News Round-Up: December 2, 2020

Bremen Menelli (via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: Bremen Menelli (above) proves that being fully clothed can be sexy, too. Follow him on Instagram here.

OUT: Noted lesbian-centric website AfterEllen, which has become a bastion for TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), has disappeared from the interwebs.

White House: In the final World AIDS Day proclamation of his presidency, Donald Trump made no mention of the disease’s impact on LGBTQ people who make up 69% of all HIV cases in the U.S.

Washington Blade: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany falsely said Wednesday that Donald Trump was the first to adorn the White House with a red ribbon commemorating World AIDS Day, dodging a question from the Washington Blade on why he omitted any reference to LGBTQ people from his proclamation. Both former President Obama and former President George W. Bush hung red ribbons on the White House during their administrations to mark World AIDS Day.

• Washington Post: 69-year-old Craig Buescher was in good health and believed the virus wouldn’t be that bad if he came down with it. While he doesn’t know how he ultimately contracted the virus, it was, in fact, quite bad. Nine days in the hospital, as he struggled to breathe, convinced him that not only did he need to be more careful to avoid the virus, but also that he should persuade others to do the same.

Politico: Donald Trump’s own Attorney General, William Barr, has publicly affirmed that there was no evidence of large-scale fraud during this year’s election. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr said, according to the AP.

New York Times: Donald Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law, and to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week.

Instinct Magazine: After fifteen years and over one hundred Real Housewives, the city that started it all has given the franchise their first out lesbian Housewife. Real Housewives of Orange County Braunwyn Windham-Burke has come out as a lesbian, proclaiming proudly “it feels so good to be living my truth.”

Podcast: World AIDS Day 2020

World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day, observed for the first time in 1988.

Held on the 1st day of December each year, it is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have died.

Being diagnosed with HIV today means something very different than it did 20 or 30 years ago. HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, people’s attitudes can make living with HIV really difficult.

Some things from the 1980s and 1990s are worth revisiting, but HIV stigma isn’t one of them. It’s time to end HIV stigma.

During this episode of The Randy Report, I take a look into the history of the day, how the world looks at the ongoing epidemic, and where we are today in terms of treatment.

What is on the horizon in terms of HIV treatment? Check out these links to find out more:

www.WorldAIDSDay.org

www.HelpStopTheVirus.com

And if you’re at a loss for what to do to be a part of this World AIDS Day, I suggest a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which has been at the forefront of the epidemic since the mid-80s.

Take a listen, and feel free to share this show. Together we can make a difference.

Streaming Event: World AIDS Day 2020 – A National Conversation

Announcing the 2020 World AIDS Day National Conversation

Announcing the 2020 World AIDS Day National Conversation

2020 marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States, a pandemic that has led to nearly 700,000 lives lost and still no cure four decades later. This year, our nation struggles through another pandemic – the fight against Covid-19 – where the horrific loss of life has surpassed 250,000 in a matter of months.

World AIDS Day 2020 – A National Conversation will be presented virtually on December 1, 2020 beginning at 10 am PST at www.aidsmemorial.org or at www.youtube.com/aidsmemorial. The event is free to the public and will be available for viewing on the same websites after the initial broadcast for those who can’t join live.

Through a distinguished list of guest speakers, video storytelling, and musical tributes, the forum allows people to come together and honor the lives lost, the survivors, the activism and the heroes from over the span of four decades and two horrific pandemics.

Award-winning actor and long-time AIDS advocate, Judith Light, will host the day’s commemoration event that will feature Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and David D. Ho, M.D., Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University. They will be honored with the memorial’s National Leadership Recognition Award.

Mayors from cities that have been on the frontlines of both pandemics will lead a conversation on the impact the two pandemics have had on marginalized communities and how HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 have disproportionately affected communities of color and the systemic barriers that compound poor health outcomes.

Activists who have helped spark change and movements will lead a conversation about activism during both pandemics and the ongoing struggle for social justice.

During the event, the National AIDS Memorial will officially unveil the first-ever virtual exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on its website that features nearly 10,000 Quilt panels representing all 50 states and U.S. territories, using the power and beauty of the Quilt to help the nation heal during these difficult times.

