Monday, August 29, 2011

Dating with HIV: My Experience and Thoughts

by Kevin Maloney

I am now 18 months post my dual diagnosis of HIV and Hepatitis C, and 9 months post successful Hepatitis C treatment. I thought it was time to meet someone; no, not just for sex, but for something more.  You see since my dual diagnosis I have felt completely a-sexual, and I’ll admit, feeling a bit ‘tainted’ too.  Even HIV + guys are hesitant to meet me when I tell them I also ‘had’ Hepatitis C.

So, wonderful, where does that put me in the dating scene?  Someone would really have to be desperate to meet me!  Recently I met someone by the name of ‘Dustin’. He smoked, and I said I would NEVER date a smoker, but I have been desperate to make a connection with another positive individual.  I thought I could ignore the smoke.  He was handsome, professional, similar in age, and a sweet talker, among, *uhm, other things….

I hear the knock on the door, I’m a bit nervous, I look through the blinds (pictures match), and open the door to meet him.  He reeked of smoke. We had some drinks, but all I could smell was the smoke emanating from him.  Almost immediately I had withdrawn all interest, and my body language turned very cold. He got the hint, and excused himself.

I’ve met one other person since that night, and a non-smoker! While the physical connection was there, I couldn’t allow myself to open up. Again, my body language turned cold, and he too left. Why am I having such difficulty meeting people, why can’t I open up, why does my body language turn so cold, why can’t I let anyone in? Before HIV I always had fear of rejection, having HIV compounds this fear.  I feel like damaged goods.

I am also stuck in the mindset that I would never date anyone who is HIV negative, and think how could I ever be in a serodiscordant relationship? I would not want to give to someone else what I have, no matter how small the chance. I wouldn’t wish HIV on anyone. I know that limits the pool of potentials as well.  Since day one of my diagnosis I made a commitment to myself to always disclose my HIV status when it comes to dating, maybe this is my dilemma?

I’ve allowed my emotions over my status dictate my single life. I had withdrawn and isolated from the World. I am trying to slowly build the confidence again to meet someone, and crawl out from under the shadows of my illness. As alone as I feel with my diagnosis; I hold out hope. I have been in three relationships prior to my HIV diagnosis, and one for over 2 years. I’ve traveled the world, been on many adventures, have a creative and intellectual mindset, caring, kind, honest, and have a super loveable personality.

I keep the hope of meeting someone, because I know that really loving someone means loving them for who they are and accepting the whole package.  I guess you would call that a soul-mate and I believe that person is out there somewhere.  So, today I make a commitment to myself to never settle for less than my heart’s desire. And to anyone reading this with HIV/AIDS or any other chronic illness; YOU deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and YOU shouldn’t settle for less.
Usually I am the one to offer tips and advice, but when it comes to dating and HIV I feel hopeless. I hope whoever is reading this will chime in.  Are you in a relationship? How long have you been together? How did you meet? How long after your diagnosis did you feel comfortable seriously dating someone?  Until next time….

Sexless in Seattle,

Kevin Maloney

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Experience at the 21st House of Latex Ball

By Steve Lewis

My Experience at the 21st Annual Latex Ball
Photo by Rebecca Smeyne for the Village Voice
The Latex Ball, held this past Saturday at the crumbling Roseland Ballroom, was everything—yet it fell short. It was all that a Ball could be, but for me it was defined more by what was missing than what actually occurred. It began as all Balls do, just a little later than you can stand but as it commenced and lived, the drama and the performances were breathtaking.

To the newbies who tagged along with me, it was Nirvana, a realization of a world only glimpsed at in a Malcolm McLaren or Madonna video, or in Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary, Paris Is Burning.

Jennie came to The Latex Ball and said a few words. She also produced a very excellent tribute to Paris Dupree, who was the last of the “great mothers” of the Houses of the Ballroom community. Paris Dupree was missing Saturday night. Her passing and the passing of so many others this year and in recent years set a sad tone at the usually happy gathering. The short documentary captured the essence of a legend. Her attitude for the ages underscored the meaning of the whole affair. The Latex Ball is sponsored by GMHC and besides the competitions and awards and performances, they provided education about AIDS and HIV, free on-premise testing and, as far as I can tell, handed out about a million condoms to participants.

The world I live in seems to be becoming less aware of AIDS and HIV as if it were a disease that those “other” people get. It can’t affect me because I’m white, or I can’t get it because I’m older and haven’t gotten it yet, and I can’t get it because I’m straight or safe most of the time, are some of the many misconceptions we as a community have accepted. I think after decades of the crisis taking a toll on our world, we have relegated the problem to the dark corners of our consciousness and tune out the billboards and TV commercials there to help us understand. Although aggressive treatments have made survival a reality for most and living a good life possible, the stigmas and real dangers of HIV and AIDS still persist. At the Ball, speaker after speaker recounted the lost and pleaded with the audience to grasp this concept.

