A Month of Superheroes: Georgia Arnold/MTV Staying Alive

August 25, 2015


Georgia, Gwenn and me in 2010

Georgia Arnold is the Executive Director of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which fights HIV globally by funding youth-led programs. Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to see what they can accomplish firsthand, since I’m on the SAF Board. (Full disclosure- I help good people help good people!)

Now, Georgia would be quick to say the grantees who put in the grassroots work in their communities are the heroes. And, well, who could argue with her? Meet the heroes of Staying Alive that protect their communities with innovative HIV education efforts tailored to their own communities needs.

The team that keeps things moving at Staying Alive are incredible. And the tireless efforts of Georgia are an integral part of what makes the foundation so effective. I’m proud to call Georgia a hero in the fight against HIV, but most importantly I’m honored to call her a friend, too.

Keep up with Georgia’s travels and MTV Staying Alive by joining their email list. (They won’t bombard you, about one email a month)

Positively Yours,
Shawn

My blog post about how I learned about the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, from March 2010.

Merce- Original HIV Comedy Series!

July 28, 2015

Now that 40 has sunk in, and I have recovered from my birthday festivities, I wanted to post an entry about one of my favorite new things: Merce! It’s so over-the-top campy and kind-hearted, with a story that is centered around the middle-aged Merce, an HIV positive man living in New York City.

The episodes are short, funny and inspired. And I’m so happy to see a web series focused on a lead character living in today’s American world with HIV. Well done, Team Merce!

For those of you who haven’t checked it out yet, here’s the first two episodes below.

The first episode debuted two weeks ago, and in it the title character, Merce, who is living with HIV in New York City, goes on a date…

Episode 1: MERCE “Tonight at Eight” from MerceTV on Vimeo.

In episode two, Merce has a doctor’s appointment. Harboring a not-so-subtle crush on his own personal McDreamy, Merce is disappointed when his doctor suggests that he start working out.

Looking forward to seeing what adventures lie ahead for wide-eyed Merce!

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Stephen Gendin, 15 Years Later

July 19, 2015

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(This blog post was originally published on August 1, 2010. Today marks 15 years since Stephen passed. – SD)

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Ten years ago I was getting a few emails from a friend about a special party for a positoid pal who “wasn’t doing too well”.  But I couldn’t imagine the Stephen I knew- blue, red, green hair and all- as anything less than vibrant, and at the time, I was wiped out from my own failing health and starting on HIV meds.  A trip to NYC just seemed exhausting, I was in no mood to party so I didn’t go…

Six months later, Stephen was dead. And I was in NYC for a funeral.  I was heartbroken.

One of the first openly HIV positive people I met, Stephen Gendin offered me a job at his HIV prescription mail order service, prompting a short-lived (uh, 3 weeks I believe) move to NYC that made me realize for the first time in my life that I was operating on very low levels of energy thanks to HIV.  It was a tough pill to swallow.  One night, as I told my boss and friend that I was packing my bags and heading back to Virginia to focus on my blog and sleeping schedule, he told me there was another way.

He asked if I ever thought about starting on HIV medications.

Stephen’s hope for survival rested in the advent of new medications. He was a longtime activist, the get-in-the-street and get arrested kind, the kind that are embedded in the AIDS community’s history and identity as being responsible letting drug companies and the feds know that people were dying.  He’d signed up for drug trials, used his own body to further research, and was always looking for the next miracle drug.

As we sat on the steps of the old Poz office in the West Village that night in 1996 one of us was hopeful, the other scared shitless about all these new medications. In the field of hemophilia treatment, miracle drugs were the reason why I had hep B, C and HIV.  The reason why I was tucking tail as the going got tough.  I didn’t make a big deal about how I became infected, and looking back I don’t think I could articulate my fears about the HIV medications even as I was showing the first signs that I needed them.

To his credit, Stephen kindly accepted my resignation and refusal to give the pills a try.  He was deeply confused why a 21-year old would choose to return to small town Virginia when he could start meds, get some energy, and pursue a new life in the city.  But he was a friend, he said his peace and let me go in peace- it was a beautiful moment I’ll never forget, probably the defining moment of our friendship.

Most of my memories of Stephen are at Poz, which he helped found, or at his former company Community Prescription Service- the entire staff comprised of people living with HIV.  I recall tooling around together at a few Poz Life Expos (where the picture above was taken) and I’m glad I kept in touch with him after I left NYC, embarrassed by my lack of staying power at the job he’d so kindly presented to me.

In 1999 when I decided to start medications after my failing health left me with no alternative, I let Stephen know, and he never said or implied that he told me so.  He just told me how happy he was for me on all fronts, most excited of which was the fact that my new girlfriend, Gwenn, had recently moved in with me.

Looking back, I envied Stephen’s easy style, and was honored by his friendship and how he showed me that HIV–and people living with it–could be cool as hell.  I miss ya buddy, a few years was not enough to know you, but I’m glad I got them.  You were, and will always be, a huge influence on this little positoid’s life.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

To learn more about Stephen Gendin, check out Poz Magazine’s October 2000 memorial issue of the magazine in Stephen’s honor.

Also, check out photos from the 10-year memorial gathering in his honor.

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MTV’s RE:DEFINE Rocks Dallas and HIV

April 13, 2015

Full dislosure- I’m a big mark for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. They fund grants worldwide to provide young people with the tools and resources necessary to implement HIV prevention plans in their communities. You can learn more about them here.