The program will conclude with the traditional Reading of Names of newly engraved names at the memorial of loved ones lost to AIDS and those who loved them.

(via press release)

News Round-Up: December 2, 2019

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: Woofy Wes Dupree (above) answers the eternal Sondheimian question “Does anyone still wear a hat?”

The Atlantic: John McWhorter does a better job expressing what I tried to say last week about that Pete Buttigieg ‘Lying MF’ hit piece essay.

• NY Post: A woman in Brazil was sentenced to 25 years in prison for stabbing her gay son to death after the hitmen she hired didn’t get it done.

• Tweet of the Day: Paul Rudnick re-captions this photo from the White House in perfect form.

White House: For the third year in a row, Donald Trump did not mention LGBTQ people in his World AIDS Day proclamation. It goes without saying that, while not a ‘gay’ disease, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects LGBTQ people.

The Hill: Donald Trump loves to nickname his political opponents and he’s decided the latest entrant in the Democratic primary will be called “Mini Mike Bloomberg.” For the record, Bloomberg is 5’8″ tall.

Esquire: Still handsome, confident and charming at 82, Billy Dee Williams comes out as gender fluid in a new interview. Williams returns to the role of ‘Lando Calrissian’ in the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Christmas Music: From the “required-listening” classic holiday album,  Barbra Streisand – A Christmas Album (1967).

Podcast: Pete Buttigieg, Palo Alto Police Brutality, Gay Panic Defense, World AIDS Day

In this episode of The Randy Report - France bans conversion therapy, Florida Republicans push "Don't Say Gay" bill, bad news for Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Rippon has good news, and the award-winning Western short film STEAM! premieres on Revry.

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

In this week’s podcast:

• A journalist wrote a scathing piece about Mayor Pete Buttigieg and the mayor called his critic to listen

• NYC sees a significant drop in new HIV infections

• A Palo Alto police brutality case reaches a settlement

• The gay panic defense could be bye-bye in New Jersey

• Kasey Musgraves has a new ‘tres gay’ Christmas special on Amazon Prime

• Award-winning out singer Matt Zarley drops his take on the holiday classic, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

* Observing World AIDS Day this year

Link to Mark King’s essay – Link to JoeMyGod’s essay

World AIDS Day: Don’t Forget To Dance – Because We Can

World AIDS Day 2019.

Yes, we still do this.

Someday, I believe we won’t have to, but even then we will continue the tradition. Because it’s important to remember.

One day, when the virus is gone, the world will still need to know this ‘thing’ happened. That millions of people died.

They didn’t have ‘a bad day.’ They suffered and died.

Some folks stood up; some became complicit through their silence.

We tell young people today “it gets better.” And, it does.

That phrase today is associated with bullying and self-acceptance. But in the 1980s and 90s, the ‘better’ we needed seemed far, far away.

And an uplifting mantra repeated at our reflections in a mirror didn’t solve the problem.

I can remember a couple of firsts when that ‘problem’ collided with my life on a first-person basis.

In December 1986, on the road with the national touring company of CATS (my first big job as an actor), we’d been told Tom Michael Reed, the show’s dance supervisor who had put our company together, had become ill.

No more information than that was offered. We didn’t need it. We knew.

We would see Tom one more time, in the Spring of 1987 in Baltimore, Maryland.

A few months later, while the tour was in Kansas City, the company was called out into the hallway backstage after a performance. We were told Tom had passed.

I remember grabbing my best friend as we burst into tears. My journey to CATS had been a long rollercoaster ride, and Tom had taken a chance on 22-year-old me.

In that moment, I realized how much someone’s belief in me could hold so much gravity.

A few years later, I met an impossibly handsome and talented actor in NYC who, for reasons I could not fully understand, looked at me in a way that made me like myself more.

On what would be our first date, sitting at a diner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he paused and then said, “I have to tell you something – I’m HIV positive.”

I took a breath and somehow, from somewhere in my 20-something body/mind/spirit, replied, “Well, you’ll have to help me with that.”

He smiled. I smiled. And we went on with our date.

