#MartinShkreli: From Checkmate to Inmate?
December 17, 2015
Santa Poz has bestowed a wondrous gift upon us this holiday season. This week Martin Shkreli was arrested on charges of fraud unrelated to the Daraprim price hike that delivered Martin into our public consciousness with all the warmth of a fart in a crowded elevator on a hot summer’s day.
A cocksure Martin tweets in happier times in November.
If the charges stick, then the pharma badbro and morning-after-pill poster boy should make a cunning rival for future shuffleboard opponents in federal prison. And, if others on the inside learn that he was the guy who bought the single-album release by the Wu Tang Clan, Marty McFly (Your Private Jet Into a Mountain) could be the victim of having his socks purposefully mismatched by jealous inmates…
Whatever his ultimate fate may be, let us all celebrate in this magical moment of Martin Shkreli’s misfortunes.
Magnetic (Serodiscordant) Couples on TV
December 9, 2015
As someone who is HIV positive and in a relationship with someone who
is HIV negative, I was excited to hear that a serodiscordant
(“magnetic”) couple was going to be included in season 4 of Shuga, the fictional series based on real world experiences with HIV. Femi is HIV positive. His girlfriend, Sheila, is HIV negative. I want to share my reaction to what these characters face, episode to episode, and share some personal stories about what my own experiences have been.
Hope you find this insightful!
Episode 1, Season 4
Sheila has planned a family dinner as a way to inform her family of
Femi’s HIV status. Femi is naturally nervous about how the news will be
received and Sheila attempts to alleviate his concerns, promising that
everything will be fine. But when an ignorant HIV comment from her
uncle is greeted with supportive laughter from her parents, Sheila and
Femi decide not to disclose his status…
It’s a heartbreaking scene because Sheila expects so much more from
her family; only to discover that her lifelong support system has a real
hang-up when it comes to HIV. In their final scene in episode 1, Femi
consoles Sheila and their love for each other is quite clear,
particularly in how they treat one another in difficult moments.
THE MAGNETIC COUPLE ISSUE IN THIS EPISODE: How and when to disclose the positive person’s HIV status to the HIV negative person’s family.
WHAT THIS WAS LIKE FOR ME: In my relationship with
Gwenn, her mom knew my HIV status before we started dating. Also, I was a
new person in her life and we lived 8 hours away. Like Sheila, Gwenn is
an independent and strong person. Her mom was concerned, but also knew
that Gwenn was an HIV educator. Still, her mom didn’t know a lot about
transmission, so I’m sure that there was still some worry.
When I met Gwenn’s mother, things changed for her- I became a real
person, no longer overshadowed by a daunting medical resume. Meeting
Gwenn’s mom in person helped a lot. She got to see me and Gwenn interact
in person and could tell that we were really in love. Her concern after
meeting wasn’t so much that Gwenn would become infected, but how she
would react if I got really ill. A legit concern, because I was just
starting HIV meds at the time and in the process of regaining my health.
A few months after that first meeting, I had my first family dinner
(Thanksgiving) with Gwenn and her family: and everyone was aware of my
HIV status and welcomed me- and most importantly, us- with open arms.
The Secret Sex Lives of Emojis- EXPOSED!
December 1, 2015
This World AIDS Day, MTV Staying Alive has exposed the secret sex lives of emojis in this shocking video: VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Before I Die
November 30, 2015
Before I die… before I die I want to experience something I never have: life without hemophilia. I had a decade without HIV, and I’d like to enjoy as many years as possible on the tail end of this journey without it as well.
As I stood in front of this wall in Charlottesville, I recognized and related to the goals written in chalk by teenagers. I was proud to stand in front of that wall, holding an image of myself in the midst of those teenage years, and realize that I have accomplished a lot of those dreams after three decades of life with HIV. From finding love, to seeing the world…
Some of those goals I can’t reach, but I can live without having made a proper dunk in basketball. I guess I’ll just have to settle with those childhood experiences of dunking my cousins in my grandparents’ swimming pool. Living in Tokyo seems unlikely, but that city does seem pretty cool… never say never I guess.
But ultimately, I am just deeply thankful to be here. My friend Steve Schalchlin, who was saved by HIV medications in the mid-90s, has labeled his time from that point on as “The Bonus Round”. Like him, I have a lot of gratitude for the dumb luck/good fortune of having access to medication when I needed it. In 1999, my journey would have surely ended had I not started taking HIV drugs.
And here I am: still dreaming after all these years. If I don’t meet the goals listed at the beginning of this post, then I’ll certainly die as a happy man. I am content in the skin and spirit that was shaped in large part by the challenges presented- and friendships gained- by living, truly LIVING, with these medical conditions.
So get out there and live.
Thanks to Tristan Williams for taking this picture at IX Art Park. If this post inspires you, please consider sharing it. World AIDS Day is December 1st every year.
That pic I’m holding is from a Make-A-Wish Foundation meeting with my favorite band, Depeche Mode, in 1990. This year, to celebrate 25 years since my “dying wish”, I’ve made a cover album called Shaking The Disease: An Unlikely Tribute to Depeche Mode to raise money for my friends at the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.
