Tag Archives: AIDS

4 Stunning Examples of Community Love (Video)

The first definition of community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. The second definition is much more interesting though – a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.  A feeling of fellowship. What does that mean to you? As we look at the different kinds of love that we give this week, what do you consider your community? Do you give back? How do you celebrate it?

The following videos are about people who went above and beyond for the love of those they share a common attitude, interest or goal with. They are community leaders and kids. They start massive construction projects or simply add a little extra joy to their day jobs. The common thread is that they care about the world and people around them, and are taking the time to show it.

Many of the children currently living in Ethiopia have never known a world outside of the HIV/AIDS crisis. It is something that impacts them every day. These teenagers used their phenomenal dancing skills to create a group called the BEZA Anti-AIDS youth group. They travel around the country performing these dances and hand out fliers and information to the crowds that watch them to help create a more educated society and prevent the transfer of AIDS. Talk about using your artistic talents for a good cause.

We all know that hospitals can be a depressing place, but this nurse makes it his mission to give each of his patients something to make them feel warmer and loved. They call him “The Singing Nurse.” It started with him mindlessly singing as he handed out medications and went about regular tasks. Then he realized it was a great way to give his patients some personal care and make them feel special despite their less than enviable situations. It just goes to show how much joy you can bring even in the toughest jobs if you just open your heart.

Jonny Benjamin was 20 years old when he was diagnosed with a mental disorder that left him hopeless for a normal life. So he decided to take his life, but the kindness of one stranger named Mike convinced him not to do it. Instead of committing suicide, Jonny became a campaigner for mental health regulations and research. He’s a leader that tries to shine a light on illnesses that we still don’t fully understand. A few years after that night on the bridge, Jonny started an internet campaign to find Mike, to thank him for saving his life. His story touched millions as the campaign went viral. Above is the video of their second meeting, and proof of what happens when you just take the time to lend an ear.

Your community doesn’t have to just be the people or places around you. We’re all part of a global community because we have this one thing in common – Earth. So it’s important to show love for that too. In Milan they are creating vertical forests to show some love for Lady Earth. Not only does the project beautify a part of town that has become overrun, but it gives a home to over 900 trees per building. Something to pretty, and it benefits the planet? Where do we sign up?

Do you have an example of someone showing love for their community? Share it with us in the comments below!

US approves first-ever HIV prevention pill

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug for HIV prevention in adults not already infected with the virus.

The drug, Truvada, is a combination of two HIV medications and comes in pill form, to be taken once daily. Preliminary studies show promising results of reducing virus transmission up to 96% in uninfected partners of people infected with HIV.

Dr. Debra Birnkrant, M.D., director of the Division of Antiviral Products at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research stresses that Truvada must be used in conjunction with safe sex practices. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, echoes Dr. Birnkrant’s caution.

As reported by CNN:

“The approval of Truvada to prevent HIV infection in uninfected individuals who are at high risk of sexually acquired HIV infection is a significant development, providing an important addition to our toolkit of HIV prevention interventions,” Fauci says. “However, it is critical to stress that Truvada as ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’ should not be considered a stand-alone method, but should be used in conjunction with other proven HIV prevention strategies such as condom use, risk-reduction counseling, and frequent HIV testing.”

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is highly skeptical about the new drug. From CNN:

“The FDA’s approval of Gilead’s Truvada as a form of HIV prevention today, without any requirement for HIV testing is completely reckless and a move that will ultimately set back years of HIV prevention efforts,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF’s President.

The FDA does recommend, but does not at this point require, a negative HIV test prior to use of Truvada. Is that enough?

It is exciting news, without a doubt, that Truvada may moves us one big step in the direction toward an HIV-free world. Medicine can be a blessing, and preventative measures are critical. But, as Mr. Weinstein cautions, we shouldn’t approach Truvada as a quick fix. Safe sex practices, regular HIV testing, and conscious living are crucial measures for wellness.

