Showing posts with label AIDS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AIDS. Show all posts

August 16, 2014

The Advent of AIDS a helper in Gay rights

This 1986 photo of Ken Meeks – taken three days before he died of AIDS – put a human face on the ‘gay plague.’
In the early 1980s, a new disease ravaged the gay community. It had many names: gay pneumonia, gay cancer, the gay plague and the more formal gay-related immune deficiency. The symptoms were visible and immediately recognizable: a disfiguring cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma, extreme weight loss (wasting) and suffocating pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. The deadly disease, renamed acquired immune deficiency syndrome after the virus was identified, travelled quickly through the gay community, but fear travelled even faster in mainstream society.
Gay men, even men suspected of being gay, lost their jobs – they were evicted from apartments and they were ostracized. Newspapers carried earnest stories about the risks of catching AIDS from a toilet seat in a public restroom. Funeral homes refused to handle bodies, and hospitals turned patients away, or placed them in isolation. There was talk of quarantining the sick in modern-day leper colonies and tattooing the infected to warn prospective sex partners of the danger.
“No one is safe from AIDS,” blared Time magazine, which, in the pre-Internet era, was hugely influential. Pat Buchanan, communications director for president Ronald Reagan, called AIDS “nature’s revenge on gay men.” Some far-right fundamentalist preachers called for the death penalty for homosexuals and, across the Western world, there were moves to bar gays from the classroom, from health-care jobs and more.
It was a time of stigmatization and oppression, eerily similar to what is going on again now in large parts of the developing world, but on a grander scale and with more dire consequences. At least 76 countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean have enacted anti-homosexual laws, and homophobia – and more disturbingly state-sanctioned homophobia and vigilantism – is on the rise. Sudan has the death penalty for anyone found to have committed “homosexual acts,” Uganda has harsh prison sentences for anyone who even dares to speak out in defence of a “known homosexual,” and Russia has labelled gay-rights groups as “enemies of the state.”
At the same time, three decades after the “gay plague” began, there is an once-unthinkable acceptance of same-sex relationships in the Western world: Gay marriage is widely accepted, human-rights protections have been extended to gays and lesbians, and events like World Pride are not only mainstream family activities, but tourist draws.
How did this happen? How did fear of pestilent homosexuals give way to acceptance of men loving men? And are the horrors that are taking place now in the developing world the last gasp of homophobes, an inevitable clash on the road to gay liberation?
“What we’re seeing today is two parallel stories: the relentless rise of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual [LGBT] rights in the Western world and the rise of homophobia and the trampling of rights elsewhere, and something has to give,” says Craig McClure, a former activist with the radical AIDS group Act Up and now the chief of HIV-AIDS at Unicef.
He says a lot of activists who fought the early battles for gay rights in the West are now in positions of power and influence, and they have an obligation to speak out for and come to the aid of those who are now being jailed, beaten and threatened with death because of their sexual orientation.
“I think we need to do a lot more to support our brothers and sisters in the developing world,” Mr. McClure says. “We should be as furious today as we were in the early days of the epidemic.” And furious they were.
When AIDS came along in the early 1980s, the gay rights movement was well under way. It was born, symbolically at least, in June, 1969, when police conducted a routine raid on a New York bar called Stonewall. Angered by the harassment, members of the gay community took to the streets in what came to be known as the Stonewall riots. The scenario was repeated with raids on bathhouses and gay bars in Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere, and the community pushed back with demonstrations and lawsuits. Emboldened, the gay bathhouse subculture came out of the shadows and many embraced promiscuity as a form of revolution.
When AIDS struck, priorities changed, and quickly, from hedonism to survival. And, ironically, the advent of AIDS probably advanced gay rights more than anything else in history.
“HIV-AIDS changed public perceptions a lot: It showed a more humane side of the community,” says Ed Jackson, director of program development at Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange, and a longtime activist. “It also galvanized gay men into being more active and more visible. It brought people out of the closet.”
Mr. Jackson said the large number of HIV-positive men, and the often-overlooked contributions of many lesbian women who cared for the sick, forced members of the gay community to interact with the system, instead of living on the margins. In fact, many of the early battles that mobilized the community were about seemingly mundane issues such as the right to visit partners in hospital (people were refused access because they were not considered immediate family, even if they were in long-term relationships), taking time off to be with loved ones who were sick and dying and claiming insurance benefits.
Gay rights came incrementally as these battles were waged before administrative tribunals and the courts and, in the process, gay and lesbian couples became more mainstream.
“We went from being marginalized as sick people to being normalized,” Mr. Jackson says. “Along the way, a lot of desires became mainstreamed; we wanted to be like everybody else, which is why you saw a push for things like gay marriage.
“We chose the straight path, if you will,” he adds with a smile.
Africa’s response was radically different
AIDS hit Africa about the same time as it did Western countries and affected the same demographic groups, principally men who have sex with men, recipients of blood and blood products and intravenous drug users. But the response was very different from places like Canada. Instead of rage and activism, there was denial and inaction.
AIDS was dismissed as a disease of Westerners with perverse sexual habits. The party line in virtually every country on the continent was that there are no homosexuals, and that Africans don’t engage in the unnatural acts that spread the disease. This dismissal delayed any serious response to the epidemic, and AIDS spread like wildfire, assisted greatly by truckers who travelled the transcontinental route that came to be known as the “AIDS highway” and the sex workers who populated road stops. By the late 1980s, when the rates of infection became so high that they could no longer be denied, AIDS was portrayed as a heterosexual disease, which was spreading so rapidly because men were promiscuous.
“It was never true that HIV-AIDS was uniquely a heterosexual disease in Africa,” says Christine Stegling, executive director of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, and a long-time AIDS activist in Botswana.
“The reality is that there are men who have sex with men in Africa, just as there are everywhere, but because of the stigma, they marry and otherwise remain hidden,” she says.
“Politicians and governments have always refused to acknowledge that these practices and these communities exist.
“What’s different now is that gay men and transgendered people are starting to come out – in large part because rates of HIV-AIDS are so high in these communities – and that is making it a lot more difficult to deny their existence. This, in turn, has fuelled a backlash and the introduction of repressive anti-homosexuality laws.”
“HIV has been devastating but it has also created an entrance for LGBT work to be done,” Ms. Stegling adds.
“There is a lot of activism for rights in these communities but the response has put a lot of people’s lives in danger.”
Paul Semugoma, a Ugandan physician, knows that all too well. He is on a “wanted” list in his home country (where homosexuality is a crime) because he has spoken out for gay rights, and lives in exile in South Africa.
Dr. Semugoma decided to come out himself two years ago, for a couple of reasons. Gay activist David Kato, a close friend, had been murdered and he felt like a hypocrite. Also, he was treating large numbers of patients with HIV-AIDS but realized that men who have sex with men were reluctant to seek help for fear of being found out. Rates of HIV-AIDS in men who have sex with men in Africa are about 10 times those of the heterosexual population.
“I was gay, I was having sex and nobody knew about it,” Dr. Semugoma says. “But I realized that, with HIV-AIDS, silence is literally death, so I couldn’t be silent any more.”
As in the West, he adds, the AIDS epidemic is pushing gay men out of the closet and thrusting them into the public eye. But, unlike in the West, the evangelical movement that is so rabidly homophobic, holds much more sway, and corrupt, dictatorial governments are far less likely to “do the right thing” by extending rights to a beleaguered, oppressed minority. On the contrary, gays are a handy scapegoat.
“In Uganda, the anti-homosexuality law was presented as pro-African, anti-West legislation. It’s us versus them,” he says. “But I reject that. I’m a gay man. I’m a Ugandan. I’m an African.”
But the situation is not altogether dire, he notes. South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to legalize gay marriage and one of the few countries where discrimination against gays and lesbians is barred in the constitution. Uganda, because of its anti-homosexuality laws, is also becoming a human-rights pariah, in much the same way that South Africa’s apartheid regime was isolated and pressured to change.
“All this discussion is forcing people to recognize that there are gays in Africa, just as there are everywhere in the world,” Dr. Semugoma says. “We will always be a minority, but one day we will be a minority with rights.”
“Even in Uganda?” he is asked.
“It’s my country,” he replies pensively. “Whether it’s two years, 20 years or 50 years, I will return some day as a full citizen.”
The Globe and Mail

