psa. if we’re mutuals, we’re automatically friends. u don’t need to say things like “sorry to bother” or “sorry im annoying” bc ur not. ur my friend. u can come to me for anything. u need help? im here. wanna chat? hmu. just wanna gush abt your muse? go for it. we’re friends. ily.
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on november 7, 1991, earvin “magic” johnson shocked the world when he disclosed via a televised press conference that he was hiv positive. this remains a monumental moment in both sports and AIDS history.
“because of the hiv virus that i have, i will have to retire from the lakers today.” he went on to say, “i will miss playing. i will now become a spokesperson for hiv because i want people, young people to realize that they can practice safe sex.”
here is some context as to why this announcement was huge in 1991:
156,143 AIDS deaths were reported
the cdc reported that one million people were living with hiv
hiv still considered by mainstream media as the “gay plague.”
in many ways, we were still in the dark ages.
magic kept his promise to elevate and amplify the conversation about hiv. in 1992, he hosted an aids awareness special on nickelodeon. the special featured, a then 7-year-old hydeiabroadbent, who was facing intense stigma for her peers and adults.
just three months after his announcement, magic returned the play in the 1992 all-star game. with just 14 seconds remaining, magic scored a three-pointer to cement his team’s lead over the east.
in 1992, magic came out of retirement. some teammates expressed they would not play in a game w/ magic for fear that they would contract hiv. after playing in several pre-season games, he retired again before the start of the regular season, because of the stigma he faced.
magic remained one of the most beloved athletes in history. of the court, he became a champion raising awareness and advocating for hiv prevention and treatment.
when magic disclosed his hiv status, he said, “i will beat this.” in nov 1991, no one really beat the odds. he was the first celebrity to, for me at least, to live and thrive with hiv. he beat the odds and challenged hiv stigma so that people like me could beat them as well.
This goes out to the ones who didn’t get credit for saving the lives of Black youth.
Today, On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, this goes out to the Black and Brown mothers who never got to tell their stories to the CDC, when the CDC thought mommas couldn’t raise their babies.
This is for the quarantined
This is for prenatal AIDS
This is the breast milk
This is for black babies
This is for the amazing #verticalkids now (adults) who continue to do this work. The strength it takes to not only grow up with HIV BUT also serve community by engaging in leadership is astounding.
This day is for the adults who really do work with youth and empower us daily. This is for yall tho.
Tiffany Moreno, She/Her/Hers
Broward County, Florida
Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the United
States. We also are one of the groups most heavily impacted by HIV.
According to CDC, we account for 21% of
all new HIV infections in the United States. Gay and bisexual men bear
the greatest burden of HIV infection in our communities. In some major
cities, studies found that nearly 1 in 5 Latino gay and bisexual men are
infected with HIV.
So on this day, we are celebrating a few unsung varones who are working everyday to end stigma in our communities. We also send our deepest gratitude to all of you who are having conversations about HIV and working everyday to eliminate stigma and
reinforce this beautiful truth: WE ARE THE CURE!
MARCO BENJAMIN foto by: Jesus Rodriguez of LuzAzulStudios
“Today is World AIDS day. I firmly believe in my life time we will see an HIV free generation and always remember that together and only together we will win the war on HIV/AIDS.” Marco does not just speak this beautiful talk but he walks this warrior walk.
A nationally renowned speaker and advocate, Marco works with Latino communities all the over country to develop cultural relative HIV prevention and treatment programs. Diagnosed in 2008, he immediately called his mother and said “Mami, I’m going to ruin your day.” She reacted by saying, “I thought you were going to tell me you were in jail. ‘Mi'jo, you are not the first and you are not going to be the last (to have HIV), Then she made sure I went off to the doctor to see about treatment.“ She also does her part in educating the community. Marco’s approach to HIV prevention and advocacy is a reminder that the fight to end HIV stigma requires love and familia.
Marco currently works with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.
RICARDO “RICKY” MELENDEZ
Ricardo is what North Philly Legends are made of. In the 90s, he was
one of the very few Latinos dominating the ballroom scene in
Philadelphia. He used that notoriety to create spaces for LGBT Latinos
by organizing LGBT events in the heart of North Philly. "Not everyone
wanted or could go to the gayborhood. So I wanted to create events in
our neighborhood.” He would go on to create the now legendary Travesuda
“I tested positive on this day 20 years ago. I remember feeling scared and alone. It was a trans Latina friend of mine who held me together. Now it is my mission in life to do that for other varones who have just been diagnosed. Our stories and existence alone ends HIV stigma. We have power chyle!”
On Friday, December 4th, Ricky will be hosting an event commemorating World AIDS Day. Click here for more info.