My heart goes out to all whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Anything we can do to help those currently suffering and prevent future deaths goes down as a good plan in my book. What do you think about Truvada? Leave your comments below!

photo by: Instant Vantage

Thembi Ngubane’s Story: HIV and AIDS Acceptance

“Our parents struggled against apartheid, they wanted to be free. And it is the same with HIV/AIDS. This is the new struggle.” – Thembi Ngubane

Thembi Ngubane was a 19-year-old South African woman from Khayelitsha township, outside Cape Town. She never thought she would inspire people from around the world with her life’s story. Surely, she never thought she would continue to be an inspiration even after her death.

But when Thembi was given a tape recorder by NPR’s Radio Diaries, and asked to record the day to day experiences of her life as one of South Africa’s millions of HIV+ youth, everything changed. In light of the severe social stigma that remains around HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa, Thembi had until then been relatively silent about her condition. Even when Radio Diaries played segments of her story on National Public Radio in the U.S., she did not want her story broadcast in her home country.

Yet, in the personal to political tradition of so many social change movements in the U.S. – the 1970’s feminist movement, the civil rights movement, and now the body acceptance movements – Thembi took her personal story and connected it to a broader global movement around HIV and AIDS acceptance. She traveled to the U.S. and met with former President Bill Clinton and then-Senator Barak Obama. In March 2007, she spoke to the South African Parliament about the need to address AIDS-based discrimination in her country. Indeed, in the sheer act of telling her story, Thembi galvanized a movement around acceptance of HIV and AIDS both in South Africa and around the world.

To read the rest of this blog, please go to Adios, Barbie!


Tonight in New York City, a Celebration, a Feast, and a Reason to Tweet.

Tonight, in New York City, Gay Men’s Health Crisis will celebrate with Savor; one of the top events of the year, but this year’s event is going to be one for the ages and reason for all of us to celebrate with them. If you can’t make the event we have a really special way for you to get involved on Twitter (hint: keep reading).

First, GMHC is celebrating thirty years of serving those in New York City who are living with HIV/AIDS; providing critical services and support to literally tens of thousands of New Yorkers over the decades. That is reason enough for all of us to pause on an early Spring Monday and say thank you to this remarkable group.

Next, tonight’s event promises to be the best Savor ever and yes, there are still some tickets available should you be looking for a great night out. Hosted by celebrity-chef Ted Allen of The Food Network’s Chopped and featuring some remarkable chefs such as Peter Hoffman of Savoy, Stephen Lewandoski of Tribeca Grill, Francois Payard of Francois Payard Bakery and Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Cafe, over 500 guests are expected to descend on Gotham Hall tonight and enjoy a remarkable feast for a very good cause.

At tonight’s event, for the first time GMHC will honor the inspiring work of Joan Tisch with the inaugural Judith Peabody Humanitarian Award. This award tonight honors not one but two of the most distinguished activists and philanthropists that have enriched GMHC over the past thirty years and all the men and women GMHC has served.

At last, but not least, especially for everyone who is not in New York City and can’t make the event, here’s a great reason to follow GMHC on Twitter. GMHC’s partner Kimpton Hotels is giving away a two-night stay if you follow GMHC and re-tweet about the event. All the details are here. But here are the highlights.


How to Enter:

In order to become eligible for the Kimpton Hotel 2 night giveaway, you must be at least 18 years of age. There is NO purchase necessary in order to become eligible for this give-away.



Follow GMHC on Twitter (twitter.com/GMHC_online) and re-tweet the original message to become eligible:


RT @GMHC_online 2 honor Joan Tisch @ SAVOR #celebrateGMHC. Follow us & RT 4 chance to win 2 nights @Kimpton hotel http://bit.ly/foFQKO


Deadline for the give-away is Friday, March 11

Bobby Shriver Vs. Bill O’Reilly. Not. A. Fair. Fight.

Earlier last week, Bill O’Reilly had great fun attacking The Global Fund on his show, grabbing onto the sensational headlines about corruption in Africa. He brought out some so-called expert from The Heritage Foundation on his show except the expert didn’t really understand The Global Fund, what had actually happened and didn’t really understand what he was talking about other than to scream massive corruption; that this corruption was bad and even though he didn’t blame it on Obama being born in Kenya, he probably wishes he had remembered that core talking point of our fine conservative brethren at the Heritage Institute – an organization initially funded by the Coors family and Richard Mellon Scaife.