January 16, 2014

Professor of U of T Gives Seminar on AIDS Blaming it as a Gift from Gay Men

HIV-positive student hopes to start discussion about social stigma concerning gay men and HIV
A University of Toronto professor of virology plans to apologize to his class after he gave inaccurate and stigmatizing information about gay men and HIV.
Mounir AbouHaidar made the comments during a Dec 3 lecture in front of approximately 300 students. 
Rodney Rousseau, a gay biochemistry and sexual diversity studies student who is HIV-positive, objected to the remarks, which he called "really triggering for a positive person.
“So that’s why it’s extra offensive to me," says Rousseau, noting that a small group of students are planning an educational protest for the beginning of January when classes resume.
Rousseau provided Xtra with an audio recording of the lecture, in which AbouHaidar states, “The guy will have a resistant strain, or resistant strains, of the virus to most of the drugs which are available; then he will sleep with his boyfriend, which is, as we call it, men sleeping with men, MSM, and then give his boyfriend the best gift, give him a strain of the virus, which is resistant to all the drugs. That’s what he has, that’s what it is, that’s probably 90 percent, 90 percent . . . HIV has millions of people, 90 percent from homosexual.”
Rousseau says that when he heard this misinformation he raised his hand and objected.
HIV infections among men who sleep with men in fact account for 50 percent of all HIV infections in Canada, according to CATIE (the Canadian AIDS Treatment Exchange). “Nowhere near the 90 percent professor AbouHaidar has claimed,” Rousseau says, noting he also told AbouHaidar he is unfairly stigmatizing men who have sex with men as “HIV gift-givers.” 
Rousseau says AbouHaidar is framing the virus as a “gift” between “boyfriends," and by using male pronouns and gay men as examples, he seems to be telling his class that HIV is a gay issue.
“He told me that he didn’t need correcting, that he wasn’t giving misinformation,” Rousseau says, noting he’s also noticed that AbouHaidar only ever talks about a person with HIV as a gay man. “Throughout the whole class he uses the term ‘boyfriend’ to define the partner of another man,” he says. “That’s done specifically to say HIV is a gay issue . . . he never uses ‘partner,’ ‘they’ and he definitely never uses ‘she.’
“He needs to stop saying things that aren’t true and perpetuating the stigma of a social issue.”
Rousseau wants to see AbouHaidar apologize, correct the misinformation in class and perhaps undertake some education on the social impacts of HIV.
For his part, AbouHaidar, who has been teaching HIV virology for about 30 years, tells Xtra that he plans to correct his statements and provide his class with accurate information. “Well, if I said 90 percent, I’m wrong,” he says. 
Regarding the use of male pronouns, AbouHaidar says students shouldn’t read so much into it. “I’m not anti-gay or pro-gay. It’s not my business who sleeps with who. It’s my job to tell students how the virus is transmitted.”
AbouHaidar says he wasn’t aware that referring to HIV as a “gift” — which implies that the person being infected with HIV is asking for it — could be seen as problematic.  
“It wasn’t meant to be against any group,” he says. “Now, because there are many viral drugs that are used, there are resistant strains circulating around. Sometimes in lectures I am known to be funny, and make jokes, in order to make stuff stick [with students] . . . these are education methods.
“It’s obviously not a good gift,” he says. “I can see how it’s [derogatory]. But we are all adults.”
AbouHaidar says that if students have concerns or wish to challenge his information, they could raise the issue during the tutorial sessions or schedule a meeting after class. He says he has never heard complaints about the content of his lectures before. “That is the forum to ask questions. My door is always open. I would speak to anyone about this.”
It’s also possible, he says, that part of the problem is a language barrier. He says he has a thick Lebanese accent. “And I was educated in France. I have a bit of a French accent as well. When I give examples, and talk, I am not against anybody. I am warning my students to be aware. It’s their lives. One mistake can cost them their lives.”
AbouHaidar maintains he is apologetic and doesn’t want to stigmatize anyone. “I feel really bad. We want to clear this virus from the world. We work in vaccines so hopefully in the long run we might end HIV. When you see the millions of people dying, you are scared. [But] I don’t want to stigmatize anyone . . . perhaps the way I express something is not right for some people.
“I am not afraid to say I am wrong, and I am sorry. If I said 90 percent, that’s wrong. I will correct [the information] for the class.”
While Rousseau is pleased that AbouHaidar will correct the record in class, he still plans to hold a demonstration after the holidays.
“I definitely think there needs to be some discussion because it’s still a problematic situation that it occurred at all,” he says. “Do I want to point my finger at [AbouHaidar]? No. He seems to be accepting fault in this rather quickly, and that’s really good. So I have to consider the best way to create a more broad discussion around this issue.”


