Louganis Inspires Olympic Medalist to Disclose HIV Status

August 8, 2012

ji-wallace.jpgAn interview last week with Greg Louganis by Piers Morgan has inspired a fellow Olympian to come out of the AIDS closet. A trampolinist in the 2000 Games in Sydney, Ji Wallace of Australia penned a letter to the Star Observer disclosing his HIV status. 

After seeing Louganis discuss his experiences as a gay man, Olympian, and someone living with HIV, Wallace was compelled to speak out: “It made me think and think and I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote.”  Kudos to Wallace for following his heart.  In an attempt to show that HIV is still out there, his willingness to speak up now is as perfectly timed as the athletic skills that propelled him to the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Especially since there was speculation that, just as the athletes were arriving in London, the servers for the same-sex hook-up app, Grindr, grinded to a halt due to the influx of athletes from around the world.  Of course, that story seemed to be rubbish or a PR stunt from Grindr.  But the heart of the story, which is young people in the best shape of their lives looking to blow off a little steam with a post-Games hook-up, can’t be denied.  Single athletes of all orientations would be crazy not to troll the Olympic Village for a willing gymnast.

Hopefully, with Louganis and Wallace shining a spotlight on sexual health, some of these seemingly impervious physical specimens will realize that when it comes to HIV, they are just as vulnerable as the rest of us.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Passing You To Sean (National HIV Testing Day)

June 27, 2012

Today is National HIV Testing Day. I’m passing you off to Sean Strub today because he has written two great blog posts and I, well, I haven’t been writing much lately since I’ve been swamped with Synthetic Division stuff.

Hope all are well!


Positively Yours,
Shawn

Greg Louganis in a Hot Tub

March 4, 2012

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On Friday night I was pleasantly surprised to see a cameo on one of my favorite new shows by world famous positoid and Olympic athlete Greg Louganis.  On Portlandia, he explains the Olympic games to the doubtful co-stars of the show whilst sitting in a hot tub.  When they meet by chance in the hotel, Greg proves he is indeed the Greg Louganis by showing them the scar on top of his head from the infamous diving board incident at the 1988 Games.

Remember what an uproar that caused when Louganis revealed his HIV status?  I’m not quite sure that if someone accidentally bled into a swimming pool today that the reaction from the general public would be any different.  People just don’t understand how the virus is transmitted. Just last week, I spoke to a high school English class.  I was trying to get across how hard it would be to transmit my virus if I suddenly bled on the podium.  I explained that the virus dies within a few seconds once it is exposed to the air.  I said that someone would have to rush up, throw me out of the way and snort up the blood as it dripped down the podium… and even then, they probably wouldn’t contract the virus.

Science has taught us a lot about this virus in the two-plus decades since Greg Louganis botched a dive and baptized an Olympic swimming pool with positoid blood.  As an educator, it would have nice to see Greg’s status revealed on Portlandia for laughs and educational value.  I can see Fred Armisen now, looking nervous. “You’re not going to get out of the hot tub and do any of those flippy dives into here, are you?”  “Oh- you’re worried about me cracking my head open and bleeding all over the hot tub? Well, no, I’m not going to do a triple back flip, double tuck swan dive into this hot tub, but if I did you wouldn’t have to worry. The only person I’d be hurting would be myself.”

I know I’m in the AIDS bubble. But it would have been funny to see something along those lines.  More people need the facts, and delivering them with a punchline is sometimes the best way.  That said, it was really nice to see Greg delivering some laughs on the show.  It’s so comforting to see long-term survivors on the boob tube.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

SHOCKER: Red Ribbon Worn At Golden Globe Awards

January 16, 2012

Yes, you read that right- an actor of prominence wore a red ribbon on his suit jacket at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night. Before I laud praise, I gotta say that it was wonderful to see one of those little suckers.  Really.  I paused the screen to inspect it, I was so excited.