Missing at the Ball were the many groups of people I have seen there before. The Chelsea boys were not in the house, nor were the flamboyant crews that I’ll call the Patricia Fields, Kenny Kenny and Susanne Bartsch crowd. Even the mainstream crowd, that over many years came in to peek, didn’t show. The gathering was mostly Black and Hispanic and mostly young. It has almost always been this way but this Ball lacked the outsiders (one of which, I must have appeared to be). This happened despite a broader understanding and awareness of the House or Vogue Ball culture. Indeed, a lot was missing Saturday night but so much creativity and talent did attend. I saw some of you there and I hope you enjoyed it and discovered this universe of tradition and love that has always obsessed me. I attended my first ball in the early ‘80s and never wanted to miss another. I constantly annoy Ball community members about when the next one will occur. I will attend the KIKI Ball on October 28th. If you want to know more about this society and future Balls visit or the GMHC website.

I have lost hundreds of friends and a relative or three to the AIDS/HIV epidemic. The Ball was an important opportunity to educate young people as well as oldsters like myself on the continuing problem of the epidemic. The young Hispanic and African American crowd that were in attendance are at particular risk. I saw a statistic saying that although the African-American population represents about 10 to 13% of the American, population close to 50% of the people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS were African Americans. Although the mainstream American universe seems to be believe this scourge is something under control, the dangers still persist. Flyers and posters underscored the dangers of making bad sexual decisions while under the influence. It is true that many strains of the virus are being treated with increasing success but many individuals do not react well to treatment and the virus continues to evolve into prevention resistant strains. The Ball was sponsored by the GMHC who have always been there to support and educate. They continue to fight this good fight and deserve the recognition and our support.

The Ball was magical. The competitions were fierce and winners graciously took home their trophies and kissed and hugged those who fell short. We went through packs of throat lozenges as we screamed and jumped up and down with awe. We lived for the outfits, costumes, and ensembles. We gasped as “Voguers” leaped higher in the air than ever before. We teared up as the role of the missing and gone was recited. Someone scolded and shouted “Do not forget Willi Ninja!!!” when the list was recalled. How could Willi Ninja be forgotten? Time and numbers make us forget the unforgettable. Willi may not have invented “Vogueing,” but he took it to an undeniable place. I adored him. He was gracious and intelligent and fun. When he was at the door of the Sound Factory, or some other joint, I looked forward to chatting with him.
Many in the Ballroom community fought their way up from a very low place to find acceptance from the community and from themselves. The Houses provide refuge from a backward world and an opportunity to find out who they are and how to express themselves and make their mark. Leaving behind a legacy was a much discussed topic at the Ball. Names of icons, legends, and those who passed too early were recited on stage and talked about in the crowd. Paris Dupree was the last of the original five mothers of the modern Houses. She was preceded by Angie Xtravaganza, Pepper LaBeija, Avis Pendavis and Dorian Corey. Others spoke of Danielle Revlon, Catiria, Nicole Iman, Danny Xtravaganza and the recent passing of Leo Xtravaganza, Leo Milan and so many more. With all that we have learned, people are still dying too young, too soon. It’s easy to slip up, forget or risk just this once but if I took anything from the glorious 21st annual Latex Ball it was I want to see the 31st and the 41st Anniversary Ball. I pray for a time when we get to a point where GMHC isn’t involved anymore because their mission has been accomplished. Have fun, play safe.

Steve Lewis' second of two articles was posted on August 22 at

The Latex Ball Is Coming to Roseland Ballroom This Weekend

by Steve Lewis

The Latex Ball Is Coming to Roseland Ballroom This Weekend
Photo by Rebecca  Smeyne for the Village Voice
I’m not here to be your dad. A dad has to be listened to and respected, even to the point of obeying him. No, I am dubbed Uncle Steve. My advice to you can be taken or left on the table. As an Uncle I do my best, but I don't dwell on it if you choose to ignore me. Now listen carefully: This Saturday, August 20, The Latex Ball will be held at Roseland Ballroom. Sell the house, hock the children, don't eat for a few days, save money, get a really chic outfit, clear the calendar, bring a hanky and a dry towel -- you're in for the ride of your life.

For those who know...well, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t have a clue, then baby you don’t have a clue and you better get one before it’s too late. This is going to get serious and more fun and drama-filled than the weak of heart can handle. GMHC is, of course, the sponsor, host, and reason to attend and pay the $20 donation. They don’t need promotion, as 4,000 people are already expected. As your Uncle, I am strongly advising you to join them.

What is it exactly? Well, like all things magnificent and undeniable it is hard to define exactly. Even to describe what happened last year might not be sufficient, as this is an evolving world of glamour, love, respect, style, grace and fulfillment. Stars will be discovered; elders will lay down their swords and pass on into legend status. Those who have passed on will be remembered. This is a Ball, a competition between Houses and individuals. It was glimpsed at in Paris Is Burning, exposed to the wider world in Madonna’s “Vogue” and by Malcolm Malcolm MClaren before. The term “Vogueing Houses” has been used by some. It is ancient and yet modern. There will be competitions; for months, the participants have been preparing. The outfits, the moves, the attitude has been honed. They are sharp, ready as Olympic athletes. Categories are complicated, requiring teams to ready for. There are cash prizes, An example of a category is as follows.

