Tag Archives: HIV

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!

Is Zurich’s New Drive-In Prostitution a Good Idea?

Even putting aside the moral and ethical arguments against prostitution, there are some sound concerns expressed over the practice. For one, we must take health and safety into consideration any time people will be coming into close contact with one another. And as a still largely underground industry (unlike the medical field, where bodies also come into close contact) there is very little precedent for regulation in prostitution.

What if governments decided to stop prosecuting prostitution and instead establish measures to ensure safety and fair-play? That is exactly what Switzerland, the small, beautiful, chocolate-rich country, has been doing since 1942 when it legalized prostitution. And now, in an effort to enforce safety regulations, the Swiss city of Zurich has instituted what are colloquially being called “sex boxes.” This is essentially a drive-in brothel where cars can enter a small park with sex workers lined up all around, and clients and prostitutes can negotiate with one another to determine an agreement. Once paired, they’ll enter small wooden garages to…conduct their business.

Though there won’t be surveillance, prostitutes will need permits in order to use the facilities and will have access to panic buttons and on-site social workers in case of emergency. There are also policies in place in the country to enforce health checks and screenings in order to reduce the risk of HIV and AIDs. And the “sex box” sites also offer showers, lockers, laundry, and other facilities. As reported by the National Post:

“We built the place to be secure for the sex workers. It also had to be discreet for the sex workers and the clientele,” said Michael Herzig of Zurich’s social welfare department. “But we thought if we build the place, we can also make it look good.”

Here’s a look at the facilities:




You might be surprised to learn that Switzerland isn’t alone in such policies. Eight European countries currently have legal and regulated prostitution, and countless others in Europe and around the globe have legalized but unregulated prostitution. Here’s a map outlining prostitution in Europe:


 Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 9.58.49 AM





What do you think of Zurich’s “sex boxes”? Can you imagine a U.S. city instituting something along those lines? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!


Photo credit: AP Photo / John Heilprin

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images

Map credit: Wikimedia Commons


8 Amazing Facts About Dilo Oil – The Next Big Thing

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 5.45.27 PM

If you’re passionate about health and wellness like we are, then you’ve undoubtedly tried an assortment of cleanses, superfoods, skin care products, supplements, etc. Some work, some don’t. It almost starts to feel like we haven’t left a single stone unturned on this amazing planet of ours.

As it turns out, there may be one product you have yet to incorporate into your healthy lifestyle, and its called dilo oil. Why, you might ask, haven’t you heard of it? There might be a few answers to that.

First of all, dilo is only the idiomatic Fijian term for Calophyllum inophylluma native tree of the Pacific and tropical regions of Africa. The oil extracted from the plant’s seeds is being hailed by wellness product companies as the best thing since coconut oil, and for good reason. The fuss over dilo is nothing new to people of Fiji and other regions throughout the Pacific, and here’s why…

8 Amazing Facts About Dilo Oil:

  1. The long list of ailments people have traditionally treated with dilo oil include wounds, ulcers, ringworm, arthritis, burns, bruises, dry skin, acne, psoriasis, hair loss, and much more.
  2. Dilo oil is particularly effective in treating skin issues, which is why it has been incorporated into many traditional cosmetic products in the Pacific as well as in India.
  3. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry revealed dilo oil’s  potential to inhibit HIV reverse transcriptase, which could make it a viable ingredient in antiretroviral medication.
  4. Reportedly, the oil may also be a viable biodiesel source and thus an alternative to fossil fuel-based gasoline.
  5. The dilo tree also produces an apricot-sized fruit that tastes somewhat like an apple.
  6. The plant has also been used as timber, dye, ornamentation, mosquito repellant, fragrance, craft wood, boat material, soap, and lamp oil.
  7. The tree can reach up to 65 feet in height, 3 feet in diameter, and can produce up to 40 lbs of oil once fully grown.
  8. Dilo trees were considered sacred to Polynesians before mass-conversion to Christianity. Folklore surrounding the plant spoke of gods hiding in the trees and looking out on human activities.

Are you convinced? If you’ve used dilo oil before or try it out after reading this, let us know your results!

* * *

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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.

When We Were Young

Had dinner with Chrystyna last night, the first friend I made when I came to Toronto in my early 20’s. I’m glad we’ve always stayed in touch, even though sometimes it feels like eons between visits.  Along the way we’ve travelled to the UK and Italy together, rented summer cottages, and are never at a loss for good convo and laughs.  