December 22, 2013

Scientists Discover How AIDS Cells Kill The Immune System

AIDS virus

Scientists have discovered that the AIDS virus destroys the immune system by infecting a relatively few number of cells that create a fiery pathway that consumes nearby cells. Finding could lead to treatments to dampen disease activity.

Scientists have long known that HIV sets up little biological factories inside the the body's protective CD-4 T cells they infect, producing millions of copies that eventually lead to a massive destruction of the immune system. Until now, investigators have not understood why the virus becomes so aggressive.

It turns out HIV, which infects only a small number of T cells at the start, destroys approximately 95 percent of immune cells through a process known as the bystander effect.

Warner Greene, head of virology and immunology at the Gladstone Institutes in California, says bystander cells that are in the neighborhood of HIV-infected cells succumb to a fiery death.

“Most CD4-T cells during HIV infection die not because of the toxic effect of the virus, but because of an immune response against the virus.  So, CD4 cell depletion is more of a suicide than a murder," said Greene.

Gladstone scientists have discovered that the bystander cells become massively inflamed, releasing a protein called capcaisin-1 that recruits other immune system T cells to the site of the infection to try to put out the fire.  But the new cells also become inflamed and self-immolate.

That turns out to be good news in the sense that inflammation can be quelled with existing drug compounds.

Greene says researchers have tested three agents in the laboratory, including one developed to treat epilepsy.  He says all three compounds have worked very well to manage the inflammation.

While anti-inflammatory drugs would not be a cure for the AIDS virus, Greene says they could potentially keep the disease in check in some 16 million people worldwide infected with HIV who can’t access antiretroviral drugs but may in the future.  Greene also envisions using anti-inflammatory compounds in combination with anti-AIDS drugs.

“Perhaps with people who have rapidly progressive disease, perhaps for people who are failing current antiretroviral therapy, they would go on this treatment.  And even people who are well-controlled on antiretroviral therapy, we know there is chronic, persistent inflammation," he said.

Such inflammation can cause heart disease and cancer in HIV-infected individuals at an early age.

Warner Greene and colleagues report their findings in the journals Nature and Science.

Jessica Berman

December 16, 2013

AIDS Agencies are getting Less Donations Some Say “Good”They Have $quandered $ it $

 People are talking about abuse in HIV programs.  It is said that money should be withheld from non profits because of the abuse and mismanagement in those programs particularly in the age of AIDS. The Largest AIDS non profit(GMHC) in New York City if Not the Country is cutting services and getting rid of staff due to their mismanagement of funds. They break a lease in the building were housed for a better looking one in the west Village which I understand they bought and got stuck paying rent on the older and payments on the new one.  Why? It’s easy to speculate since the CEO got fired (replaced by the person that helped convince the board to make this misstep). There had to be money or gains for the people wanting to make this move and for the entire board that voted for this.  This is something you just can’t justify unless you are dealing with corrupt individuals. Which they are!
Meanwhile services cut,low level staff jobs eliminated and the money of the upper echelon grown with raises and bonuses’. You hear this and you want to throw these people on the Hudson River. The argument to throw these guys to the wolf’s is easy to make but the issue is not that simple when you have people with serious problems in the middle.

 I too worked for non-profits.  Both in Staten Island and Manhattan. As volunteer and staff. I see my time with them as one of the best things I’ve done professionally and as a human being. When AIDS first appeared in the news,  I remember watching a program on TV showing actual HIV’ers. Never before Have I seen people saying privately never mind publicly that they were HIV. Now this bunch was on TV. They look ok and more than that, I recognized two of them and one was someone I dated briefly years before.  I will bump to him every time I went to the west village because he worked on a store there.  His name was Frank.  Every time he saw me he will always hug me and kissed me like a long lost brother. Frank was a good guy, just not for me as a partner.

