MAN ON A MISSION
Tyler Curry wants to help change the perception of HIV-positive
By Michael W. Sasser
How do you feel about being the 25th annual AIDS Walk Miami Master of Ceremonies?
You know, I am just so excited! This year has been such a whirlwind of ups and downs. It really goes to show you that being up front and open with your positive status can be such a “positive” and life-changing experience.
Did you ever imagine your activism bringing you such a high profile?
Absolutely not. In fact, I didn’t really know I was going to be an activist. I am a writer and I wanted to release this pent-up secret the best way I knew how. When I released my first article, “The Needle Prick,” in the Advocate and Huffington Post, I did it for me. I was so overwhelmed by the reactions I got from others who took comfort in the fact that someone was being so open with his story. That’s when I started writing for others.
Tell us about The Needle Prick Project’s goals and how you think it has progressed?
I started NPP because I wanted to incite a modern conversation about what HIV is today. Whether it is a profile or a photograph, everything that I produce under NPP is simply meant to get people talking about HIV and HIV stigma. We are all each other’s teachers. Whether you are an expert or completely unaware, sharing your questions and concerns with your friends is the best way to find out what it will take to protect yourself without stigmatizing a person that could very well be you.
I believe it has taken off so fast because people are desperate to talk about it. We all have our fears when it comes to HIV, especially in the gay community. It just took a little spark to start a wildfire. And it doesn’t hurt that the way we are talking about it on NPP has humor and heart; both of which have always been missing in HIV education.
Why do you think an initiative like The Needle Prick Project is important?
That’s simple. It’s important because HIV infection rates are rising. Clearly, the prevention methods that we are currently using aren’t working. This is something different.
It’s also important because there are so many people who are positive that have stopped enjoying their lives because they feel like they can’t. That absolutely infuriates me. My life is just as great, if not more so, because I am more aware of my health and my attitude. I want others to feel empowered to take back their happiness as well.
How do you feel your activism has influenced or affected your own personal attitude and outlook on life?
Ha! Well, I think it is changing me every day. My friend calls it my callus-building period. In some ways, I am stronger than ever. In others, I have never been more vulnerable. Still, I absolutely believe that what NPP will do will change people’s life for the better. Bring it.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in activism/awareness building so far?
My greatest accomplishments have been the stories that no one will ever see. I have received countless emails from around the country and even the world from people who have been HIV- positive for years. They have been terrified that no one will love them and that they have lost their worth. Through the articles and the photos, they have been empowered to share their status and open themselves up to love again.
My greatest accomplishment has been to make people who are positive realize that they are worth it. No matter what “it” is.
How do you feel about society’s perception of HIV/AIDS today?
It’s outdated. I feel like the image of what HIV is today is stuck in a decade when you couldn’t avoid it. It’s time to bring it to the forefront again because we have a real chance of eliminating it all together.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I just want to keep growing the project and including more people in the conversation. I want to include more people in the NPP profile series and bring the photo series to every city in the U.S.
I am also looking to start filming a docu-series on what it means to be HIV-positive today. So, calling all production companies!
Is there anything else you would like to share with Wire Magazine readers?
Yes, I’m single. Hey…
This article was originally published in Wire Magazine Issue #16, 2013
A Cure Within Reach
(Photo courtesy of Care Resource)
Famed researcher believes HIV/AIDS cure is on the near horizon
By Michael W. Sasser
For those old enough to remember 25 years ago, it was a very different landscape for those with HIV and AIDS. At the time, little was known about AIDS, what caused it, how it was spread and if there would ever be an effective treatment for it. For many, particularly older gay men in LGBT meccas such as San Francisco and New York, it was considered the “gay cancer” and most often, it was regarded as a death sentence.
It was in that environment that AIDS Walk Miami launched and it was not necessarily an environment that in those days brought together all aspects of the community to combat the scourge of a generation. There was misunderstanding. There was fear. But there was AIDS Walk Miami as well, for that first time, in those days when it was the condition that bore no name.
Fast-forward to 2013 and AIDS Walk Miami is celebrating its 25th anniversary, with broad community support and the general good will of a broader community that recognizes the benefits of the event and the progress that has been made since AIDS first emerged decades ago.
Among those being honored at the 25th Anniversary AIDS Walk Miami is the man who arguably has long since placed his own stamp on efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, and who has very strong thoughts on the future of addressing a condition he’s studied and worked to understand and fight.
Today, event Grand Marshal Dr. Robert C. Gallo is optimistic to a fault about progress in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, and he should know what he’s talking about. Gallo is the eminent scientist who became world famous in 1984 when he co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS. He is currently the founder and director of the Institute of Human Virology, which was established to create and develop a world-class center of excellence focusing on chronic viral diseases, especially HIV/AIDS and virally-linked cancers.
