Monthly Archives: December 2014

The following piece was originally written by Australian HIV/AIDS activist Nic Holas and founder of the advocacy organization, The Institute of Many. It appeared first here in Sydney gay news magazine, SX. As is reported at ABC News, new HIV infection rates remain at 20 year highs, and sexual stigma runs rampant, especially among men who have sex with men.

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Sebastian Robinson was in a production about Australia’s early response to HIV when he was diagnosed HIV positive. But rather than retreat from the play, he drew strength from the very stories he was conveying on stage.

I first met Sebastian Robinson in February of this year, in Sydney, during the Mardi Gras season. I was perusing the apps in my habitual manner when a message popped up. We got to chatting and realised we had some things in common. He was in town performing in a verbatim play, The Death of Kings, about Australia’s early response to HIV. I was an HIV positive activist and knew some of the people in the play. We were both being interviewed for a documentary, Transmission, which chronicled Australia’s response to HIV.

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We know we’ve been quiet lately – but we promise it’s because we’re gearing up for a lot of great things to come in 2015! There are going to be new updates and posts next week but due to Christmas tomorrow, we’re going to be quiet the rest of the week. In the meantime, remember what this season is all about and hold your family or friends close to you. To celebrate, we wanted to share this black and white photo of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring embracing.

Basquiat_Haring_Embracesource: The Red List

Keith Haring is everywhere these days. You’re probably heard of the Keith Haring: Political Line exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco that’s currently open until February. You might have seen him on t-shirts, tote bags or windbreakers through the UNIQLO x MoMA collaboration or in any other number of fashion brand collaborations. If you haven’t heard of one of these exhibits or partnerships, you probably have seen a Keith Haring painting before without knowing it. Bold, graphic lines of figures, creatures and symbols that are intertwined. Before his death from AIDS-related complications, Haring was a bit of darling in our cultural landscape: universally liked by radical queer activists and the Sesame Street crowd. Today I had a chance to visit Pace Print’s small but mighty exhibit of (mostly) black and white limited edition prints.

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The Stigma Project is an organization founded in 2012 by Chris Richey and Scott McPherson. Their mission is “to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.” We wanted to highlight one of their great visual campaigns called “Live HIV Neutral,” which tackles some common sources of stigma surrounding HIV discussions, including the “clean” vs. “unclean” dichotomy that plagues those using dating apps and the misinformation that continues to spread about how HIV is transmitted.

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This essay was originally finished in December 2013 for MFA in Creative Writing program at Goddard College. I’ve returned to a year later because I think the questions explored: those of haunting and the desire to connect to the past of HIV/AIDS while trying to move forward resonate today. It is a long read, and uses some conventional academic language and citation, but it’s also unique in its creative and liberatory impulse throughout. Enjoy.

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“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.” – bell hooks

I have been told many times, even if indirectly, that I do not deserve to exist. The exploration begins here because, in the question of my presence, I recognize my own words as simultaneously representing today’s grief and the future of my body, as words, to survive in a haunting against these attempts to destroy me. As I look at Kristin Prevallet’s I, Afterlife and Hervé Guibert’s Ghost Image, I do not intend to show that these works necessarily detail grief and haunting in the same way I see my own experiences. However, what I will show is that through narratives of grief, their bodies (or those of others) loom over me, as the reader. Through literature, particularly that which fuses together various forms, the traces of these narratives become embedded in my own. To this extent, in Prevallet and Guibert’s works I can use the ways they bring ghosts back to life to better understand the ghosts that haunt me personally, working beyond grief and anger to find pleasure in this reanimation. At the same time, I will ask exactly what can be reclaimed, and what it means to structure my own narrative writing with an understanding of incompleteness.

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In an action on World AIDS Day December 1st, ACT UP London fought back against comments by a prominent UK political party leader whose remarks against people living with HIV/AIDS highlighted just how much stigma is fueling the epidemic. This was their “gift” to UKIP, which was coordinated with a #ukipstinks campaign.

actup-wad-2014-6570

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Change, as we all well know, is not easy and it is not cheap. Our Viral Lives may have just started as an idea, but we’re ready to rapidly expand by the middle of 2015, if we can secure two important things: 1) fiscal sponsorship & 2) outside grant or sponsorship money. The first allows us to be affiliated with a 501(c)(3) organization, making us eligible for a lot more grants & for individual donors to create donations that could be written off on their taxes. The second would allow us to expand considerably. This budget and potential sponsorship avenues are highlighted at Our Viral Lives Budget Plan.

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