Back in the 1990s, actors routinely wore red ribbons to award shows to express their solidarity with the plight of those living with HIV.  But once treatments became available to those in privileged areas of the world, the red ribbons started to disappear.  By the end of the 90s the red ribbons had gone the way of the parachute pants, deemed unworthy to enter the new millennium. So big ups to the one and only Steve Buscemi, who continued his tribute to the 90s by losing a Best Actor Award in the TV Series to Kelsey Grammer. 

If there’s ever a ribbon made for actors who lose acting awards to Grammer, I’m wearing one in your honor, Steve.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

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I Victory Crouch You by Synthetic Division (Halo Tribute)

October 12, 2011

Did you hear the story last month about how a group of gamers solved a problem with HIV that has been baffling scientists for over a decade? Click here to learn more about how a University of Washington program transforms scientific problems into computer games. 

I, on the other hand, use gaming for less noble purposes.  Inspired by the insane amount of time I’ve logged on Halo in the last year, I decided to pay tribute with a Synthetic Division song and music video.  The song was co-written with one of my good friends, Micah Consylman.  We got together, had a beer, and took turns pecking away at a synthesizer and laying down vocals. Though it’s not discovering the elusive structure of a retrovirus protein, I believe “I Victory Crouch You” is more than a song inspired by an act that is perpetrated on fallen opponents in the game.  I think this song will have a reverse effect, and eventually inspire scientists to find a cure for HIV so I can dedicate every waking moment of my life to playing video games.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Two and a Half Men: Did Charlie Harper Have HIV?

September 20, 2011

I’m not a big Two And A Half Men fan- in fact I’ve never watched an entire episode until last night.  Morbid curiosity drew me in, as I was wondering how they would kill off the womanizing, drug-usin’, freerollin’ Charlie Sheen’s character, the womanizing, drug-usin’, freerollin’ Charlie Harper.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

The opening scene is the funeral. His grieving brother Maxwell (Jon Cryer, “Maxwell” is a guess) is saying a few words, but can barely finish a sentence before the angry mob of hot ladies chime in.  “My brother gave so much, to so many people…”  “Yeah, he gave me herpes.”  “… and me gonorrhea.”  “I got genital warts from him.”  Then another man chimed in about how much drug money he was owed, and who he should collect from.  When Maxwell suggested hiring a lawyer, then man said he’d rather keep the law out it.  Later, while grieving at home, Maxwell is visited by a slew of people, including John Stamos, who admits to a threesome that involved he and Charlie Harper as well as a female, which became a twosome after the female passed out.

Oh, and he died because he fell in front of a train, but it was insinuated that he was pushed by his girlfriend; hence no open casket at the service.  It was all funny stuff until the script went up in a puff the moment Charlie’s ashes were accidentally scattered across the living room floor.

Anyway, based on the post-mortem fleshing out of Charlie Harper’s character, is it not a stretch to think that maybe he was a positoid?  That somewhere along the way, during a decade of heavy partying and drug use, he contracted HIV?  Let’s rip this one from the headlines, since “AIDS monster!” stories are always popular in the media…

Maybe Charlie’s girlfriend went to donate blood, found out she was positive, went back to Charlie. “I don’t have HIV!”  “Well, have you ever been tested?”  “No- I use condoms when she says she won’t have sex without them…”  “Who is SHE?”  “Uh, wait baby, I didn’t mean-”  One shove later and Charlie Harper is splattered by a train.  If that sounds too dark for a sitcom, you must remember that a laugh track can sooth the seriousness of any situation.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

The Last American Virgin (1982)

July 21, 2011

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So I was browsing Netflix, and thought of an old movie I saw as a kid, The Last American Virgin.  Even though my parents weren’t too tight with enforcing the R-rating, I doubt I saw this one in the theater in 1982 since I was 7 when it came out. I’m thinking I watched it on HBO  a couple of years later, around the same time I was hooked on Fraggle Rock.