Adrian aka Ayden is a twenty-three year old HIV and AIDS advocate/activist from Texas, Rio Grande Valley who utilizes social media to deconstruct stigma and engage with as many people as possible.
At twenty one, Castellanos’ path was redirected as he was diagnosed with AIDS, while he spent two weeks in a hospital room, he decided to “make his mess his message”. Since being diagnosed on March 26, 2014 he has gone on to receive a Youth Initiative Scholarship to attend USCA in OCT. 2014, acquire a position with the Valley AIDS Council (the only HIV/AIDS Agency in his area) JAN. 2015, receive a separate scholarship to attend AIDSWatch in APR. 2015 and receive a Social Media Fellows Scholarship to USCA 2015. Adrian now spends his time doing free HIV screenings at two universities in his area and for the community with his agency. He also participates in outreach and education efforts to raise awareness within his community.
“AIDS is still a very real thing. I want you to remember that. Queer
Latinx people often pass away withing the first year of diagnoses
because we waited too long before getting tested. Because homphobia
won’t allow us to talk about our sex. Because transphobia makes us
targets of systemic and interpersonal violence. Because racism puts us
at a level of disadvantage that prevents us from seeking medical
Read his inspiring World AIDS Day article here.
Jorian Alexi Veintidos
At just 23, Jorian Alexi Veintidos has already begun creating a huge shift in the way that HIV is seen and talked about in Latino communities in Philadelphia. He recently shared his story with Gran Varones and it became our most shared and viewed profile. He courage to speak openly about living with HIV has opened the much needed conversation among varones. “By sharing my story as a young person living and thriving with HIV, I want to be a model of positivity that while my journey was has not been easy journey it also has not been impossible.”
Jorian was recently selected by Advocates for Youth after a national search to be a Youth Ambassador for National Youth AIDS Awareness Day.
Anthony moved to Philadelphia in 2013 and immediately began working and mentoring Latino and Black gay and trans* youth. For two years he served as coordinator of Mazzoni Center’s #A1PHA Project, one of Philadelphia’s only prevention project that intentionally and culturally works with young Latino gay men.
Anthony is also the co-creator of the Gran Varones Project and has leveraged that role to unapologetically advocate varones who continue to be marginalized by racism, poverty, homophobia and HIV Stigma. “Because Gran Varones, people disclose to me and reach out for support in navigating care and treatment services.”
Anthony is one the most sex and body positive people we know. approach to ending stigma is essential as we all deserve to feel sexy, fuck, get fucked, make love and have a healthy sex life regardless of our HIV status and body size.
Anthony is currently Youth Education Manager at Mazzoni Center where in addition to overseeing the #A1PHA Project, he manages their Ally Safe Schools Project.
RICHARD “RICHIE” LABOY
Richie has worked for various non-profit organizations since 2002. He has worked deeply with the Ballroom Community in Philadelphia on many social and sexual health issues including; homelessness, HIV/AIDS awareness, mental health treatment, substance abuse rehabilitation, fighting poverty and HIV stigma. He is legendary on both and off of the runway!
“I grew up in the Ballroom community. It was my family and I watched as HIV took many of them away from me. It fuels my passion. I owe it to my community to make sure that they are reached – with dignity and affirmation.”
Deemed legendary in 2009, Richard continues to be make in the impact in the ballroom scene as part of the House of Miyake-Mugler. He is also working as a Clinical Research Assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he works on a research project to determine if a culturally-tailored health promotion intervention will reduce health risk behaviors of young men who have sex with men within the Ballroom community in Philadelphia.
on this #MemorialDay, i am reminded of the 1988 “why we fight” speech given by queer rights and AIDS activist vito russo (july 11, 1946 – november 7, 1990) at ACT UP rallies.
may these selections serve as a reminder to those of us who were drafted into this war - we are not and we were never alone in our rage.
“Living with AIDS is like living through a war which is happening only for those people who happen to be in the trenches. Every time a shell explodes, you look around and you discover that you’ve lost more of your friends, but nobody else notices. It isn’t happening to them. They’re walking the streets as though we weren’t living through some sort of nightmare. And only you can hear the screams of the people who are dying and their cries for help. No one else seems to be noticing.
And it’s worse than a war, because during a war people are united in a shared experience. This war has not united us, it’s divided us. It’s separated those of us with AIDS and those of us who fight for people with AIDS from the rest of the population.
Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes — when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this earth — gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free.
And then after we kick the shit out of this disease, we are all gonna be alive to kick the shit out of this system so that this never happens again.”
Rest in power, Vito. You and millions of others would still be here had it not been for this government’s willful neglect and failure.