I was so moved watching him talk on tv. There was a group of about eight or so. I told my partner besides me watching, I want to volunteer to a hospital and do something for the sick and dying. After that talk on tv it was clear to something I already suspected and it was that you did not contact it by casual contact. For all I knew I also had it because there were no testing for the public.I was very young and I made my decisions on the spot without much deliberations. I got excited and asked my partner if he was interested.

He brought me back to earth by telling me he wasn’t going to do it and then to my shock because he usually follow me in my decisions, this time he told me I was not going to do it either. We had a fight over it telling  him I decided I was going to do it and that was it. He said go ahead but you won’t find me here when you come back. That was the end of it. Never again did I do any volunteering until I was no longer in my filed and tried something new. That was about 20 years latter and not too long ago.

 I saw some of what people talk about but it was the exception not the rule. The help for poor HIVr’s comes from the obvious.  As the HIVr got sick or was not able to work he lost his apartment and became destitute, etc. 
The problem with the program was that it concentrated only on a portion of HIVr’s and that was the very poor.  It left out the HIV’’r that worked hard all his life and became sick. Lost his/her health insurance and any money went for rent, not even for treatment. They got very little help because the money they got from SSDI was not enough to keep them in their apartments or houses if they had mortgages because they did not qualify for medicaid. Most programs to help HIVrs are paid through Medicaid. Not qualifying meant total disaster for this individual while the help went for the ones that sometimes never really worked in their lives. They got SSI which gave them medicaid and the access to free medical care, meds and housing. The ones that got SSDI got medicare which only overs certain things and only at 80% rate. That’s where it failed. 

We still have that problem and the need. There was never a good system in place to assist either type of HIVr. But the need still there. New housing constructed for people making some money  but not a lot of money needs to be expanded giving preference to those hive’s or sick people collecting insurance on their work but not able to pay today’s high rents, like in NYC and other big cities. 

These are the new endanger species because they will become homeless and fall by the side lines when they could still contribute as long as they had their permanent apartment in place. The shelter problem for these people is as impotent as the expensive meds for them to survive. We would have spent the money of meds for nothing on these people because we will loose them to disease, mental deterioration, suicide and homelessness. They know how to do it now but is being done in such small ways that I don’t know if it will make a real difference. We need to look at the good any agency does and fix the bad.
The money is needed but it no longer should be given to these agencies who did a great job until they got greedy and took more money for the people running the programs than the money spent on actual help and even then, they hid and recycle like John says. 

 If we try to punish these agencies by withholding money to dry them out we will hurt people they help. Lets make it hard for them to pay high salaries and have nice buildings and lets give the new money to new programs getting off the ground with new science of what works and doesn’t work. People need to go into the non profit field  because they need to do something good, not a way to get a better house and more expensive car. The CEO running the nonprofit should be in  the same financial level as the people they serve. Poor people are not poor because they can’t think and can’t learn. They are poor because the financial system that we have that keep 1% with the money and everybody else in the poor. This system of capitalism continues to survive with the same promise religion keeps its followers.  

If you follow thee rules you too will go to heaven.  But people keep dying and we never find out if they ever made it to see heaven.  You need faith we are told. People keep dying and never become rich because that would break a system geared to have the majority on top be supported by the bottom..  We need faith in our form of government; But the richer they are the more money they need which comes from the people below. But we keep it because we say, “I want to know if I do well I be rewarded and get my business or get better things in life”. They get the business but it either goes under or they have to work 7 days a week at the expense of their families and only to pay their bills and taxes for the rich.
Adam Gonzalez, Publisher

"Treatment is not only about pills. Treatment is about life, rights, dignity, investment and the democratization of access through innovation, simplification and centralising the role of the community."
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé
“Our collective goal is the end of the AIDS epidemic, and treatment is one element to reach that goal.”
Mark Dybul, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
“The United States is committed to the AIDS response. Last week, President Obama signed the re-authorization of the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).”
Caroline Ryan, Deputy Global AIDS Coordinator (PEPFAR)
“Local leadership is key to accelerating access to HIV treatment.”
Catherine Hara, Minister of Health, Malawi
“Along with anaesthetics, vaccination and antibiotics the discovery and development of anti-retroviral drugs ranks among the greatest medical advances of all time. When the end of AIDS has come the human cost will have been extremely high but the legacy of our struggle will be the knowledge it has given us on how to manage and control the myriad of other viral diseases that threaten and afflict us.”
Brian Williams, Chair of the Board of Trustees, SACEMA

