Body Counts by Sean Strub

January 14, 2014

POZ-sean.jpgSean Strub’s memoir, Body Counts, hit stores yesterday, and Gwenn and I were fortunate enough to get to our local bookstore just in time to nab the last three copies: one for us, one for my mom (who is a huge fan) and one for a future Labtest Contest prize.

But, don’t wait around for me to get labwork done in March for a chance to win this book, if you have any interest in the history of the gay community, the politics of sex and the realities of living with HIV- you’ve gotta get this book. Click on Sean’s face to read an excerpt of Body Counts in the latest issue of Poz.

Sean has been one of the most influential people in my life as a positoid. Without him, I really have no idea what I’d be doing right now. In 1996, after nearly a decade of living with HIV, I decided to speak out about being positive for the first time; I was 20, still living with my parents in Waynesboro, Virginia, and had just put up a website chronicling my thoughts on living with HIV. My doctor fed me a few issues of Poz Magazine and I was stunned that a magazine solely about HIV existed. I poured through its pages and loved what I read. I sent a fan letter to the editor-in-chief, Sean, and shared where I was at in my own journey with HIV.

A month or so later, I was watching wrestling and the phone rang. “Shawn, telephone!”  My dad/secretary called out through my bedroom door. My beloved Ric Flair had just lost his World Title; I was bummed but took the call anyway. It was Sean. He invited me to NYC to be interviewed for the magazine and shortly thereafter I started writing my Positoid column.

body-counts-sean-strub.jpgWhen I learned that my original godparents had broken ties with my family in the 1980s after my diagnosis because their church said AIDS was God’s punishment against gay people, I asked Sean and Steve Schalchlin (another beloved mentor) to be my surrogate Godparents. They both readily accepted.

All of that personal history and admiration aside, it was hard to tear myself from Body Counts to post this blog- it really is an incredible book and an honest, forthcoming account from someone who has a truly unique set of experiences to draw from.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

HIV “Cure” in Miracle Water

January 12, 2014

The word “cure” is getting thrown around a lot these days. There is a lot of promising research taking place and I am in hopeful place that in a decade’s time (give or take) I’ll be living a life free of HIV… or, at the very least, a life free of the daily routine of taking HIV medications.

Science will ultimately prevail.

But in the meantime, there are charlatans who claim they have the cure right now. The other night I was watching TV at the ungodly hour of 4 am, which I guess is appropriate considering the fella whom I happened upon.

Peter Popoff. Apparently he’s been at it for three decades and was exposed in the 1980s as a fraud, yet here he is today making millions of dollars offering people magical debt cures and miracle water that can cure HIV and just about any other medical condition you may have. Here’s the HIV part of the infomercial, forgive the poor quality of the video which was recorded from my phone.

It’s incredible that- for the right price- someone can run an ad like this. It preys on the gullible and the desperate and could have devastating consequences. If there is a God and there is a Hell, I think there’s a special place in the latter for people like Peter “Fuckoff” Popoff.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Operation AIDS Elves

December 19, 2013

So I’m somewhat remiss in not posting a blog entry on World AIDS Day. Which got me to thinkin’- how can we extend the magic that is World AIDS Day deeper into the holiday season?

And that’s how Operation AIDS Elves was born.
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It’s a simple, fun way to spread some HIV/AIDS awareness during the craziness that is the holiday season… so, if you have a few extra red ribbons lying around, put them to good use! Here’s my friend and all-around good positoid, Rob Quinn, working his AIDS elf magic during a visit to NYC. And that’s me sneaking a ribbon onto a tree at the coffee shop and one onto the tree on the downtown mall.

Regardless of how you are or aren’t celebrating the holiday season, I hope this message finds you happy, healthy and at peace with yourself. There is no greater gift in this world than self love and acceptance- and that’s a gift that we are all truly worthy of.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

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The War on Blowjobs & Ken “The Cooch” Cuccinelli

November 4, 2013

This Tuesday (tomorrow) my home state of Virginia is hosting an intriguing race for Governor, pitting the sitting Attorney General, Ken “The Cooch” Cuccinelli against Terry McAuliffe.

ken_cuccinelli_370x278.jpgI’m voting for McAuliffe. To be honest, The Cooch scares the hell out of me. He is in favor of keeping “crimes against nature” laws on the books, making sexual acts such as blowjobs and buttfucking illegal. In addition to those pressing issues- which he claims are ways to further punish sex offenders- he also believes that any woman who is raped should be required by law to give birth.

One of Ken’s first acts after being elected as Attorney General was to send out a letter to every college and university in the state of Virginia, informing them to simply ignore any pressure to not fire someone based on their sexual orientation.

In the letter he wrote:

“It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of
Virginia prohibit a college or university from including ‘sexual
orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘gender expression,’ or like
classification as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy
absent specific authorization from the General Assembly.”

Ken Cuccinelli comes across as the kind of guy who is one Science Fair mishap or bizarre lightening storm away from being transformed into Spider-Man’s next arch nemesis. The more power he gets, the rougher things are going to be. He’s had a good run, but it’s time to band together and stop him. If you live in Virginia, or have friends who do, please make them aware of how important this election is.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

20-Year High School Reunion

October 23, 2013

A week and a half ago I attended my 20-Year High School Reunion. In the months leading up, I had the same feeling most people do in regard to these kinds of affairs: did I really want to go? Would it be more fun than awkward?

shawnhighschool.JPGThankfully, one of my longtime friends whom I’ve stayed in contact with was part of the organizing team. I agreed, knowing he would be there. As the event drew nearer, any fears of the event being a negative thing floated away. I started to get excited about the prospect of seeing classmates who wandered the halls alongside me for so many years, each one of them coming of age at roughly the same rate as I did.