O’Reilly, not surprisingly, was not really interested in pointing out that the "corruption" in the story was a result of The Global Fund internal audit team rooting it out and then going public with it and telling the world we’re spending billions in Africa and we checked our spend and here are the problems we are identified; less than half of one percent of the total aid sent to Africa from The Global Fund.

But what’s the fun of that Mr No Spin Zone said? Let’s make this about celebrities, Bono pictures of course, and corruption and waste of money. So he even tried to compare The Global Fund to Haiti? He lost me on that one.

Well, on Friday night, my friend and partner-in-crime, Bobby Shriver went on O’Reilly’s show and let’s just say, Bill O’Reilly proved that punching a punch bag is a lot easier when the bag doesn’t punch back. Bobby not only held his own but he set the record straight, telling O’Reilly how there are now six and a half million people in Africa alive today versus only 40,000 a decade ago because of the work of The Global Fund and others getting life-saving antitretroviral drugs in the hands of those battling HIV/AIDS.

This fact-based argument left O’Reilly to muddle that well, that’s a pretty impressive number – and well…

Bobby even brought some amazing before and after pictures of people who lives have been saved; it was a powerful moment and one that left even O’Reilly I dare say, not quite speechless but definitely sure that this Shriver guy was not the pushover he had hoped he would be.

For me, it answered the question should Democrats and Progressives and smart people go on FOX NEWS? Absolutely. Because bring some wit, intelligence and great pictures, you can make it a great appearance, just like Bobby did.

Score one for the good guys and click here to see the video.

Actually, The Global Fund Got It Right On Corruption.

The headlines scream for attention and plenty of hand-wringing and I told you so’s.

Massive Problems With Celebrity Driven Aide; UN Investigation As Sweden Reneges.

Global Disease Fund Seeks to Recover From Corruption

Darling of development world, stung by corruption problems, says others

But there’s one problem with the headlines about today’s revelation about The Global Fund. The revelations of problems with the distribution with the funds for medical aid into Africa did not come as the result of some deep undercover investigation by some newspaper or by some government agency.

They came from The Global Fund.

Because while virtually every organization that is spending money on the ground in Africa, whether they are helping people get access to clean water, saving the rainforest or helping fight AIDS is going to have corruption and have issues with a percentage of the money getting misspent, what The Global Fund did was decide, proactively, not to ignore that problem.

But there’s fraud the critics cry!

Well, actually yes The Global Fund’s Inspector General (and that’s a good start right there, if you are going to support an organization that does work on the ground in Africa, make sure they have an IG) says they uncovered issues, quite a few of them

Here’s what The Global Fund found:

Among the corruption uncovered by Parsons’ task force:

—Last month, the fund announced it had halted grants to Mali worth $22.6 million, after the fund’s investigative unit found that $4 million was misappropriated. Half of Mali’s TB and malaria grant money went to supposed "training events," and signatures were forged on receipts for per diem payments, lodging and travel expense claims. The fund says Mali has arrested 15 people suspected of committing fraud, and its health minister resigned without explanation two days before the audit was made public.

—Mauritania had "pervasive fraud," investigators say, with $4.1 million — 67 percent of an anti-HIV grant — lost to faked documents and other fraud. Similarly, 67 percent of $3.5 million in TB and malaria grant money that investigators examined was eaten up by faked invoices and other requests for payment.

—Investigators reviewed more than four-fifths of Djibouti’s $20 million in grants, and found about 30 percent of what they examined was lost, unaccounted for or misused. About three-fifths of the almost $5.3 million in misappropriated money went to buy cars, motorcycles and other items without receipts. Almost $750,000 was transferred out of the account with no explanation.

—Investigators report that tens of thousands of dollars worth of free malaria drugs sent to Africa each year by international donors including the Global Fund are stolen and resold on commercial markets.

—The U.N. Development Program manages more than half of the fund’s spending, but U.N. officials won’t release internal audits of their programs to the fund’s investigators. Parsons said that has blocked him from investigating programs in the more than two dozen nations, including some of the most corruption-prone.