Happily, he’s still a very good friend today with whom I know we have our own special connection.

And life went on beyond the barricades.

Each year, I make a point to read a couple of essays by writers much more talented than myself. They share these collections of words that capture a time now in the rearview mirror.

Even when moving forward, it’s important to check in on the past.

Writer Mark King was honored by the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association for a post he originally penned in 2007 about the courage he was forced to summon at a time when folks were holding to the ground as the ground kept shifting.

Here’s just a bit:

There is compassion here, enough for all the world’s deities and saints acting in concert. Infinite compassion for men who lived in fear and checked every spot when they showered for Kaposi sarcoma, and for disowned sons wasting away in the guest room of whoever had the space. But we get older, and friends don’t ask us to hold their hand when they stop breathing, and the fear fades, and I bought new leather loafers and the White Party is coming.

The truth is simply this, and no one will convince me otherwise: My most courageous self, the best man that I’ll ever be, lived more than two decades ago during the first years of a horrific plague.

He worked relentlessly alongside a million others who had no choice but to act. He secretly prayed to survive, even above the lives of others, and his horrible prayer was answered with the death of nearly everyone close to him.

To say I miss that brutal decade would only be partially true. I miss the man I was forced to become, when an entire community abandoned tea dances for town hall meetings, when I learned to offer help to those facing what terrified me most.

Today, the lives of those of us who witnessed the horror have become relatively normal again, perhaps mundane. We prefer it. We have new lives in a world that isn’t choking on disease.

But once, there was a time when we were heroes.

The other piece I’d like you to read is from Joe Jervis of JoeMyGod.

Each year, Joe shares his essay “Membership,” originally written in 2004.

The post chronicles a chapter in his life from 1985 when he and his friends suddenly joined a “new and modern group” of people who were forced to grieve much earlier than they should have.

For more than 30 years now, World AIDS Day has encouraged us to observe and remember. But we also celebrate this place and time when medications keep people alive with fewer and fewer complications.

And, for a huge number of people in treatment, viral loads can become undetectable. And undetectable = untransmittable.

New York City recently reported new diagnoses of HIV have hit a 17-year low. And generic drug manufacturer Cipla has announced a new drug for treating children with HIV, Quadrimune, that can be mixed with milk or sprinkled on baby cereal that has an estimated cost of $1 a day.

Those are good things.

We are still here. Tomorrow will come, the horizon will still loom in the distance, even as we check the rearview mirror out of the corner of our eye.

So, remember.

And, please don’t ever forget to dance. Because we can.

p.s. know your status

World AIDS Day 2019: Attention Must Be Paid

December 1 is recognized around the globe as World AIDS Day

December 1 is recognized around the globe as World AIDS Day

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr

Every year as World AIDS Day approaches, I struggle with what to write about a subject so deeply woven into the fabric of our community, but this year the story was unfortunately clear.

Three decades after “the first-ever world health day” was declared by the World Health Organization as “an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV; show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died,” World AIDS Day is largely forgotten.

In New York City, the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, home of GMHC, BroadwayCares/EquityFightsAIDS, ACTUP, and openly HIV-positive City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the Empire State Building won’t be lit red in recognition again this year.

The last time was in 2015 when I noticed World AIDS Day wasn’t on the lighting schedule and submitted the request as a private New Yorker living with HIV/AIDS.  (Requests are usually made by a major organization/corporation.)  When I made the same request the following year, it was denied even though nothing else was scheduled. The Empire State Building hasn’t recognized World AIDS Day since.

Empire State Building

World AIDS Day isn’t important enough to get the attention of mainstream media. It even goes largely ignored by our own LGBTQ media. The argument is, HIV/AIDS is not a “serious” problem, but the facts* are:

  • 9 million people across the globe with HIV/AIDS in 2018.
  • 2 million were adults and 1.7 million were children
  • 7 million were newly infected
  • 770,000 died

And there is still no cure and no vaccine.

What they’re really saying is HIV/AIDS isn’t killing enough people anymore; it’s not the “disease of the month;” and/or it won’t get enough “clicks” for their advertisers. Here are the results of that attitude and the stories not getting told.

