

“I don’t come to conferences like these for answers, and I hope you’re not looking to me for the answers, because I may not have them for you,” Malebranche said during his lunchtime presentation. “People have come from all over the country to this session today, and a lot of people I hear complaining at conferences, saying, ‘We talk about a lot of stuff and then there’s no solutions. Where’s the solution?’ And I’m like, ‘Why don’t you look at yourself, and why don’t you go back home and figure out what the solution is. And take what the sharing was, that happened at this conference, and bring that energy with you back. The conference isn’t always supposed to give you the answers.

“It’s in you, it’s within ourselves,” he added. “We’ve been so traumatized to think that we don’t know the answers, that we have to wait on the CDC to give us money, that we have to wait on the [National Institutes of Health], that we’re waiting for someone to hand us something, or give us an idea, or tell us what the [silence] to do, and they’re not going to. So we have to look at it within ourselves.”

AIDS conferences like the one on Thursday often highlight how forces such homophobia, racism, classism and sexism contribute to higher infection rates among gays and people of color. Malebranche urged AIDS activists to think beyond how various minority statuses burden a person, and form prevention and care strategies that use minority status to affirm positive decisions.

“What a powerful group we are, LGBT folks in America,” Malebranche said. “But until we actually embrace our intersectionality, we can’t embrace that power. Intersectionality should be about what’s good: What’s good about being a black, lesbian Christian who lives in [Southwest Atlanta]; What’s good about being a white, transgender female-to-male who is of Irish descent and lives on the Upper East Side of New York? What’s good about the Korean same-gender-loving man who works for the government and has tremendous family support after he came out? What’s good about all of our identities being together, instead of saying, ‘Oh these are all social identities that oppress us all the time.’ And how can we package that into an intervention? How can we package that into meaningful dialogue? How can we package that into social marketing and media that will make a sustained impact on people?”

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Coming to a Gay Restroom Near You!

Ryan Lee, Associate Writer: News & Current Events

A diva is about to attempt a comeback in Atlanta’s gay social scene, as Positive Impact’s M.I.S.T.E.R. project prepares to install free condom dispensers in gay bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

A ubiquitous presence in gay establishments during the late 1980s and ’90s, bowls of condoms have gone the way of parachute pants and glow-in-the-dark club jewelry. But with HIV/AIDS rates inching up in recent years, the folks at M.I.S.T.E.R. hope that latex and safer sex can again become a casual as grabbing peppermints on the way out of a restaurant.

“I think we’ve lost a lot of the visibility of safer sex,” said Chandler Bearden, community outreach coordinator for M.I.S.T.E.R. “It’s kind of fallen to the wayside. People don’t really talk about it, people don’t really think about it because it’s out of sight, out of mind.

“Maybe if we get these back out, get it visible and get the message in peoples’ heads, maybe they’ll start thinking about it a little more,” he said.

“Most gay clubs used to actually have bowls of condoms out and it got to be too cost-prohibitive because people were just grabbing handfuls, and handfuls and handfuls of condoms, and the bars constantly had to put them in there,” Bearden added. “So we came up with this idea. It’s a single dispenser, so if somebody’s going to steal a whole bunch, they’re going to have to stand there awhile.”

Bearden has been pitching the dispensers to gay bar and restaurant owners, and plans to start installing them in the next few weeks.

“We have a very limited staff for doing outreach, so trying to get to every single bar – with 20 establishments every weekend, and we only have two actual staff outreach people – it’s impossible for us to get everywhere,” he said. “So if we can get the message out in a non-intimidating manner where people can actually choose to take the condoms if they want to, we can also let people know what other services we offer at M.I.S.T.E.R, like free HIV testing, free STD screening, and we even offer sex coaching and all kinds of stuff.”

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Activists laud Obama’s pick to lead AIDS Office

Ryan Lee, Associate Writer: News & Current Events

President Barack Obama looked to the front lines of the domestic AIDS epidemic when selecting a new director for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, tapping a San Francisco doctor who has worked in the department of public health while maintaining his role as a physician in the country’s first HIV/AIDS specialized clinic.

Dr. Grant Colfax, the former director of the HIV prevention section at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, will now lead efforts to implement Obama’s national strategic plan to reduce HIV infections.

“Grant Colfax will lead my Administration’s continued progress in providing care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS,” Obama said in a prepared statement. “Grant’s expertise will be key as we continue to face serious challenges and take bold steps to meet them. I look forward to his leadership in the months and years to come.”

Colfax’s roots in the field as a primary care provider and public health worker contrast to the expertise of his predecessor in the White House AIDS office, Jeffrey Crowley, who came from a research and epidemiology background.

“Colfax, while he’s a scientist, works in an AIDS clinic and services clients,” said Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta.

“These are two things that he brings to the table that his predecessor didn’t.”

Other AIDS activists were also encouraged by Obama’s appointment of someone with hands-on experience in the epidemic.

“His unique blend of experience serving on the front lines of the epidemic, implementing the national strategy at the local level, working as a direct service provider within the Ryan White CARE system, and conducting cutting-edge research makes him the right person at the right time to lead the Obama administration’s efforts to end HIV/AIDS in the United States,’ said Neil Giuliano, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Colfax will be tasked with implementing Obama’s national AIDS strategy, which was developed in 2010 and represents the first comprehensive effort to combat AIDS by a White House administration in the 30-year history of the disease.

“It was a promise Obama made during his campaign, and it was a promise delivered,” said Elliott from AID Atlanta. “And they did it based on input from the community. I think they’ve really been responsive to the community in terms of how to fight the disease.”

While President George W. Bush concentrated most of his anti-AIDS efforts on the global epidemic (some say to avoid the tricky politics that are attached to HIV/AIDS in the U.S.), activists laud Obama for drawing more attention to the struggle to reduce HIV/AIDS domestically. In addition to developing a national AIDS strategy, Obama has also protected domestic AIDS agencies from draconian cuts that would have curtailed service, treatment and prevention efforts.

“I’m not sure he would have been able to do that if he was not as attuned to these issues as he has been,” Elliott said of Obama.

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