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January 14th, 2011
12:13 PM ET

Kramer: AIDS is a plague allowed to happen

Larry Kramer co-founded Gay Men's Health Crisis and founded ACT UP, an activist organization that has campaigned for treatments for HIV/AIDS.

Larry Kramer co-founded Gay Men's Health Crisis and founded ACT UP, an activist organization that has campaigned for treatments for HIV/AIDS.

Larry Kramer
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Watch "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS," an AC360° special, at 9pm ET Friday. Larry Kramer co-founded Gay Men's Health Crisis and founded ACT UP, an activist organization that has campaigned for treatments for HIV/AIDS. His play, "The Normal Heart," about the early years of AIDS and directed by Joel Grey, will be produced on Broadway by Daryl Roth and will star Joe Mantello; it will also be filmed next summer starring Mark Ruffalo and directed by Ryan Murphy. "The American People," his novel about the history of homosexuals in America, will be published by Farrar Straus and Giroux. Kramer, whose partner is David Webster, is HIV+ and the recipient of a liver transplant.

New York City (CNN) - I want this article to break your heart. But it deals with a subject that has had a tough time of it in the break-everyone's-heart department. I'll bet that a number of you will be more angry at me than sympathetic by the time you finish reading it. If indeed you finish reading it.

From its very beginning, most people have not wanted to know the truths about AIDS. This is an indisputable fact that continues until this very minute. I have been on the front lines since Day 1, so I know what I'm talking about.

Here are 10 realities about AIDS, and I've learned them the hard way:

1. AIDS is a plague - numerically, statistically and by any definition known to modern public health - though no one in authority has the guts to will call it one.

2. Too many people hate the people that AIDS most affects, gay people and people of color. I do not mean dislike, or feel uncomfortable with. I mean hate. Downright hate. Down and dirty hate.

3. Likewise, both people who don't have sex the way they do (if they have it at all) and people who take drugs in order to feel better in a world that they find wretched are considered two highly expendable populations by the powerful forces that control this world.

4. AIDS was allowed to happen. It is a plague that need not have happened. It is a plague that could have been contained from the very beginning.

5. It is a plague that is not going to go away. It is only going to get worse.

Read more from Kramer on CNN.com's Opinion page

Editor's note:
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Larry Kramer • Opinion
January 13th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Margaret Cho: HIV/AIDS still carries stigma

Katie McLaughlin
CNN

(CNN) - For Margaret Cho, HIV/AIDS isn’t something to think about once a year around the start of December – it’s a personal cause.

The comedian recently spoke with CNN about what inspired her to get involved with HIV/AIDS activism as "Anderson Cooper 360°" gears up to mark the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis with a special presentation, "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS." The hour-long special, which airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN, will also feature guests Sir Elton John, Sharon Stone, Mo'Nique and Cho, among others.

We caught up with Cho to talk about where the issue of HIV/AIDS stands today as well as if she’s spoken to one Bristol Palin lately.

CNN: Why is this issue so important to you, personally?

Cho: It's an issue that I, unfortunately, grew up around. HIV/AIDS was a really big problem right when I was a kid growing up in the ‘80s in San Francisco. There were so many people who were dying of AIDS and it was such a huge, huge, terrible issue in our community and then, of course, it was a global issue as well.

It made me realize that issues of health can be very political, and so that’s really where I began my political journey as a young AIDS activist trying to raise money and trying to find a way out of the problem.

CNN: What are some of the stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS that bother you the most?

Cho: I think that because the disease affected mostly gay people, there was a stigma attached that there was something wrong with people who had it – that the homophobia that surrounded the disease made people more hesitant to want to find a cure.

Or, that there was something wrong with having [HIV/AIDS], and that people who had it often were dying needlessly because they were either not aware of it, they didn't want to be aware of it, they didn't want to be associated with it and that’s why they didn’t seek treatment, or they weren’t getting help from their families because they somehow felt that they deserved the illness. There was so much made about the way that people contracted the disease and judgment being placed on that which was really terrible.

Full story on the Marquee blog

Editor's note:
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Katie McLaughlin
January 13th, 2011
05:15 PM ET

iReport Assignment: 30th anniversary of AIDS epidemic

Watch an AC360° special 'Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS' Friday beginning at 9pm ET.

Watch an AC360° special 'Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS' Friday beginning at 9pm ET.

iReport.com
CNN

2011 marks 30 years since the AIDS epidemic began, and is an important time of remembrance for those whose lives have been affected by the disease.