Current retroviral medications that are allowing people like me to live healthy full lives and PrEP – which is helping prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS – are lifesaving, but only if you have access to them.

Many people in our community, especially people of color, don’t have the same access to treatment let alone afford the medication’s $1800/month price tag.  Moreover, only 79% of people with HIV know their status.  The 21% who don’t is due in great part to a lack of access to testing.

A recent article on The Randy Report published the data from a study on the attitudes and behaviors of the youngest generations towards people with HIV and the results were horrifying.

  • 28% of HIV-negative millennials said they have avoided hugging or interacting with HIV-positive people.
  • 41% of Gen Z respondents were either somewhat informed or not at all informed about HIV, compared to 23% of millennials.

*via HIV.gov 

Even in our own community, there is a shocking lack of knowledge about HIV transmission which has fostered a campaign to educate, “Undetectable = Untransmittable.” Still, the stigma of HIV/AIDS continues, not so much out of fear as before but out of sheer ignorance.

At the other end of the spectrum are the long-term survivors of the AIDS epidemic which even fewer are talking about.  I know many with severe health issues caused by the ravages of early drug treatments like AZT which are only now catching up with them.  Coupled with growing older in a Community obsessed with youth who are oblivious to the basic facts of HIV/AIDS, it’s yet another bitter pill to swallow.

Finally, an original purpose of World AIDS Day was to commemorate those lost in the plague, and those people still deserve to be remembered especially by our Community.  The health care providers, researchers, activists, fundraisers, caregivers who fought for them (and continue to fight) expect nothing less.

If we don’t care about their lives who will?  Their stories are part of Our Story.

World AIDS Day – attention must be paid because lives depend on it.

Mike Pence’s World AIDS Day Speech Filled With Misinformation, No Mention Of LGBTQ Community

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at World AIDS Day event at White House

In advance of the 30th observance of World AIDS Day (December 1), Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a White House event where he boasted of the current administration’s ‘accomplishments’ on HIV/AIDS.

Since 1988, December 1 has been acknowledged as a day dedicated to raising aware of the AIDS pandemic that has claimed more than 35 million lives worldwide.

Pence’s speech was filled with wild inaccuracies as he attempted to credit Donald Trump with bringing “a renewed energy and focus” to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

That statement alone represents the height of hypocrisy.

Celebrating the 15th anniversary of PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), Pence told the audience at the event that the president plans on signing a bill soon that will reauthorize the program.

What he didn’t mention is that Trump’s own budget proposal called for a 17% reduction in funding for the program, in addition to $425 million to be cut from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Hailing the success of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, which provides health coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS, the Vice President failed to tell the crowd that the administration diverted funds from the program this year to help pay for separating families at the Mexican border.

Additionally, the president fired the remaining 16 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS after 6 prominent members resigned over his indifference to the issue.

In the nearly two years since Trump took office, no one has been appointed to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. How do you take credit for ‘renewed energy and focus’ when you haven’t even asked someone to lead the charge against the disease?

Then there’s the “Deploy or Get Out” policy which could mean the discharge of HIV+ U.S. military service members. The policy, announced in February of this year, directed the Pentagon to remove any military personnel who are considered undeployable to serve outside of the U.S. for 12 consecutive months “for any reason.”

And, for the second year in a row, at no time did Pence, nor any other White House official, acknowledge the disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS has had on the LGBTQ community.

In 2016, two-thirds of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States were gay and bisexual men.

Even going back to before Pence’s time in the current administration, there was his woeful record as a congressman and governor of Indiana on the issue of HIV.

Running for congress in 2000, his campaign website stated that funds from the Ryan White program should be “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

As Governor of Indiana, Pence opposed a needle exchange program which would have slowed HIV infections in rural counties in his state. It was only after 200 people became infected in just one county that he allowed the program to be implemented.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted his criticism of the speech, calling out Pence’s hypocrisy and misinformation:

And longtime LGBTQ activist and author Michelangelo Signorile pulled no punches in his assessment of Pence’s remarks:

(h/t Washington Blade)