December 1, 2013

The Photo on ‘Life’ That Showed AIDS and Changed the Epidemic

November 1990 LIFE magazine published a photograph of a young man named David Kirby — his body wasted by AIDS, his gaze locked on something beyond this world — surrounded by anguished family members as he took his last breaths. The haunting image of Kirby on his death bed, taken by a journalism student named Therese Frare, quickly became the one photograph most powerfully identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen millions of people infected (many of them unknowingly) around the globe.
More than two decades later, on the 25th World AIDS Day, shares the deeply moving story behind that picture, along with Frare’s own memories of those harrowing, transformative years.
 “I started grad school at Ohio University in Athens in January 1990,” Frare told “Right away, I began volunteering at the Pater Noster House, an AIDS hospice in Columbus. In March I started taking photos there and got to know the staff — and one volunteer, in particular, named Peta — who were caring for David and the other patients.”
David Kirby was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. A gay activist in the 1980s, he learned in the late Eighties — while he was living in California and estranged from his family — that he had contracted HIV. He got in touch with his parents and asked if he could come home; he wanted, he said, to die with his family around him. The Kirbys welcomed their son back.
Peta, for his part, was an extraordinary (and sometimes extraordinarily difficult) character. Born Patrick Church, Peta was “half-Native American and half-White,” Frare says, “a caregiver and a client at Pater Noster, a person who rode the line between genders and one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”
“On the day David died, I was visiting Peta,” Frare, who today lives and works in Seattle, told LIFE. “Some of the staff came in to get Peta so he could be with David, and he took me with him. I stayed outside David’s room, minding my own business, when David’s mom came out and told me that the family wanted me to photograph people saying their final goodbyes. I went in and stood quietly in the corner, barely moving, watching and photographing the scene. Afterwards I knew, I absolutely knew, that something truly incredible had unfolded in that room, right in front of me.”
“Early on,” Frare says of her time at Pater Noster House, “I asked David if he minded me taking pictures, and he said, ‘That’s fine, as long as it’s not for personal profit.’ To this day I don’t take any money for the picture. But David was an activist, and he wanted to get the word out there about how devastating AIDS was to families and communities. Honestly, I think he was a lot more in tune with how important these photos might become.”
Frare pauses, and laughs. “At the time, I was like, Besides, who’s going to see these pictures, anyway?
Over the past 20 years, by some estimates, as many as one billion people have seen the now-iconic Frare photograph that appeared in LIFE, as it was reproduced in hundreds of newspaper, magazine and TV stories — all over the world — focusing on the photo itself and (increasingly) on the controversies that surrounded it.
Frare’s photograph of David’s family comforting him in the hour of his death earned accolades, including a World Press Photo Award, when published in LIFE, but it became positively notorious two years later when Benetton used a colorized version of the photo in a provocative ad campaign. Individuals and groups ranging from Roman Catholics (who felt the picture mocked classical imagery of Mary cradling Christ after his crucifixion) to AIDS activists (furious at what they saw as corporate exploitation of death in order to sell T-shirts) voiced outrage. England’s high-profile AIDS charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, called for a ban of the ad, labeling it offensive and unethical, while powerhouse fashion magazines like ElleVogue and Marie Claire refused to run it. Calling for a boycott of Benetton, London’s Sunday Times argued that “the only way to stop this madness is to vote with our cash.”
“We never had any reservations about allowing Benetton to use Therese’s photograph in that ad,” David Kirby’s mother, Kay, told “What I objected to was everybody who put their two cents in about how outrageous they thought it was, when nobody knew anything about us, or about David. My son more or less starved to death at the end,” she said, bluntly, describing one of the grisly side effects of the disease. “We just felt it was time that people saw the truth about AIDS, and if Benetton could help in that effort, fine. That ad was the last chance for people to see David — a marker, to show that he was once here, among us.”
David Kirby passed away in April 1990, at the age of 32, not long after Frare began shooting at the hospice. But in an odd and ultimately revelatory twist, it turned out that she spent much more time with Peta, who himself was HIV-positive while caring for David, than she did with David himself. She gained renown for her devastating, compassionate picture of one young man dying of AIDS, but the photographs she made after David Kirby’s death revealed an even more complex and compelling tale.
Frare photographed Peta over the course of two years, until he, too, died of AIDS in the fall of 1992.
“Peta was an incredible person,” Frare says. Twenty years on, the affection in her voice is palpable. “He was dealing with all sorts of dualities in his life — he was half-Native American and half-White, a caregiver and a client at Pater Noster, a person who rode the line between genders, all of that — but he was also very, very strong.”
As Peta’s health deteriorated in early 1992 — as his HIV-positive status transitioned to AIDS — the Kirbys began to care for him, in much the same way that Peta had cared for their son in the final months of his life. Peta had comforted David; spoken to him; held him; tried to relieve his pain and loneliness through simple human contact — and the Kirbys resolved to do the same for Peta, to be there for him as his strength and his vitality faded.
Kay Kirby told that she “made up my mind when David was dying and Peta was helping to care for him, that when Peta’s time came — and we all knew it would come — that we would care for him. There was never any question. We were going to take care of Peta. That was that.
“For a while there,” Kay remembers, “I took care of Peta as often as I could. It was hard, because we couldn’t afford to be there all the time. But Bill would come in on weekends and we did the best we could in the short time we had.”
Kay describes Peta, as his condition worsened in late 1991 and 1992, as a “very difficult patient. He was very clear and vocal about what he wanted, and when he wanted it. But during all the time we cared for him, I can only recall once when he yelled at me. I yelled right back at him — he knew I was not going to let him get away with that sort of behavior — and we went on from there.”
Bill and Kay Kirby were, in effect, the house parents for the home where Peta spent his last months.
“My husband and I were hurt by the way David was treated in the small country hospital near our home where he spent time after coming back to Ohio,” Kay Kirby said. “Doctors and nurses wore gloves and gowns whenever they were around him, and even the person who handed out menus refused to let David hold one. She would read out the meals to him from the doorway. We told ourselves that we would help other people with AIDS avoid all that, and we tried to make sure that Peta never went through it.”
“I had worked for newspapers for about 12 years already when I went to grad school,” Therese Frare says, “and was very interested in covering AIDS by the time I got to Columbus. Of course, it was difficult to find a community of people with HIV and AIDS willing to be photographed back then, but when I was given the okay to take pictures at Pater Noster I knew I was doing something that was important — important to me, at least. I never believed that it would lead to being published in LIFE, or winning awards, or being involved in anything controversial — certainly nothing as epic as the Benetton controversy. In the end, the picture of David became the one image that was seen around the world, but there was so much more that I had tried to document with Peta, and the Kirbys and the other people at Pater Noster. And all of that sort of got lost, and forgotten.”
Lost and forgotten — or, at the very least, utterly overshadowed — until contacted Frare, and asked her where the photo of David Kirby came from.
“You know, at the time the Benetton ad was running, and the controversy over their use of my picture of David was really raging, I was falling apart,” Frare says. “I was falling to pieces. But Bill Kirby told me something I never forgot. He said, ‘Listen, Therese. Benetton didn’t use us, or exploit us. We used them. Because of them, your photo was seen all over the world, and that’s exactly what David wanted.’ And I just held on to that.”
After the Benetton controversy finally subsided, Therese Frare went on to other work, other photography, freelancing from Seattle for the New York Times, major magazines and other outlets. While the world has become more familiar with HIV and AIDS in the intervening years, Frare’s photograph went a long way toward dispelling some of the fear and willful ignorance that had accompanied any mention of the disease. Barb Cordle, the volunteer director at Pater Noster when David Kirby was there, once said that Frare’s photo of David “has done more to soften people’s hearts on the AIDS issue than any other I have ever seen. You can’t look at that picture and hate a person with AIDS. You just can’t.”
— Ben Cosgrove is the Editor of