Portrait of a Fem Queen: “The Fem Queen Face Divas of the ballroom have always been the true definition of how we view beauty today. Through glamorous gowns, gorgeous hair, flawless make-up and the timeless art form of selling FACE! Tonight, let’s pay tribute to the true Fem Queen Faces that inspire you. Bring forth a look that will give you the right to grace the same stage as them.”
The loss of Paris Dupree will weigh heavy on the Ball’s attendees. The passing of Leo Xtravaganza and Kevin Milan must be mentioned. The Balls are a gathering of thousands of people who have often been outcasts of our so-called society. The Houses came together as a response or defense against rules, traditions, and ignorance that often left individuals without family and friends. The Houses became their families and within this structure, creativity and love blossomed and thrived. the Houses in attendance will include Allure, Aphrodite, Balenciaga, Blahnik, Chanel, Ebony, Epic, Evisu, Herrera, Garcon, Revlon, La Perla, Mugler, Lacroix, Xtrvaganza, Infinisit and Labeija.

Doors open at 8pm and the Ball will go till 4am. Traditionally it will not be done when it is over. I cannot explain this to you any further. I can only say that this is going to be amazing. If you want to know more, visit and educate yourself. I will be there and hope to see you.

Steve Lewis's first of two articles was posted on August 17 at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Living Room by Marjorie J. Hill, PhD

Growing up, my family seldom used our living room. Maybe it was the dreaded plastic slip covers or perhaps the perceived conventionalism. But it was essentially a shell that embodied hope —mostly my Mom’s —of a life just beyond the realities of Bedford-Stuyvesant in the early 60s. As a teen, the living room became the place where your parents eyed your new friends and where you sat to mourn an aunt, grandparent or neighbor. It was the room that the teacher, social worker or cop sat in—well the cop stood in—when someone was in BIG trouble. It was the room in which the live Christmas tree was placed.

There were many living rooms in my memory—I Love Lucy's living room, Archie Bunker’s, the Huxtables,’ the Younger family in Raisin in the Sun—each with a poignant message of truth and resiliency.

And then there was Larry Kramer’s living room.

On Tuesday, August 11, 1981, Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Larry Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport and Edmund White (and their friends) gathered in Larry’s living room. They passed around a hat and raised $7,000, seed money to build what would become the first AIDS service organization in the world, Gay Men’s Health Crisis. The new family of men bravely struggled to piece together responses to this developing plague when very little response was coming from government officials and elsewhere. It was clear they needed each other and they needed to support each other as more and more gay men continued to senselessly die.

GMHC eventually grew out of that living room to office buildings which housed care services for people affected by HIV/AIDS, HIV prevention, testing and public policy programs. In each of the four times GMHC moved in the last almost 30 years, a living room was included in our plans. Whether on World AIDS Day gatherings, meetings with international visitors or just quiet conversations as people with HIV/AIDS waited for daily meals to be served —the living room became just that—a room for the living. A room that we returned to mourn those lost to AIDS, celebrate their lives and recommit to never forget.

On Thursday, August 11, 2011, we reflect on the first meeting of GMHC’s six founders in a living room. We think of the horrors they experienced, the courage they summoned as new activists and the historic legacy that has fostered GMHC and other AIDS service organizations for 30 years.

In GMHC’s new home at 446 West 33rd Street, we bear witness to current activists who come together in our living room. Even now, the fight against AIDS still requires us to be a family who needs each other and supports each other—A family with a well -used living room.

Marjorie J. Hill, PhD is the Chief Executive Officer of GMHC.  Her August 17th article was originally published on

Friday, August 12, 2011

GMHC Commends New Sex Education Policy in NYC School System

For the first time in nearly 20 years, New York City public middle and high schools will be mandated to incorporate sex education as a part of the public school curriculum. This will include age appropriate and culturally sensitive lessons on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, the risk of unprotected sex, HIV and STI prevention, and how to use condoms.  The new proposal will be implemented in the second semester of the 2011-2012 school year and calls for students to receive a semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade, and once again in 9th or 10th grade.  Parents will also be given the option to remove their children from lessons on contraception.

“Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) strongly supports the requirement that sex education be instituted in New York City public middle and high schools. For far too long, abstinence has dominated the conversation of sex education in our public school system,” said Marjorie Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC. “Age-appropriate comprehensive sex education is a welcomed and much-needed development that will go a long way towards educating students on the practices of safer sex, thus helping to reduce new HIV infections.”

The new mandate is also part of a larger initiative by Mayor Bloomberg to improve the health and well-being of black and Latino teenagers.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, black teens accounted for 75% of all diagnosed HIV infections in 2008 in youth ages 13 to 19.  Additionally, black and Latino young men who have sex with men are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection.  This underscores the need to have comprehensive sex education available in public school systems at an early age and the new policy will help provide students the tools and resources for them to be empowered and protect themselves.