Joyce Brabner’s ‘Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, And Dealers Plotted Against The Plague’: Book Review


SecondavenueJoyce Brabner’s nonfiction graphic novel recounts the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a tight-knit circle of “gay artists, writers, actors, musicians, dyke activists, drag queens,” who respond to the devastation of the disease with acts of remarkable daring and generosity. 

Brabner’s story centers on Ray, a struggling playwright who earns his living as a nurse. When a doctor he works with offers to hook him up with his “connections in Mexico” in “a potentially beneficial business deal,” Ray begins selling pot to his circle of friends. “The NEA isn’t giving grants to Avant queers,” his partner Ben reasons. “This is our Colombian Arts Council Grant!”

They’re careful to sell only to people they know, and we meet Ray’s vibrant circle of friends, most of them artists, writers, and performers—among them Brabner herself—as they come to his apartment to buy weed. “Fabulous herb…fabulous fantasies…and fabulous friends,” Ray muses, and his apartment becomes the site of “a celebratory, slightly stoned, queer-communal pleasure.”

BrabnerThese early pages of the book are exuberantly joyful, as Ray’s apartment is packed with friends eating and drinking and smoking together, playing games and singing songs, throwing out ideas for plays and musicals, and above all gossiping, cattily and lovingly. Mark Zingarelli’s direct and emotive illustrations capture beautifully the intimacy and trust between these queer outsiders, who create a rich and sustaining family for themselves.

The strength of that community will be tested by the new disease afflicting Ray’s patients. He cares for a man who is “the 24th known case” of what would eventually be called AIDS, and as the scope of the crisis becomes clear, he calls on his friends to “locate gay doctors, researchers, people with some medical training,” quickly creating a network both for information gathering and for providing care to those caught by the wave of infections that sweeps through Ray’s community.

Ray is terrified by the speed with which he loses his friends. “One went so suddenly,” he says, “we knew about it only when we learned he had been buried in a potter’s grave because no one had come to claim him.”



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26th World AIDS Day: Make A Change

Eric Leue Truvada

The 26th Annual World AIDS Day was this past Monday and there was a flurry of activity from all corners, from the "fragrant" revival of ACT UP: London, to corporate support from Apple, to no shortage of musical tributes. Things could not be more different from the hateful laughter of the Reagan administration of the 80s except for one thing: HIV is still a problem.

In an article for Bear World Magazine, Eric Paul Leue calls for not just remembrance of those who we've lost and education of those born after the plague, but to actively make change in the world. Leue divides his argument up into five concise and direct points:

  • Improving sexual health education and health programs in schools, because it's a mess in the U.S.
  • Decriminalization of HIV laws, like the ones that Iowa found to be "badly outdated and draconian"
  • Reclassifying HIV as a chronic infection, like diabetes, rather than a terminal illness
  • Update testing guidelines in order to shorten the possible transmission cycle of acute infections
  • Increasing access to healthcare, including reclassifying HIV meds as maintenance drugs rather than specialty drugs, and Truvada and future PrEP meds as preventative care

The article is absolutely worth a read, and let us always remember to honor the lost, care for the living, and shape the future for the betterment of all.

Gay New Yorkers Talk About Condoms, Lube, Fear, Size, HIV, and Sex: VIDEO


Impulse Group NYC, an organization formed to mobilize gay men for social advocacy, HIV/AIDS health-centered education and community engagement, utilizing volunteer efforts of local community members to create campaigns, events and online content to gay men impacted by HIV, has debuted the first in a series of short videos intended to stir dialogue about safer sex. New videos are being released each week throughout December.

The series features five NYC-based gay men sharing their views on sex, protection, health, stigma, and status.

In the first video, they're asked:

What's your favorite thing about sex?

Whose responsibility it is to bring condoms and lube?

What does sex without fear mean to you?

Have you or would you...have sex with someone who is HIV+?

Does size matter?

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...