The Staying Alive Foundation’s continued existence is dependent on public funding, and this past weekend, along with their partners at The Goss-Michael Foundation, they raised over $2 million at the annual RE:DEFINE fundraiser in Dallas. Georgia Arnold, executive director, shared some photos on her Instagram account (which I cobbled together below!)… enjoy!

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Big thanks to everyone who helped make the event a success, including artist Brian Kokoska, whose work was available in the art auction. And Julie Allen, who conceived the idea for RE:DEFINE.

Up next on MTV Staying Alive’s fundraising calendar? Found in London on May 14, with performances by Tinie Tempah and Tallia Storm. 

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Ryan White, 25 Years

April 8, 2015

Ryan White passed to spirit on this day 25 years ago- he was 18 years old, yet in that short time he educated millions of people worldwide about how HIV was and wasn’t transmitted. Born with hemophilia, Ryan contracted HIV through his blood product treatments in the 1980s, when screening methods were haphazard at best. After being kicked out of his school, he and his mother waged a very serious and public campaign against HIV and ignorance.

(read my 2010 article on Ryan for POZ.)

Ryan, to put it bluntly, was a rockstar.

I know the impact he had on my family- my mom saw him as a third son of sorts, following his medical ups and downs in the media. I emotionally distanced myself from him when he was alive, mainly because his story hit a little too close to home for me… hemophilia, HIV, getting kicked out of school- I never thought I would go public with the kind of details that he never blinked an eye in sharing.

At 20, when I found my own educational voice, I allowed myself to feel that connection with Ryan White that was always there. I was immensely proud of the path that Ryan had paved- and saw the need, six years after he passed, for the work to continue. It sounds kooky, and a lot of factors play into these kinds of things, but I give him a nod and a fistbump for introducing me to Gwenn, my partner of 16 years now. We met at a talk given by his mother in 1998… I always think Ryan somehow positioned us to be there, standing in line waiting to talk to his mom, close enough to notice one another…

Of course, my personal life would never be the same. And my proudest- and most effective- work as an educator has been with Gwenn, standing together as a couple in a healthy relationship.

Thanks, Ryan. You are never forgotten.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

(Read my Positoid column, “Do the White Thing”, from the January 1998 issue of POZ.)

Cash for the Stache? Let’s Rock AIDS!!

December 4, 2014

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You’ve seen the moustache… and more of me than you intended to this week… and, well, the time has come… so let’s harness the full power of Freddie Mercury together!

The fundraising drive for MTV Staying Alive is live- from now through Saturday you can make a minimum donation of $8 (MTV Staying Alive and the Big Give fund drive is based in London- so a £5.00 donation roughly equates to $8.) Your donation goes towards helping young people fight HIV in their communities around the world. But it also does much more.

For each dollar, Durex will supply 5 free condoms for young educators- meaning that your minimum donation of $8 (£ 5.00) would provide 40 condoms!

What will happen regardless of whether the donation gets doubled?
You’ll help vital prevention programs get funded. HIV is a complex problem, but proven strategies combined with a creative approach work in minimizing risk for HIV transmission… and MTV Staying Alive has an incredible track record.

So let’s do this! Join me in making a donation today… or I’ll post more pictures of me in the shower with this moustache. And yes, the drapes do match the curtains. Don’t make me prove it.

We Are All Queen,
Shawn

 

wearequeensing.jpg click pic to donate!

My Sexy Freddie Mercury Shower Pic

December 1, 2014

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gwennisclean.JPGThe Freddie Mercury moustache has arrived in style on World AIDS Day thanks to Jack Mackenroth’s #weareALLclean social media campaign/fundraiser for Housing Works. It’s been so much fun to participate in and donate to this as I prepare to call on friends to donate to my fundraising campaign for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation later this week. (Details below.)

So many campaigns and so little time each year to have eyes and hearts on this issue. I’m so thankful to be here and to be a part of a community that is fighting back against this epidemic in wonderful ways that change lives for the better. I hope you all are having a happy and safe World AIDS Day.

We Will Rock AIDS,
Shawn

UPDATE: Gwenn took a shower selfie this morning to join in the fun! So thankful to have such a loving partner.

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Shawn is sporting a Freddie Mercury moustache to raise money for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Donations are doubled starting at 5 am EST on Thursday, December 4 and through Saturday, December 6 (Click to donate!). Also, for every $1 donated Durex is donating 5 condoms to HIV prevention efforts for MTV Staying Alive.)

The Power of a Freddie Mercury Moustache

November 20, 2014

 shawnbiggiveFBprofilepic.jpg I’m in the process of doing something I’ve never done before… I’m growing a Freddie Mercury moustache.

I’m revealing the moustache on World AIDS Day, December 1. Then, with your help we will, WE WILL rock AIDS together for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Because on December 4, 5 and 6 donations to this organization are doubled! So a generous donation of $10 will count as $20. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to insult you by giving any more examples.)

I’m proud to be a board member for MTV Staying Alive- they support incredible work around the world and make a true difference in peoples’ lives by funding community members to address the specific HIV needs where they live. And a little money goes a long way.

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I’ll have details on how you can help very soon, and will be posting growth progress. Right now it’s a bit patchy, dawg. But with your good vibes I’m sure I’ll be able to grow a stache that Freddie would endorse. And with your help, we will grow a moustache that harnesses the same kind of power that Freddie used to rock audiences.

We Are the Champions,
Shawn

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