November 7, 2013

Eviction in SF Drawing Attention Since AIDS Gay Men Are Evicted

Evictions in San Francisco have been drawing increased attention in recent months, with special focus on stories involving a longtime Castro resident living with AIDS and LGBT residents of a Mid-Market building who've all been faced with the possibility of having to find new homes in a competitive rental market. Elected officials both locally and at the state level are taking on the issue.
Tuesday, November 5, gay Supervisor David Campos announced he would ask City Attorney Dennis Herrera to draft legislation doubling the amount of relocation assistance landlords must pay tenants when they evict them under the Ellis Act. Another supervisor said she had made progress in protecting several tenants in her district.
Campos called for a hearing Thursday, November 14 to address the report he commissioned on tenant displacement in the city. The report, released Tuesday by the budget and legislative analyst, shows what Campos's office called "a dramatic upswing in the number of evictions," including an increase of 170 percent in Ellis Act evictions reported to the city's rent board between 2010 and 2013.
"There is a housing crisis in San Francisco," stated Campos, who's running against Board President David Chui for the 17th Assembly District seat set to be vacated by gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who's being termed out.
The report connects the increase in Ellis Act evictions to an increase in the market value of San Francisco's residential properties. Average home prices have gone from $735,828 in 2009 to $897,338 this year, a 21.9 percent increase, while the median rental rate in June 2013 for all types of apartments has risen to $3,414, according to the report.
"If you are evicted today in San Francisco, given the outrageous rental costs and purchase prices of homes, you will most likely be forced to leave the city," said Campos, who indicated he'd be introducing more legislation soon. "The diversity and vibrancy of our city is disappearing by the day. We must act to ensure that more than just the ultra rich can live here."
The Ellis Act is a 1986 state law that allows landlords to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business. The landlord must remove all units from the rental market. Such tenants are paid relocation expenses to move. The amount they receive can vary depending on how many individuals occupy a unit, the tenants' ages, or disability/HIV status. The amounts can range from $5,000-$15,000 per tenant, with an additional $3,403 paid to tenants who are senior/disabled, according to information from the Tenants Union website. For most tenants, the money doesn't go far in San Francisco's sizzling rental market.
Under the law, Jeremy Mykaels, 63 and a long-term AIDS survivor, had faced eviction from the Noe Street home he's lived in for 17 years.
But in October, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay threw out the eviction, citing the fact that Mykaels's landlord stated his rent incorrectly in the eviction notice.
His landlords reserve the right to re-start the eviction process. Mykaels said around the time of the judge's decision that he was relieved, but "the stress and worry never goes away and still weighs on my health. Until this situation is resolved one way or another, I doubt it ever will."
As with Mykaels, the fate of tenants at 1049 Market Street, not far from City Hall, has also garnered several stories in the media recently. For years it's been home to several LGBTs and others who reside in live-work lofts.
Department of Building Inspection data show that, in 2007, a complaint was filed because the owner was "renting out office spaces as residential in a commercial building."
An inspector at the time noted, "Investigation revealed all spaces are live-work units (approximately 60-plus). Permit research showed only six conversions were permitted."
In September, residents received an email from the building's management that said, "Over the past several months, the current ownership group" of the building "has spent extraordinary time and money with the hopes" to remedy the situation. A tenant shared the email with the Bay Area Reporter.
The message said that "due to a long-standing Notice of Violation we have been forced by Code Enforcement to get a building permit to change the current unit configuration entirely." The email also said, "Per these city orders, the building must be entirely vacated." But in an email to the B.A.R., William Strawn, a spokesman for the Department of Building Inspection, said those statements "are not correct."
Neither the building nor planning department's "require evictions; that is a building owner's decision," said Strawn.
Officials have had "several discussions with the owners over the past 18 months and advised them that the city could offer a pathway" to legalize the residential units that have been lived in for more than the past five years and update sprinkler, heating, and similar systems "and thus provide a safe building," he said.
"To date, the owners have not yet responded to this offer," said Strawn, but "we continue to be hopeful that such an initiative by the owners will be forthcoming."
According to one tenant, current owner John Gall has owned the building for about two years, well after the 2007 complaint was filed. Gall didn't respond to an interview request.
Management said in its email that it would start evictions from the fifth floor and work down, potentially giving tenants on lower floors several months to find new homes. The email also said, "Move-out monies" per the city's ordinance "will also be provided."
Since the September email, many tenants have received eviction notices. Tenants have been meeting with Supervisor Jane Kim, whose District 6 includes the building, and others to try to remedy the situation.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Kim said, "I am encouraged by my recent conversation with John Gall. He is committed to exploring a no eviction pathway with his investors to preserve the affordable units at 1049 Market Street."
Victor Arreola, who lives in a Mid-Market building where tenants face eviction, may move to Seattle.(Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)
But in an interview in late October, Victor Arreola indicated that he's done fighting and was packing up after 14 years in his unit, where his rent was set to be $817 as of November 1. Rent control rules have kept the price low.
"I decided that rather than battle" being evicted, "my health was more important," said Arreola, a gay 58-year-old who works at Macy's as a make-up artist but has recently been out on medical leave after a gym-related injury. He said he planned to leave at the end of November. He said the 60-day eviction notice he received cited demolition as the reason, and he has been offered about $5,200 in relocation funds. After living on his own for so long, he'd have to move into a place with roommates, he said.
"If I lived alone, just to get a studio here in the city probably would be around $1,700 to $1,900," he said. There's also first and last month's rent, a deposit, and moving expenses to consider. He's also thinking about moving to Seattle to stay at a friend's house, which would mean he'd have to find a new job.
Like others in the city, Arreola blames Twitter, which has its headquarters just a few blocks from his apartment, for driving up rents in the area as the social media company and others like it grab office space and draw in well-paid workers seeking homes.
In late October, Kim introduced interim planning controls "to prevent property owners from obtaining building permits when there is known residential occupancy in a commercial building," a news release from Kim's office said. The controls are meant to prevent evictions similar to those facing tenants of 1049 Market and a neighboring building, according to the release. The city will conduct a survey on the loss of residential units in the South of Market neighborhood, which is "experiencing a development boom."
"We must balance the success of the city's revitalization efforts with a commitment to protecting the existing residents in our impacted neighborhoods," stated Kim.
In an interview last week, Kim said she and others are considering two other pieces of legislation. One of them involves the San Francisco Tenants Union, said Kim, who declined to share details. "We don't want to give too much of a heads up" to people who may oppose it, she said.