Fair enough, it’s a lot of money and it’s a lot of issues that need addressing.

Also importantly when compared to overall budget which would be over TWENTY BILLION DOLLARS, it’s not quite as massive as it seems.

The critics will scream fraud, but what they should be screaming is thank god there is a group that is doing business in Africa that is actually watching where the money goes, following the money and where there is clearly fraud, shutting off the money.

The fight to help those with AIDS in Africa will continue. The good work of The Global Fund will continue. Unfortunately, in some countries where the need for help is great, it will continue, someday, when the issues that were identified today are fixed.


(the author has worked on Product (RED) since 2006 as an online marketing consultant and proudly so.)

Obama Lifts Ban on Travelers with HIV or AIDS

A dirty, outdated secret of our travel industry has been brought to light and annihilated.

The United States — "land of the free" — was, until recently, a member of a long-standing contingency of countries that would not allow travelers with HIV or AIDS to visit, except under very special conditions. Bizarrely, the US was among Brunei, China, Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen in its ban on visitors suffering from HIV/AIDS.

The good news is that as of Jan. 4, 2010, we are no longer on that list.

This is cause for celebration. The 22-year-old Reagan-era law was antiquated, created at a time when people were afraid to hug their brothers and sisters with AIDS because they didn’t know any better. Naturally we don’t want a bunch of sick people coming in and tryin3971887734_c5278eaf50.jpgg to infect us, but anyone with their common sense intact knows that such a fear is irrational and that people with HIV and AIDS can live long lives and have just as much of a right to see the world as the rest of us.

President Obama has, yet again, proven himself to be the proud owner of a good dose of common sense. Watch his speech from back in October as he signed the Ryan White Act:


The Obama administration is currently planning to host the 2012 World Aids Conference. For more information on traveling with HIV or AIDS, including restrictions, visit hivtravel.org.


Photo by Seattle Miles via Flickr.

A Different Kind of Ride for Charity


There’s something about the idea off covering great distances that brings out the fundraiser in people. If it’s not a breast cancer walk, it’s an AIDS ride. If not an AIDS ride, a marathon team running for leukemia. The list goes on. I myself did an MS ride, and I have recently written about an 11-year-old who is walking from Tampa, Fla., to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness for youth homelessness. 

What all these treks have in common, aside from being fundraisers, is that they are all designed for the able-bodied among us. In each case, our legs carry us toward our charitable goals. Which makes it a refreshing surprise to catch a story about a wheelchair-bound trekker who wants to get in on the action. 

Gene Fletcher, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy and scoliosis, recently motored 100 miles in his wheelchair on his "Trek to Bay Cliff." The journey raised money for Michigan’s Bay Cliff Health Camp, where Gene has spent his summers for six years doing daily physical, occupational, speech and music therapies.

The Trek, which took place June 17th to 20th, raised over $20,000 for the camp, including $1.68 that a little girl donated from her piggy bank. Gene traveled 25 to 30 miles each day in a caravan of safety vehicles, resting every five miles to let the motor of his wheelchair — a “Street Corpus” by Permobil — cool down. At the finish line waited a cadre of cheering fans and the prospect of another summer at his beloved camp.
By Katherine Gustafson of Tonic. For more latest news on good news, visit Tonic.com.

AIDS Lifecycle: A Life-changing Experience

As I sit at my desk in my Tonic office, it doesn’t seem possible that just a week ago today I was nearing the end of a 70-mile ride on Day 3 of AIDS Lifecycle. This was the day that I found my stride on the bike and felt at one with the pavement — albeit with sore quads and a tender butt!

img_0598By now, I’ve had a chance to re-thank my donors, complete seven loads of laundry and sleep in my own bed. The dogs were most overjoyed at our arrival as they always whether we leave for five minutes to take out the garbage or for seven days riding 545 miles to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I met some incredible folks who really care about solving this epidemic. I learned much about my physical and mental abilities. I had moments where I was utterly exhausted and couldn’t bike one more minute (but had to, so I kept going). I had many more moments when tears filled my eyes, whether it be from hearing others’ reasons for riding or listening to accounts of losing close friends to AIDS when the disease first hit the gay community in the 1980s.  Whatever drove me to finish the ride, I finished it in Los Angeles a different person than when I first mounted my bike in San Francisco a week earlier.