Either way, the only scene I could remember is how the teens in the movie spent an afternoon soaking their genitals in a public pool in a misguided attempt to drown the crabs they’d picked up from an encounter with a prostitute the night before. (“$30…”  “Oh cool, that’s $10 each…” “No! $30 a person!”)  Ah, 80′s movies, nothing like a scene that features three high school kids on a street corner negotiating with a prostitute.

When I first saw Virgin, those three characters seemed so much older and wiser than me.  I knew there was more to life than just the Fraggles, and at the time high school was mystery to me that could have easily included random visits to the neighborhood prostitute.  I was just clueless.  The plan to revisit the movie was sealed when Gwenn had no idea what the hell it was; I figured a goofy 1980′s, pre-AIDS sexually charged comedy would be fun.

And it was.  This time around, the teenagers seemed young and reckless to me.  The movie was entertaining and ultra-enjoyable, but I couldn’t believe the big guy in the group let scrawny Gary drive himself home after a rager in which Gary found himself shit-faced.  “Drive safe!” was his buddy David’s words of advice.  Incredible, Gary made it home without incident, though later in the movie he would find himself driving a convertible into the ocean.

The theme of the movie isn’t a riddle- Gary is looking to get laid.  Husky David is there for most of the big laughs, as is their handsome friend, the cock-blocking Rick.  After a few good runs of fortune, the trio hit their first stumbling block in class, when they can’t stop scratching their pubic regions.  This leads to a great scene in which Gary awkwardly tries to ask a pharmacist for a remedy.  It’s a cool scene that lets you see how someone who could negotiate with a prostitute twice his age the night before cannot say that he has crabs in the harshness of daylight.  I figured once the crabs were gone, it would be back to the hijinks.  I didn’t remember that ol’ cockblocking Rick ends up impregnating Gary’s object of affection, Karen.

After that, Gary becomes the hero when he cobbles together enough money to spring for her abortion.  The movie is set to a wonderful soundtrack of 80′s classics, it must have been way cheaper in 1982 to get that many awesome songs into one film.  Anyway, the ending is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. As the credits rolled, Gwenn and I sat in stunned silence.  I’m not sure who broke it with a “….. REALLY?”

I’d highly recommend this movie, and love the ending because it’s just a realistic portrayal of teen life and love.  After it’s over, just go to Scene Selection and chase the end with one of the lighter moments, like when David gets slapped by Gary’s mom, or when he’s pounding away on the prostitute, or when he’s getting pushed into the pool, or chased down the street by the sailor.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

 

 

Tracy Morgan’s Dad Had HIV

June 15, 2011

Usually when someone apologizes for a public/personal misstep, the only thing that comes across is that they are sorry they got caught. On Monday I blogged about Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant at one of his stand-up gigs earlier this month. In the last couple of weeks the story got major legs- he was chastised by his 30 Rock co-star Tina Fey and the rant was retweeted and reposted ad nauseam…

Shortly afterward I received a comment that my linking his story with HIV was a stretch.  When I posted the blog entry, I had no idea just how close HIV hit the Morgan home.  Here is Tracy’s statement:

“I know how bad bullying can hurt,” he said. “I was bullied when I was a kid. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone. My family knew what it was like to feel different. My brother was disabled, and I lost my father to AIDS in 1987. My dad wasn’t gay but I also learned about homophobia then because of how people treated people who were sick with that.

“Parents should support and love their kids no matter what. Gay people deserve the same right to be happy in this country as everyone else. Our laws should support that. I hope that my fans gay, straight, whatever forgive, and I hope my family forgives me for this.”

————–

Since the rant, it’s come out that Tracy’s had a history of anti-gay remarks. Now, he’s talking to GLAAD and will be working with them on ads targeted at the entire issue of bullying as it pertains to the gay community.  Is it a wise career move?  Undoubtedly.  But I’m glad he opened up about his personal connection to HIV, and revisited how his own family was made to feel less than human as a result.

Either way, here’s to hoping his homophobic history is, well, history.

Positively Yours,

Shawn

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