Scope and solutions
While many have called the eviction situation a "crisis," LGBTs who've faced evictions anywhere in the city firsthand can be hard to find. In the Castro district, the number of Ellis Act evictions has increased, but there is still only a handful.
According to rent board data for the 94114 Zip code, there was one such eviction in 2011, and eight in 2012. As of late September, there have been six so far this year. There were 51 citywide in the same period. The data, which are pulled from owners' filings of notice of intent to withdraw rental units under the act, don't show the number of units covered by each notice.
Queer housing rights advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who works for San Francisco's Housing Rights Committee, has been sounding the alarm on the use of the Ellis Act and other eviction methods and their impact on LGBTs for years.
Either written or verbally, a landlord may tell tenants that if they don't accept a buyout, the landlord will use the Ellis Act, effectively forcing tenants out. Such cases aren't recorded in city data, but Avicolli Mecca said he's seen them "over and over." He also said he talks to many people who are living with AIDS and don't want to discuss their situations publicly.
Avicolli Mecca urges people who get eviction notices to "stay and fight."
"It's not completely hopeless, as we've seen lately," said Avicolli Mecca, referring to Mykaels and tenants at 1049 Market Street.
He also suggested the city declare a "state of housing emergency."
"Just like when there's a disease like AIDS or some epidemic going on, the city can invoke certain powers to do things, so I would like to see the city invoke whatever powers it can invoke" to halt Ellis and similar evictions, where tenants are pushed out of their homes through no fault of their own, "for say maybe five years." He also suggested freezing or rolling back rents, or putting a moratorium on market-rate housing.
Avicolli Mecca noted former Mayor Gavin Newsom "defied state law" in 2004 when he ordered city officials to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"We could do the same thing with housing," he said. "We could lead the way. We could be the San Francisco we've always been and challenge the law."
In response to emailed questions, gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, said, "I've been a long-time supporter of reforming the Ellis Act."
As an example, he pointed to gay state Senator Mark Leno's (D-San Francisco) failed proposal when he was in the Assembly "to require that someone own a building for at least five years before being eligible to use the Ellis Act."
"I'm open to additional measures to address abuse of the Ellis Act in San Francisco, as long as those measures will actually help tenants," said Wiener. "Passing local measures that are illegal under state law and that will surely be struck down by the courts – like purporting to place a local moratorium on the Ellis Act or requiring all rents to be reduced – while making us feel good, will not help any tenants facing eviction. We need to focus not on illegal feel-good measures but rather on tangible steps we can take locally to reduce the incentive to use the Ellis Act, as well as continuing to encourage state-level reform. Fundamentally, the state Legislature needs to act."
In an interview, Leno said, "My concern is if we don't do something, with the current market, it only gets worse, it doesn't get better, and then the question is how many buildings need to be emptied out before you take action?"
He said, "What we're seeing today, and what we saw 10 years ago, was the Ellis Act being abused by people who aren't landlords, who don't pretend to be landlords, and don't intend to be landlords. They are speculators, and that is an abuse of the statutory right, which was created for landlords. The idea was to put into law a requirement that someone owns the building for a while to substantiate that they are indeed landlords."
Such a requirement "wouldn't end the problem entirely," added Leno, but he's still working on legislation to address evictions. He said he's "meeting with stakeholders and advocacy groups, and we are discussing some ideas that could become legislation when we get back to Sacramento in January." Like Kim, Leno wouldn't share many details about what he's working on.
However, he said in San Francisco, "Clearly, we need more affordable options for both rental and for purchase, but every Ellised unit is a loss of our most affordable housing stock, and it will never be replaced. If someone loses a rent-controlled unit, they're likely going to have to leave the city."

Campos's hearing on the evictions report is set for a special committee meeting of the board's Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee at 2 p.m. on November 14 in Room 250 at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place. The full report is available at

October 30, 2013

Matthew McConaughey Battles AIDS in the “Dallas Buyers Club.