“There are four things I wanted to help make people aware of by participating in the Walk,” Gallo told Wire Magazine in advance of AIDS Walk Miami. “The first thing is that we have been working on a vaccine and that we are going to go into the first phase of trials in 2014.”
Gallo made clear that the work being done builds on the work of others and, furthermore, that there are others also working on a vaccine. There will be three phases of trial and there remains one particular challenge in preventing antibodies introduced into the body from dying and thus providing only short- to medium-term results.
If a potential vaccine sounds optimistic, one of Gallo’s other primary messages for South Floridians is startling.
“It is something I made a decision about long ago – that a cure was not practical, but there have been some advances in basic biochemistry, I’ve changed my mind,” Gallo said. “I think a cure is theoretically in hand, at least when it comes to people in wealthier nations. I think it may be in existence in the next five or six years.
“It’s not a novel idea, and we may not be the first to develop it, but it will be the best,” Gallo continued.
Gallo also wanted to introduce people to the Institute of Human Virology, the work it does and the role he feels the Institute can play globally.
“It’s a world organization that meets twice a year and functions not like first-responders, but rather as a resource for consultation and discussion and research,” free from the constraints that often limit the effectiveness of organizations, such as a widely-scattered focus and the intervention of governments, he said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can’t be expert in everything. We saw with HIV that there were not enough experts.”
Gallo had a personal experience with the limitations of virologists just recently. “Last summer I thought I had West Nile Virus and I found out there was virtually nothing being done on it,” he said.
With funding – which Gallo said is obviously essential – the Institute could consult, conduct in-depth research and act as a resource for medical virologists. “There is a decline in the number of people going into medical virology in the future, for a lot of reasons,” he pointed out.
Finally, Gallo cited an article that he says he wrote and which has been published in the Washington D.C. area thrice. In the piece, he has argued for a domestic PEPFAR program focused on inner cities and urban areas. PEPFAR is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a George W. Bush administration initiative to combat HIV and AIDS overseas. As Gallo sees it, with the funding available for defending the homeland against biological attack, there should be a similar, domestic-focused program.
“If we had the program for the United States, it might not cost all that much money and it would give us a fraternal instead of paternal relationship with other countries in the world,” Gallo said. “With a program here, doctors and nurses could penetrate communities where it’s needed.”
Gallo mentioned Baltimore, Atlanta and Miami as locations where the infection rate calls for action. In fact, in an April 9 press release, Gallo revealed that the rate of new AIDS cases in the Miami/Miami Beach-Fort Lauderdale area is higher than it is in Nairobi.
“It could really help a number of cities, including Miami,” Gallo said. “I think we would be able to do much better.”
This article was originally published in Wire Magazine Issue #16, 2013
The Best Guide to Winter Party Festival 13’
(Photo Credit: Henry Perez)
The winter heat has arrived as Winter Party Festival is ready to celebrate its milestone of 20 years of partying with a purpose. Wire wants to ensure our readers are in the loop and don’t miss a beat at this year’s historic WPF 13’. Check out our offical guide here.
But before jumping feet first into the party, enjoy a bit of history about Winter Party Festival and when, where, and how it all started!
It would have been impossible for the founders of the first Winter Party to envision that this week we would be celebrating the 20th edition of the Winter Party Festival – one of the most successful LGBT fundraisers. The history of Winter Party dates back to 1992 (15 years after Anita Bryant’s efforts led to the repeal of Dade County’s first human rights ordinance) when Dade Action PAC, chaired by Clark Reynolds, fought for and won unanimous passage of a gay civil rights ordinance in the City of Miami Beach. The American Family Association (AFA) reacted by initiating a statewide referendum the year after to prevent any municipality or county in Florida from legislating equal protection based on sexual orientation. Ignacio Martinez-Ybor joined forces with Reynolds and other activists to defeat the AFA referendum campaign.
In August 1993, Reynolds and fellow Miami residents Stewart Stein and Dennis Leyva went to the Morning Party on Fire Island, a fundraiser for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, decided to create a similar event in sunny Miami Beach during the winter to attract tourists from the north, and partnered with Martinez-Ybor to raise funds and defeat the AFA-led referendum. The first Winter Party was born on February 13, 1994 and was funded through the support of their friends and four sponsors: H/X Magazine, Out Magazine, Coors Beer and the City of Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority. The music was provided by circuit legend Buc. Harry Bader designed an open-air dance club on the beautiful Miami Beach sand. More than 1,600 people came to party for a cause, raising a cool $45,000 and exceeding all expectations of the founders.
