My first published writing came in 1986, when I worked as a stringer for the now defunct Au Courant News Magazine and the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN). I had a few pieces in the Philadelphia Tribune, and some other publications as well. During that period, the fledgling HIV epidemic was frequent news and the work I did very often gave me an insider’s view that provided a valuable perspective for journalism. That was also an era of frequent celebrity fundraisers, so I got a chance to meet Patti LaBelle, Phyllis Hyman, Sylvester, Jennifer Holiday, to name a few. Eventually, I got higher level jobs that interfered with my writing aspirations, but I had lots of fun while it lasted. Now these vintage articles include important elements of HIV/AIDS history, especially as it relates to African Americans and HIV/AIDS. Here’s a selection of some favorites:
PGN - September 5, 1986
This story was among the first to report that half of AIDS cases reported up to that point were among heterosexuals, challenging the notion that AIDS was a gay disease. Early spread outside of “gay” male populations, predominantly through heterosexual injecting drug users, was an early predictor of epidemic spread in the Back community overall.
Black Out - Fall 1986
This was a report on the first national conference on AIDS in the Black Community, sponsored by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays in Washington DC, with funding from the US Public Health Service
PGN- February 6, 1987
I was fortunate to attend a luncheon in which Patti LaBelle had cooked for a group of reporters as part of publicity for a concert that would donate proceeds to local AIDS organizations. This is a report of an interview conducted at that luncheon.
Au Courant News Magazine - April 14, 1987
As an AIDS Surveillance Investigator, I assisted the Philadelphia health department’s disease monitoring efforts by helping to maintain the registry of case reports, including demographic and risk information. As a result, I knew the names of all of the reported people loving with AIDS in Philadelphia. Some of them were people I knew, but I could never disclose that. That was a difficult scenario at that period in history, due to the fear and stigma associated with the disease. One was even my cousin, but I could not come to his/his family's aid with vast resources and information at my disposal, during this period when sources of support were not widely appreciated.
September 2, 1990 - Gay Community News (Boston)
This article reported on the annual meeting of the International Society for AIDS Education, where activists called attention to “woeful” inadequacies of local HIV programs and the “hypocrisy” of holding an important AIDS meeting on the island without acknowledging local issues.
PGN-Spring 1991; exact date pending
This article reports interviews with Jennifer Holliday and Thelma Houston, after their performances at a benefit for ActionAIDS at the Trocadero in Philadelphia
PGN - October 3, 1997
This was my attempt to call attention to the importance of collecting race/ethnicity in communicable disease AIDS case reporting, which sheds light on how and where the epidemic is spreading and how different populations can be affected in different ways. I recall not being particularly fond of this title and a few editorial word choices.
PGN - May 15, 1998 Its time to Rethink HIV Surveillance
While AIDS had been a reportable condition in most states since the early years of the epidemic, HIV was reportable only in a limited number of states in 1998. This article examined the reluctance of having HIV as a reportable condition and sought to call attention to the advantages of expanding surveillance activities to include HIV infection.
Philadelphia Tribune October 20, 1998
This article was written around an announcement of improvements in health outcomes among people living with HIV/AIDS. It pointed out why describing trends by race is critical. In this case, higher death rates in Blacks, who accounted for only 12% of the US population, are obscured when presented in aggregate with the substantially larger white population that has much lower death rates.
Arise Magazine September 2002
In this piece, I discuss what it was like to work in HIV prevention and care programs, have a partner at home living with HIV who eventually passed away, and the impact on those experiences on me as an HIV negative person.