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Pastor Suggests Killing All Gays So World Can Have an AIDS-free Christmas: VIDEO


Arizona pastor Steven Anderson, whom some Towleroad readers will remember because he wished for death by brain cancer for President Obama, gays, and Michelangelo Signorile, told his followers in a World AIDS Day sermon that he knows a way that the world can be AIDS-free by Christmastime:

“Turn to Leviticus 20:13, because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS. This is the cure for AIDS. Everybody's talking about 'let's have an AIDS-free world by 2020.' Look, we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas...90 percent AIDS free...If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, even both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along — and they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and testing. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.”

Anderson then goes on to label all LGBT pedophiles and talk about his "no homos" policy in his church.

It's not the first time Anderson has spewed his views. Back in 2009, he told Alan Colmes:

"I believe that every homosexual in the world is a deviant, is evil, and is a predator that is out to recruit others through molestation, through rape. It's in the news...I would keep my kids away from them. They're deviants. They're not normal. I am saying that [Barney Frank]'s perverted, and he's sick, and I would put him in the category of other homosexuals. Do I think that homosexuality should be against the law? Well, it's against God's law."

Watch Anderson spew his filth to a gasping congregation, AFTER THE JUMP...

(via rawstory)

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FDA Committee Inches Closer Toward Repealing Gay Blood Donor Ban

Picture 7The FDA Committee is meeting today to discuss proposals of removing the ban that prohibits gay men from donating blood reports The New Civil Rights Movement. Talks of repealing the ban appeared last month when The Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood & Tissue Safety & Availability voted to drop the ban for any man who has not had sex with another man in at least a year. A Williams Institute study finds that repealing the ban would save over 1.8 million lives.

However, the one-year abstinence stipulation is still considered discriminatory, and the few gay men that are eligible to donate would yield little increase in the amount of blood donated. Ryan James Yezak, found of the National Gay Blood Drive, finds the new stipulation discriminatory and absurd.

Said Yezak:

"The policies that are in place, the lifetime ban, perpetuates negative stereotypes and stigma. It assumes that all gay and bisexual men are likely to have HIV and therefore must be blanket banned and that's just not necessary in this day and age when they have the testing and other countries have moved to deferral time period."

Although Yezak is disappointed with the methods of the new stipulation, he agrees that it's at least a step in the right direction toward repealing the ban completely. Of course, the anti-gay right wing disagrees. Anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera, the head of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, staunchly affirmed his position on keeping the ban.

Said LaBarbera:

"First of all, HIV rates and sexually transmitted diseases are rising among homosexual-practicing men. So why would we be talking about softening the blood ban at a time when [STDs] are on the rise among men who have sex with men?"

The ACLU disagrees, saying criteria for becoming a blood donor should be based on science, not misinformed assumptions and discriminatory stereotypes. LaBarbera and his fellow constituents choose to ignore the fact that HIV is as much an issue for heterosexual people as it is the LGBT community. Fortunately, President Obama reaffirmed his support of those living with, and affected by, HIV and AIDS in a speech the day before the observance of World AIDS Day this year. 

Promising Study Shows HIV's Ability To Cause AIDS Weakening

OxfordA new HIV study out of Oxford University shows that the ability of the virus to cause AIDS is weakening over time. The evolution of HIV in response to anti-viral drug treatments has reduced its ability to replicate, thus decreasing the number of infections that turn the corner to AIDS. 

"This research highlights the fact that HIV adaptation to the most effective immune responses we can make against it comes at a significant cost to its ability to replicate," said Phillip Goulder, a professor from Oxford University who was the lead researcher on the study. "Anything we can do to increase the pressure on HIV in this way may allow scientists to reduce the destructive power of HIV over time."

While the study concluded that drugs are making HIV "less virulent," Goulder cautioned that while the news is promising it doesn't mean an end to AIDS.

"Overall we are bringing down the ability of HIV to cause AIDS so quickly," said Goulder. "But it would be overstating it to say HIV has lost its potency -- it's still a virus you wouldn't want to have." To date, 40 million people have died from AIDS and currently there are 35 million people infected with HIV worldwide.

More than 2,000 women in Africa took part in Goulder's study which was published on World AIDS Day in the Journal of National Academy of Sciences. The researcher also noted that for the first time in the epidemic's 30-year history that the annual number of new HIV infections is lower than the number of HIV positive people being added to those receiving treatment, meaning a crucial tipping point has been reached in reducing deaths from AIDS. 



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