Soon after the first Winter Party, the Florida Supreme Court declared the language of the anti-gay referendum unconstitutional and the referendum was dismissed, so the Winter Party Committee gave the $45,000 to S.A.V.E. (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone), the non-profit organization created to fight the referendum and the progenitor of today’s SAVE Dade. S.A.V.E. used the money to work as a political action committee championing the rights of the LGBT community throughout Dade County. The following year, Winter Party’s committee formed a new foundation to distribute the proceeds of the event as grants to non-AIDS-related LGBT organizations throughout Dade County, and the Dade Human Rights Foundation (DHRF) was born and took over production of Winter Party.
In 1997, Winter Party became Winter Party Weekend, adding several new events to complement the very popular Beach Party, and successfully established itself as a major national event. The Miami Recognition Dinner was launched on March 7, 1997 – the Friday of Winter Party Weekend – to honor LGBT community leaders and activists, and in 1998, it was moved to the fall as a stand-alone fundraising event. Winter Party continued to expand, attendance increased substantially and in 1999 it doubled the previous year’s earnings.
By mid-2002, the founders of Winter Party had all retired from the Foundation. DHRF closed in 2004 and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force took over the production of Winter Party Festival and the Miami Recognition Dinner, and pledged that the majority of events’ proceeds would stay in South Florida as grants administered through the Dade Community Foundation, now known as The Miami Foundation. The remainder of the funds would go to support the Task Force’s national efforts to build the grassroots power of the LGBT community. The Task Force has donated close to $1.4 million to South Florida LGBT charities through grants administered by The Miami Foundation’s GLBT Community Projects Fund. This year the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will also celebrate its 40th anniversary!
Check out The Best Guide to WPF ‘13 here. See you on the dance floor and the sand!
Cheers,Publisher & Editor in Chief
This article was originally published in Wire Magazine Issue #10, 2013
2 HIV-Positive Men Arrested for Not Revealing Status to Grindr Teen
“Heavens knows how many victims we may have out there,” Assistant State Attorney Eric Linder said during the hearing, remarking that after the men waived their Miranda rights, they told police that they “regularly meet other males and engage in unprotected sex without notifying them that they are HIV-positive.”
“I do consider you a threat to the community,” Richards said, stopping short of charging each man with attempted murder and instead fashioning their bond to reflect their failure to disclose the potentially fatal virus.
WOMEN’S WHITE PARTY HOSTS A SIZZLING ARRAY OF EVENTS FOR THE GIRLS WHO LOVE GIRLS
By: Liza M. Santana
From November 19-26, 2012, thousands of guests from all walks of life will take over Miami for a lineup of the most dynamic fundraising events for HIV/AIDS fundraising. Produced by Care Resource, White Party Week is an array of events packed into one theme to help raise funds for HIV/AIDS. This week-long endeavor is the largest and oldest 100% HIV/AIDS benefit in the world. The festivities which are a week long reach a pinnacle on Saturday November 24, 2012. Knowing that HIV/AIDS affects both men and women, Pandora Events, known for over a decade of community outreach, has put together another fabulous line-up of events for women who love women.
The four-day roster of activities and elite fetes includes a little something-something for everyone, and created for women from all walks of life. If you are into gorgeous weather, beautiful people, amazing cuisine, delicious cocktails, rock and roll and the beauty Miami Beach has to offer, then Women’s White Party Week is just the week you’ve been anticipating. If that isn‘t enough to tickle your fancy make sure to plan for some amazing shopping and elite parties. If that still isn’t reason enough to join in, the weather and beaches alone will peak your interest. After all the backdrop of all of these activities is gorgeous Miami Beach. From warm breezes, translucent waters, and gorgeous clear skies by day and night, these are just a few of the many pleasures Miami Beach has to offer those who decide to join the festivities. This year’s events are all held in the Miami Beach area, so there is no need to even leave your comfortable paradise, and no need to feel guilty, because it’s all for an amazing cause.
“We are thrilled to have an amazing line-up of entertainers and celebrities collaborating with us this year including the sexy rockers from the hit Showtime Series THE REAL L WORD, Hunter Valentine and host Lauren Bedford Russell. It’s really going to be a stellar weekend,” said Alison Burgos, co-producer of The Women’s White Party. “AIDS is not typically thought of as a disease that affects gay women but many of us know or love someone affected by HIV or AIDS. We have a wonderful community of women who are committed to raising awareness of the disease and supporting this great cause.”
The Women’s White Party events kick off Wednesday, November 21st at Queen Lounge featuring DJ Zehno including some naughty shows on stage. The weekend continues Friday with two floors of American and Latin flavor featuring DJ Marilyn and DJ Latrice Perry providing the beats along with a cast of characters and celebrity appearances at Score Nightclub on Lincoln Road. Saturday the women’s signature White Party will take place and will be held in the heart of South Beach at the world famous Nikki Beach. Hosted by cast favorites of The Real L Word, the event will feature special appearances by cast members from the Real Housewives of Miami. Ladies will also enjoy a live performance by hot all-girl rock band HUNTER VALENTINE. Cirque Blanc will be the theme, with performances by Cirque X artists along with Pandora’s resident performers including DJ Pat Pat. Women from around the globe will be tantalized by the sensual fantasy created at Cirque Blanc. The evening will also include a fabulous silent auction, featuring a spectacular variety of luxury items.
