Daniel Driffin, a 30-year-old Atlanta-based HIV/AIDS activist, addressed the DNC today. His three-minute speech touched on the history of AIDS, Hillary Clinton’s advocacy regarding the epidemic (which she has a vast experience doing, brain farts aside), and most importantly, the current state of the epidemic, which disproportionately affects black and Latino gay and bisexual men.
At a certain point while preparing for my interview with the novelist, memoirist, and editor Edmund White, I had to ask myself: What could I possibly say about a certain segment of gay life that Edmund White hasn’t already said beautifully or unflinchingly? “What we desire is crucial to who we are,” he wrote in his 2009 memoir City Boy. “People also like to slur someone who’s very good-looking; beauties are often branded ‘sluts’ or ‘whores,’ though these words make little sense in a sexually permissive age. What, in fact, do they mean? That someone likes to have a lot of sex with a lot of people? What’s so bad about that?” he asked in the ‘Beauties’ entry in the original 1977 edition of The Joy of Gay Sex, which he edited. And then there’s this astounding paragraph from his 1980 travelogue about regional gay culture, States of Desire:
In an interview conducted at Nancy Reagan’s funeral today, Hillary Clinton recounted a version of history that didn’t happen, lauding the former first lady’s “low key advocacy” for the cause of HIV/AIDS awareness. “Low key” is one way of putting it. In fact, the Reagan White House is infamous for its lengthy, deadly silence on the epidemic.
Last night, the National Geographic Channel kicked off its six-episode series Generation X, an uncommonly sharp talking-head recap show that explores various cultural events and phenomena that helped shape the generation after the Baby Boomers. The War on Drugs, specifically how it targeted crack in the ‘80s and was made tangible in the “Just Say No” campaign, was among the topics on last night’s premiere. The segment featured commentary from Senator Cory Booker, journalist Alison Stewart, and none other than Sarah Palin, who pointed out the impracticality of the campaign spearheaded by Nancy Reagan:
There is an infamous discussion from 1982 between Ronald Reagan’s press secretary Larry Speakes and reporter Lester Kinsolving in the White House briefing room about the then-oncoming AIDS crisis, in which Speakes cackles derisively when Kinsolving asks if the Reagan administration was taking any steps to address the disease. Now, over at Vanity Fair, you can listen to that exchange, and several others that highlight the mindset of a president who is widely agreed to have miserably failed those stricken with the disease.
North Korea, famed for its unicorns and its non-Photoshopped, totally real missiles, has done it again. The DPRK’s extremely reliable state-run media agency reports that homegrown scientists have found the cure for HIV, various cancers, heart disease, impotence, bad skin, Ebola ... everything, really. Turns out the cure was fertilizer all along. Why didn’t actual scientists think of that?
According to the Center for Disease Control, blacks account for almost 50 percent of all new HIV infections among adults and children in the U.S. It is a staggering statistic when you consider blacks represent less than 13 percent of the entire population. Globally, living with HIV and AIDS is a debilitating reality for 35 million people, and an everyday existence for someone you possibly know and love. But the face of the disease today—predominantly black men and women, and "men who like to have sex with men"—has become a matter discussed with less frequency. With that in mind, director Hannelore Williams set out to present a fuller, more vibrant picture of the epidemic thirty years since the virus was first identified.
For the first time ever, researchers have successfully eliminated HIV from infected human cells. "This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS," said Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple University, where the discovery was made.
Six prominent AIDS researchers and activists, all flying on the Malaysia Airlines plane that was gunned down over Ukraine, were honored and memorialized at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne on Sunday, the AP reports. The researchers were en route to Australia when the plane was shot down.
In 2014, a story about AIDS in San Francisco in 1985 is as relevant as ever. Though it shares subject matter, Chris Mason Johnson's Test is the virtual antithesis of Ryan Murphy and Larry Kramer's survey of the early plague years, The Normal Heart, which aired last month on HBO. Test is smaller in scale, more intimate, virtually free of melodrama, and features characters whose relationship to AIDS is not that they are dying from it, but that they are living in fear of it.
An insane half-hour interview transpired recently when rapper Charles Hamilton walked by a spot on Harlem's 125th Street where someone was filming for the YouTube channel SaNeter.TV. Hamilton was apparently flagged down and had a lot to say about Sonic the Hedgehog, Interscope president Jimmy Iovine, Kanye West, Drake, and homosexuality.
"Did you know that it was an openly gay Englishman who's responsible for winning World War II?" asks Mark Ruffalo's Ned Weeks during one of many emotional high points in Ryan Murphy's HBO movie adaptation of The Normal Heart. "His name's Alan Turing and he cracked the Germans' Enigma code. After the war was over, he committed suicide because he was so haunted for being gay. Why don't they teach any of that in schools? A gay man is responsible for winning World War II. If they did maybe he wouldn't have killed himself and you wouldn't be so terrified of who you are."
It’s easy to take for granted how far gay-straight relations have come in the past 30 years. It’s so easy, in fact, that David Carr published a piece in the New York Times last week wondering “What if Gawker tried to out an anchor at Fox News and no one cared?”—the implication being that the culture had "moved on" from caring about someone's sexual orientation.
It's just a coincidence that LGBT History Month occurs during our culturally appointed Scariest Time of the Year—it’s positioned to coincide with National Coming Out Day (October 11) and to commemorate the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which took place October 14, 1979, not with All Hallow's Eve.