Another plus is that I only live about 30 miles away from my hometown. When classmates from Denmark, Columbia, Germany and Poland started RSVPing, I thought it would be pretty lame if I didn’t make the “effort” to show up. Knowing how I felt initially about the reunion, I wrote to a few friends who hadn’t responded yet on the Facebook Event page, hoping they’d come out, too.

And when the night arrived, I was so thankful that I’d been open to it.

After about the third conversation with classmates I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years, I suddenly felt like I’d stepped into a time machine. In re-connecting with familiar and friendly faces from the past, I in turn reconnected with my 18-year old self. That guy who graduated with absolutely no plan of what to do with himself from that point on.

Since Gwenn and I have been so public with our relationship, many classmates have been able to keep tabs on me at a distance. I received so many kind words for the HIV education we do- even spouses of classmates whom I’d never met before heaped praises on me for My Pet Virus. I know that most of my classmates knew I was HIV positive back in high school- even though I never talked about it then- and it was great to be able to finally speak openly with them about it.

After the reunion, Gwenn joked with me about being the darling of my class, which is a dead-on assessment. The odds of me making it to a 20-year reunion were quite long, and when I was diagnosed with HIV in the 6th grade, my mom’s pie in the sky goal was getting me to high school graduation.

When the reunion neared, I was asked to make a “welcome” speech to the class. I kept it quick and casual, but I made a point to mention those who could not make it- we’ve lost a few classmates along the way, with varying degrees of tragedy. Keeping their spirit in mind during the celebrations was important because, even though they weren’t there that night physically, they too walked those very same footsteps as we did.

As for the next reunion, whether it’s in ten or twenty years, I plan to be around.  And, hopefully by then, I’ll be walking through the door without HIV in tow.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

Surviving Bleeding Disorders and HIV

October 4, 2013

This month I wrote an article for Poz.com about what it was like for three young men, who were born in the 1980s with a bleeding disorder. Mark tested positive at an early age and wasn’t expected to survive childhood- he is now the proud father of twins. Nick was born just before blood products were made safe- he shares a harrowing near-death experience, while Justin was born just after blood products were made safe; he evaded HIV, but had to calm his mother down when she found out he was gay.

Thanks to all three for being so candid!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

False HIV Rumors About Miley Cyrus

October 4, 2013

Wednesday night a group of bottomfeeders from 4chan launched a cowardly, anonymous online campaign entitled “Cure For Miley”. The goal? Presumably it’s either to trick people into thinking the singer is HIV positive- Oh my God, how awful for her reputation, what an insult (dripping sarcasm)- or to shame her overtly sexual public performances.

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Now, I’m no Miley fan. And yes, I could stand to see a little less of her tongue. Though, if someone had to be forced to never reveal their mouthsnake again, I’d banish Gene Simmons before I’d exile Miley’s flavor saver. Still, that’s not the story here- what pisses me off most about this campaign is that it’s underlying theme is: what could be more embarrassing and shameful than HIV?

Well, I don’t think HIV is embarrassing- or shameful. I’ve been living with it for most of my life. It’s a virus. A pesky one that can make life harder than it needs to be sometimes. But I do my best to stay healthy while dealing with the distraction of having to educate and enlighten people to the facts about HIV, while dispelling the rumors.

What is shameful and embarrassing? Posting anonymously online in an attempt to discredit, embarrass or shame someone else. Any jackass with no dignity or grace can do this. Look at YouTube Comments, do you think those people are happy with their lives? The loathsome losers who started “Cure For Miley” think they’ve done something great- all they’ve done is make stupid people laugh, and make some people with HIV roll their eyes and hang their heads.

Like Miley? Hate Miley? It doesn’t matter. At least she’s out there, doing her thing, taking all of the criticism that comes when you reach the top of that chosen profession. Maybe actual names and faces will be attributed to this lame campaign, maybe not. Either way, I for one am not letting these idiots off the hook.My message to them and the rest of the ever-growing population of cowards who hide behind their screen names is very simple.

Die soon and make the world a better place.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

GREAT Results on Hepatitis B Labwork

October 2, 2013

My lab results came back today on my hepatitis B Viral Load follow-up tests… and, it’s gone down. Considerably. From 100,000 copies at four weeks ago to less than 20 copies. I couldn’t be more thrilled about this development.

woohoo.JPGThis means I won’t have to add Truvada to my current regimen of Prezista/Norvir. It also means that my mom’s hunch was right- the spike in my hepatitis B viral load must have been related to all of the blood product treatments I received in August. My doctor was taken aback by the results, and I was mentally prepared for the worst… there’s been so much bad news lately, today was desperately needed.

So, cheers to turning points. This is most certainly one for me. If you’re out there and struggling with medical shit- my heart goes out to you. And godspeed on reaching your own turning point…. hang in there.

Positively Yours,
Shawn

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