Sunday will conclude the week’s events with a pool party at the Catalina Hotel hosted by The Real L Word cast members Rose Garcia and Dru Marie and a live performance by Romi Klinger singing her new track “OhLaLa.”This year’s host hotel is the Albion Hotel, located at 1650 James Avenue, with rates starting at just $149 a night it’s a sure bet for all White Party revelers. For reservations or tickets to this year’s event please go to: www.womenswhiteparty.com.
HIV/AIDS Experts Warn That Politcal Gridlock Could Undermine Ending AIDS in America
This week at The XIX Aids Conference in Washington D.C., a panel of HIV/AIDS experts warned if the nations elected officials did nothing to stop the newly proposed gutting of funds that care for the country’s 1.2 million people living with HIV and if the blocking of the health care reform passed that it would seriously jeopardize America’s fight to end AIDS.
“The past few days have focused the world, yet again, on this epidemic, but unless we see a greater commitment by leaders in the U.S to ending HIV/AIDS, we risk losing the progress that’s within reach,” said Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Institute. “New scientific advancements, coupled with what we know already on how to prevent HIV, with the correct public policy decisions in Washington and the states, we could actually end AIDS in America. Now is the time for bold action by Congressional leaders and continued leadership from President Obama if we are to make ending AIDS in America a true reality, instead of just a nice piece of rhetoric.”
“Panelists addressed the importance of implementing health reform, which will provide care and treatment to people with HIV/AIDS, and providing the necessary financial resources to prevent HIV and care for those who are already infected. Funding for HIV programs is in serious jeopardy given the significant cuts programs face on the horizon due to sequestration, coupled with severe cuts outlined in the proposed health spending bill introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Elton John was also among those that spoke and said “By all rights I shouldn’t be here today. I should be dead—six feet under in a wooden box. I should have contracted HIV in the 1980s and died in the 1990s, just like Freddie Mercury, just like Rock Hudson. Every day I wonder, how did I survive?”
Hilary Clinton was also in attendance and made a very inspirational speech about the HIV epidemic and how it affects women, and how it needs to be dealt with.
HIV/AIDS: AMERICA’S DIVIDE
More than thirty years after the first case report of HIV, AIDS remains a significant problem in America. Despite tremendous advances in testing and treatment, not everyone has benefitted equally. Discovery Channel takes an in depth look at the color lines of HIV/AIDS in a world premiere documentary HIV/AIDS: AMERICA’S DIVIDE airing Saturday, March 17 at 8am e/p.
Every nine and half minutes someone in the United States is infected with HIV – and chances are that it will be someone of color. African American represent nearly half of all new cases of HIV, although they represent only 15% of the population. HIV/AIDS: AMERICA’S DIVIDE tells the unheard stories of triumph and tragedy in America’s neighborhoods and spotlights the heroes on the front lines of the fight to prevent and treat the disease. This compelling look at the new reality of HIV/AIDS exposes the cultural stigmas and social disparities that are widening the gap between who is living and who is dying.
“We know how to prevent HIV transmission. We also know that putting people on treatment greatly lowers their risk of passing on the virus. Nobody should be contracting HIV in 2012,” said fashion icon and amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole, who is featured in the documentary. “We must continue to work together to curb all new infections, especially among the most vulnerable, to bring this epidemic to an end.”
Across the country, the crisis in HIV/AIDS is increasingly seen in minority communities and yet the issue has flown under the media radar. HIV/AIDS: AMERICA’S DIVIDE reveals the latest data from CDC and shows not only where the problems are but how to solve them using advanced medical technologies and evolving patient and community care.
“People in America are still dying of HIV,” said Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Expert at Discovery Channel. “We’ve come full circle. Thirty years ago, those most impacted were disenfranchised members of society. Today, it’s a different group, but still primarily disenfranchised. The faces of AIDS has literally changed. I hope this documentary helps us to better understand why these problems persist and how we can combat them.”
“This program spotlights one of most serious and overlooked of our problems. In some regions of the United States, the incidence of new AIDS infections is greater than in some countries in Africa. Today, effective HIV testing and AIDS treatment is available. Ignorance of testing and treatment is our enemy.” said Dr. Robert Gallo, Founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who is also featured in the documentary.
HIV/AIDS: AMERICA’S DIVIDE will repeat on March 24 and also be available to view online athttp://www.discoverychannelpatiented.com