You can get the album or listen to it here: http://synthetic-division.com/
Shaking the Disease: An Unlikely Tribute to Depeche Mode
November 19, 2015
This month’s issue of POZ Magazine is all about long-term survivors. And this year marks a special occasion in my own long-term journey as a positoid…
25 years ago, I met my favorite band, Depeche Mode, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Back in 1990, the prognosis wasn’t good. But I’ve been fortunate- I had access to great medical care when I got really sick in 1999, and HIV medications not only bailed me out of a scary health situation, but they have afforded me a level of health I never thought possible. So I wanted to do something special this year as a way of giving thanks: record a Depeche Mode cover album. And do it to raise money for my friends at the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, who provide grants to youth-based HIV prevention efforts around the world.
Every little bit helps!
If you’re interested in helping out, you can purchase the Limited-Edition CD at my music site (Synthetic-Division.com) for $25. Only 120 will be available for purchase. On December 1st, World AIDS Day, the album will be on iTunes.
Enter the… Blood Mirror!
October 27, 2015
It’s Halloween season- and that means that a lot of fake blood is being used for cheap scares. But what shouldn’t be scary? Blood donations from the gay community.
And that’s exactly why the art exhibit, Blood Mirror, was created. Using nine blood donations from gay, bisexual and transgender men, the interactive art display is a visually stunning protest of the FDA’s ban on blood donations from non-celibate gay and bisexual men.
Presented by the Visual Arts Committee at Trinity Wall Street, the Blood Mirror will be on display at the Trinity Church (75 Broadway, New York, NY 10006) from November 2 through December 1 (World AIDS Day).
A Month of Superheroes: Charles Sanchez and Team Merce
September 4, 2015
This week saw the big finale of the 8 episode original HIV comedic web series, Merce. I was so intrigued when I first heard about Merce last year, via an Indiegogo campaign – could a comedic story centered around a guy living in NYC work? I believed. I donated. I blogged about it.
And Charles Sanchez and the incredibly talented team at Merce delivered. Big time.
I sat down with Charles Sanchez, he at his computer in New York and me at mine in Virginia, to see how he was feeling after accomplishing such a lofty goal with style.
Are you happy with the response to Merce? Any surprising reactions (good, bad, indifferent)?
For the most part, we’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback. Even
people that were apprehensive at the idea of an HIV+ musical comedy,
once they watched an episode or two, were hooked, and find the show
charming and hilarious and wonderful.
have only been two negative comments on our videos, and to both of them
I responded as Merce would and just said, “Thanks for watching and have
a super day!”
would love if every episode had a famous HIV+ person in it, like you,
Mark S. King, Peter Staley, Greg Louganis, Mondo Guerro, Jack
Mackenroth, dreamy Andrew Sullivan and the like. And I’m not sure what
I’d have those people do, but I’d hope that they’d be willing to have a
ball and dance sparkly dances with us! I wonder if Magic Johnson can sing?
We’re still reeling from season 1! But my producing partner Tyne Firmin
and I have talked about what season 2 might look like, and it’s a
definite possibility, perhaps next year. Merce‘s message of
living life with joy and humor and love is and important one, and the
more we can get his silliness out into the world, the better. Soon after
my HIV diagnosis almost 12 years ago, I was told that stress and worry
are some of the worst things for the health of us pozzers, as you call
us (I adore that, by the way). The opposite of stress and worry is joy
and lightness, and that’s what I try to convey with Merce. It’s also how I try to live my life, by choosing joy.
Judd Winick: The Hero Who Crashed The Real World
August 31, 2015
I’ve written extensively about how much The Real World San Francisco influenced me- you know, the season of MTV’s reality show that featured Pedro Zamora and his life with HIV. I wasn’t talking about HIV openly when that aired in 1994. I loved seeing Pedro meet new friends and speak so openly about his experiences.
One of those new friends was aspiring cartoonist, Judd Winick. When he defended the comedic merits of The Three Stooges, I took notice. He seemed like a nice, thoughtful, guy. Back then, The Real World would cast people like Judd, who was hustling to get gigs and find love, which he did with housemate Pam. How Judd reacted to Pedro’s HIV status, with warmness, care and gentle curiosity, really made an impression. When I finally opened up and talked to my friends about HIV, they supported me in the same way.
After Pedro’s passing, Judd dedicated his time to step in and fill Pedro’s speaking engagements, educating about HIV and talking about his friendship with Pedro. One of my favorite books is his graphic novel, Pedro and Me- it really showed me what the experience of The Real World was like, behind the scenes. The book brought me to tears.
Judd has used his platform to explore themes that are of interest to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities. His graphic novel, Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is out now. Seth Meyers says Hilo is “a perfect book for any kid who ever needed a friend and then had one with superpowers fall from space.” Big thanks and gratitude to Judd for showing me that friends would be there to support me when I was ready to let them in.