Any reunion is always a flashback trip.  It’s tradition to ask: ‘Have you heard from Susan?’, even though we never hear from Susan, the mutual friend who introduced us but then one day packed up and disappeared forever into California.  The answer never changes; we ask anyway.  And it’s also tradition – given a J is generally shared at these dinners – to giggle, ‘Hey, are you in that special place with your dessert?’ by the time dessert’s being made love to with a fork.  The answer is always the same, here, too.



Last night Chrystyna mentioned Dan, a name I hadn’t heard in ages.  Dan died of aids just before Chrystyna and I met and so his name used to come up all the time back then.  And back then I knew of no one with hiv or aids, but through this first new Toronto friendship there was suddenly one degree of separation. Hearing Dan’s name again was a trigger as strong as any olfactory sense experience – suddenly I was enveloped by the feeling of being this fresh, wide-eyed kid again, living in a big city for the first time having first Big Gay Adventures.  

Sitting there last night at Chrystyna’s, having it all wash over me, made me feel very grown up and adult all of a sudden.

Good thing it’s a long weekend here in Ontario.  Gotta shake that off but fast.

… from H*I*M*B*O! – www.shaunproulx.ca/himbo/


The Changing Face of Service

We live in a time when no single government or alliance of nations can alone solve the scandal of poverty, the warming of our planet or the scourge of disease. Human and natural disasters require something more to fill the enormous gaps between people’s needs and the capacity of bureaucracies to meet them. This explains why we’ve seen non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, proliferate.

Thank heavens. Populated by passionate experts and funded by philanthropic grants and widows’ mites alike, these organizations are civil society’s collective conscience. They represent the best of humanity in those dark and often dangerous places where the worst of humanity and Nature are on full display. One of the best NGOs of the 21st century deserves more attention for its efforts to combat today’s most pressing global issues from HIV/AIDS to climate change. It’s the Clinton Foundation, founded by my good friend, President Bill Clinton.

I know how strongly he believes, as he has said many times, that "in our interdependent world, we are all responsible for our neighbors, even if they live half a world away." It’s generally well known how he has brought governments, businesses, charitable organizations and individual volunteers together in common purpose.

What’s much less known are the foundation’s early accomplishments. It has given small businesses from Harlem to Ghana the opportunity to survive and prosper. It has worked with the American Heart Association to help children avoid the hazards of obesity. It is assisting more than 40 of the world’s largest cities combat climate change. And through the Clinton Global Initiative, a unique gathering of human beings committed to move from words to deeds, thousands of corporations and citizens have committed to relieve some of Earth’s most intractable problems.

Simply consider the Foundation’s HIV/AIDS initiative. In the past six years alone, it has helped save the lives of nearly a million and a half children and adults in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. How? First, it recognized the yawning chasm between the number of people needing medicine to survive the ravages of AIDS and those with access to that medicine. Second, it knew the price of that medicine proved a huge barrier to bridging that chasm. And third, it realized that delivering medicine to the people who needed it required construction of a strong infrastructure that would last years.

President Clinton and his foundation team set about meeting those challenges head on. They negotiated with the drug companies to lower the price of HIV tests and treatment dramatically; completed memorandums of understanding with governments and organizations to deliver medicine and aid and to provide expertise and equipment to make those deliveries work; and inspired thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of contributors to bring both financial and people power to bear on this great cause.

What’s happened? The price of pediatric HIV/AIDS drugs has dropped by nearly 90 percent. As a result, the number of children receiving life-saving treatment in the 33 countries where the Foundation is at work has doubled to more than 130,000. To me, these are not simply numbers. They represent the faces of boys and girls I have met, the families in rural communities I have visited, and a reason to believe in a brighter future for people and places where such optimism has been in such short supply.

At a time when the global economic landscape looks so bleak, it is especially fortunate that these non-governmental organizations are going where governments can’t go to bring hope and combat hopelessness to so many people in need. We must celebrate their progress and communicate their advances, no matter how small they may seem to some. Believe me, they aren’t small to those in the forgotten places or those neglected people of our time.

I look forward to the coming inauguration of Barack Obama, whose election as president has lifted the spirits of so many people worldwide. I am pleased that he has chosen Hillary Clinton as the next Secretary of State, because she has an abundance the virtues and skills needed for the task at this moment in history. I also am grateful that the profoundly consequential work of NGOs such as the Clinton Foundation will continue to serve the interests of humankind.

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