Of course, it helped to have 1,000 people cheering us on at the finish line. I had always seen athletes hailed in large stadiums, but never having been an athlete myself, it was a first for me! Now I know why athletes cry when they receive a gold medal. I can’t imagine feeling any more proud of myself and my team — my fellow cyclists who helped push me up hills (literally) and kept me inspired to get to the finish.

A 70-year-old man (it was his fifth ride) reassured me that if he could do it, so could I.

I plan to ride again next year in ALC9. If you’d like to join me, go here. To wrap up my series on my AIDS Lifecycle experience, I’d like to share the video of the week shown at the closing ceremonies. I hope you feel at least a trace of the emotion and excitement I had all week.

See you next year?

And, you can find my entire series on ALC8 here:

Riding my Butt Off For a Cause

AIDS/Lifecycle Day 1: I can’t believe I’m doing this!

AIDS Lifecycle: Halfway to L.A.

AIDS Lifecycle: Why Do We Do This?

Top Photo: "Chicken Lady," who has participated in just about every single AIDS Lifecycle, crossing the finish line in Los Angeles; Bottom Photo: The author at closing ceremonies in Los Angeles. (Photos by Dan Estabrook).

By Dan Esatabrook of Tonic.com

Is it Morning in the World?

This is a column about optimism and why there’s reason to feel it. Over the weekend one of the news shows referred to "morning in America." That was Ronald Reagan’s call to optimism thirty years ago. The country was demoralized and just beginning to come out of a long recession. The point of bringing up Reagan’s slogan is that in many ways he promised a false dawn while Barack Obama is promising a real one.

Reagan’s morning didn’t shine on AIDS patients; he thought they deserved what they got. It didn’t shine on anyone outside the right-wing agenda, so civil rights, unions, and feminists were out. So was environmentalism (what else to expect from a man who said that if you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all?) There was no light for progressivism in general. Half the reason that Obama’s election felt so liberating is that the Reagan legacy of reactionary politics and exclusion was over.

That’s a huge reason for optimism, but if you look globally, there are others. The right-wing agenda abroad called for free markets, unfettered capitalism, anti-Communism, and a strong military. That part of the Reagan vision is still with us, and some of it must be counted a success. There are no monolithic totalitarian governments in Russia and China anymore, whatever you think of the present regimes. The Cold War is definitively over. The mood of the world is against bullying superpowers and for nuclear disarmament. These trends may be new and fragile, but the tide seems to have turned. It has also turned against deniers of climate change and opponents of environmentalism.

An even greater cause for optimism is the rise of the dispossessed. When historians look back, this may be the dominant feature of our time. Billions of poor people with little hope for advancement now are getting a place at the table where only the wealthy once sat. I’m thinking of the so-called BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — whose economies have surged and will continue to after the great recession is over.

Just a decade ago, some of these positive trends weren’t visible. Even now they are obscured by bad news. The bad news about AIDS in Africa, for example, obscures major economic surges in East Africa. Terrorism and the Iraq war obscure the fact that deaths in war have declined dramatically since 1980.

On too many fronts there is no morning, though. Sri Lanka, North Korea, Sudan, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan — the list of trouble spots always seems to replenish itself. Yet taken all together, these places of strife and oppression don’t equal the enmity and danger of the Cold War. Our worst problem as a planet, sudden climate change, may serve to pull the nations together. Old systems are being shaken, and even though nationalism and militarism hold on tight, decade after decade, at least the idea of global cooperation is alive and well.

All told, I think the image of morning in the world is realistic. The good and the bad will always be tangled with one another. But compared to the false dawns that never fulfilled their promise, this dawn could transform the world far more positively than we realize. Our eyes are glued on the economic crisis, but our souls have a higher vision.


Published in the San Francisco Chronicle 

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