Matthew McConaughey is riding on the best reviews of his life, but that Texas charm is still steering.
"Matthew has an idea for your interview," says a studio publicist, calling the morning of a scheduled breakfast. Wouldn't it be great, the voice on the line posited, if the interview were to take place in a quieter area, with the University of Texas football game on in the background?
The actor grins widely a few minutes later as he greets an amused entertainment reporter in a hotel room. The UT-Oklahoma game "happens once a year!" the UT alum says, turning the television's sound way down. "There it is. In the background. It kicks off so early on the West Coast."
To his credit, the actor stays fully focused as he dives into the making of Dallas Buyers Club (opening in New York and L.A. on Friday), the true story of Ron Woodroof, a brash, homophobic Texas cowboy who contracted HIV in 1985 and was told he had 30 days to live.
"You made a mistake," McConaughey (as Woodroof) tells his doctor (Jennifer Garner) in disgust. "That ain't me."
Repelled by the inaccessibility of a local clinical trial administering HIV antiviral drug AZT, Woodroof crosses into Mexico to buy drugs unapproved by the FDA. His health stabilizes, a light bulb goes off at the black-market potential, and he begrudgingly cuts in a transsexual he met at the hospital, Rayon (Jared Leto), who can drum up business in the gay community.

"When he got HIV is when he found purpose. Sometimes tragic things put that kind of structure in our lives, and I think that's what happened with him….it gave him something to fight for 24/7," says McConaughey.
Woodroof's acerbic bravado is all-too-familiar territory. "I remember that time in that part of Texas.... I know that humor, I know that ignorance," says McConaughey. "For Longview, Texas, where I grew up, it was called the pine curtain. The pine trees. And boy, very few people get outside of the pine curtain."
A total transformation
Even fewer actors hopscotch toward the Oscar stage from the fluffy place where McConaughey's career had stalled. The overhaul he's engineered over the past few years has been critically arresting: Mud, Magic Mike, Bernie, Killer Joe and The Paperboy. Next he's in Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street and Christopher Nolan'sInterstellar.
Currently, "he's poised for a serious Oscar run that could go all the way," says Tom O'Neil, founder of awards tracking site
Dallas Buyers Club is a world away from the last time McConaughey worked with Garner: That would be Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, one of a litany of easy-on-the-eyes rom-coms that became the actor's bread and butter since he started wooing Kate Hudson with diamonds in 2003's How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

"His backstory is a lot like Sandra Bullock," says O'Neil. "Somebody who was known for making cheesy commercial movies of dubious quality, who hung in there year after year and maintained a career until suddenly they got the good movie roles and critics' attention. Hollywood likes that. They like the survivor. And they like the happy ending."
Happiness got him here. In 2012, McConaughey married model Camila Alves, and together, the couple have three children: Levi, 5, Vida, 3, and Livingston, 10 months. A few years ago, McConaughey started weighing what it all meant. "(I thought), 'Oh man, this is what I'm doing. I'm growing in my real life and I want to feel my growth in my career, because that's my life too."
His rent, as he puts it, was paid; he'd worked hard to earn a time out. For roughly two years, McConaughey started saying no. "If anything, I wanted to un-brand a little bit. Become a little more of an ambiguous brand. I didn't know what it was going to be."
Then Steven Soderbergh called, with Magic Mike. And Jeff Nichols, with Mud. He calls 2012 his favorite year of his life -- and he lost money.
"I started to attract the right things," he says, as Dallas Buyers Club sat on his desk. He knew it was "the one," he says, but there was no money. Finally, financing started to come together, and McConaughey began to shed weight. "I was happy after 30 pounds," says director Jean-Marc Vallée. "And he went further. That was his decision. He needed that."
To play the mesmerizing Rayon, Leto arrived in drag, and stayed in character for the duration of the shoot. "Certainly one of the reasons that I decided to do the film is because I knew he was doing interesting work in his career right now," says Leto, who accepted his first film role in six years. "And I thought, if he had sussed this out, then there must be something really special there."
But on set, Garner worried about their gaunt frames. "I hated it," she says. "I worried about him and I worried about Jared as well. At least Matthew was sane about it and stepped it down gradually, or lost weight over months and months. Jared just stopped eating and looked like he was going to fall over."
The shoot was just 25 days, shot quick and dirty, without using any artificial lighting. "I've never worked on a film with a smaller crew or a more ambitious schedule," says Garner. "There was no room for error. There was no messing around."
To maximize his time, Vallée shot the cast's rehearsals. "They were taking me out of my comfort zone," says the director. "I'm from the 'less is more' school. These guys were giving me 'more is more.'"
They also worked to inject Woodroof 's wicked sense of humor into the script. "He was witty," says McConaughey. "He may have been lying half the time. But that's who he was." Woodroof, a man who bullishly challenges the FDA in court, in one scene procures AZT, much to his relief. He heads home and pops two pills. He exhales. And then he snorts a line of cocaine.
In a festival screening in Toronto, the startled audience guffawed. "We were a little bit concerned and scared at the seriousness of the subject matter and the dramatic content of the film. We went, we've got to make people laugh," says Vallée.
The culmination of what ended up on screen is a transformative AIDS story that insiders say could wrest Oscar gold from favorites including 12 Years a Slave's Chiwetel Ejiofor and All is Lost's Robert Redford. But that's not what's on his mind.
"I've asked this question continually, what really did he do?" says McConaughey. "At a time when he got a disease that no one knew about, no one understood, the doctors were in the same position as him, they were all pioneers, this was new ground. Here's a redneck cowboy-electrician-bull rider who becomes a scientist. Who becomes an expert on this disease he's got and how to keep the bridge extended, how to keep life going in a more healthy way with that disease.
"And what did he do? I say he shook the tree."

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