Has AIDS and HIV touched your life or that of someone you know? Have you been inspired to take action in some way? We're putting together a story for CNN.com, and we want to include your voice.

Click here to go to CNN's iReport.com to share your story

Editor's note: Tune in to "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS," an AC360° beginning 9pm ET Friday.
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • iReport
January 13th, 2011
04:45 PM ET

Chefs with Issues – Suvir Saran on HIV/AIDS activism

New Delhi-born Suvir Saran is the executive chef of Dévi restaurant in New York City.

New Delhi-born Suvir Saran is the executive chef of Dévi restaurant in New York City.

Eatocracy and AC360°'s Devna Shukla
CNN

Editor's note: Tune in to "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS," an AC360° special report beginning 9pm ET Friday.

(CNN) - New Delhi-born Suvir Saran is the executive chef of Dévi restaurant in New York City, where his authentic Indian flavors earned one Michelin star in 2007 and 2008, as well as two stars from The New York Times and three stars from New York Magazine.

He is also the author of "Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes" and "American Masala: 125 New Classics From My Home Kitchen."

This is the first on a two-part interview with Saran on the subject of HIV/AIDS activism, the disease's impact on the food world and his personal life, his identity as an Indian and a gay man and the healing power of a good meal.

How did food help you to connect to the community?

After coming to the US, I started studies as a student of the visual arts and also working in retail. Each night I would cook dinners for friends and their friends. Each night brought new faces and new personalities into my world. A large number of those who came into my world in the early 90's were people that had been affected with HIV/AIDS personally and through loved ones. Seeing people one day and then hearing they had gone the next day or week or month, was one of the most difficult things to come to grips with.

Often the foods I prepared at these parties would incite some awe, give comfort and solicit wonderful reactions. One guest exclaimed at one of the gatherings that he wished he could have a bowl of my rice pudding every night until he passed away. He was so young and so vital, yet he was being eaten away by this disease. I was not able to give him many bowls of the pudding before he was robbed from our world by the disease. This haunts me to this date. I feel terrible that I did not bring him a bowl each day.

Another friend of mine, the proprietor of a great small cafe in NYC died of HIV/AIDS just a couple of years ago. His family again kept this a secret, or at the very least denied it. In doing so, they also kept us friends that knew this fact away from their son, who was also one of our dearest friends.

This friend of mine had given me comfort and a warm welcome when I was new in the US. I cried for days and months and still shed tears when I grasp the fact that his family denied us his company and him ours. In living a lie they felt they had succeeded in some botched manner. But in doing so, they robbed their son, and those that loved him of contact that could have healed and given hope.

While you are not HIV+, how would you address incorrect stigmas such as an HIV+ chef would transmit the disease to his patrons?

Full story on the Eatocracy blog

Editor's note:
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS
January 13th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Producer's Notebook: Keeping the hope alive

Editor's note: Tune in to "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS," an AC360° beginning 9pm ET Friday.
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Ben Finley
AC360° Editorial Producer

(CNN) - When AC360°’s editorial department was first approached a few months back about producing the 9pm hour during the first two weeks of January, I must admit the initial reaction was one of mild panic. Not only were we already producing our normal time slot at 10pm ET, but now we’d be responsible for a second hour, with a completely different show. To raise that bar even higher, the holidays were rapidly approaching and the two-week period of the year where even cockroaches are on hiatus from the daily hubbub of New York City life was about to begin. How on Earth would we pull this off?

Despite the hurdles before us, we began to view this as a great opportunity to think outside the box and generate some really new and fantastic ideas for our viewers.

I began to think about the year 2011 and what events or moments in history would be having an anniversary. Having worked on HIV/AIDS projects in the past, it dawned on me that this would indeed be the 30th year since the first diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in America. It is almost too hard to believe that three decades of a disease that has defined my generation have really passed before our eyes. I thought to myself: How could we NOT spend at least one of our shows looking into this incredibly long journey, the stigmas still surrounding this disease, and why it is that we still do not have a cure?

After reaching out to a handful of individuals who could speak best to the legacy of this terrible disease, my first response was a resounding yes from Sir Elton John. For those who might not realize it, 20 years ago, Elton John became quite active with HIV/AIDS awareness after being inspired by a young, HIV positive hemophiliac named Ryan White. It was then that he created the Elton John AIDS Foundation and began trying to generate greater public awareness and better understanding about how to fight the stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS.
FULL POST


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Ben Finley
January 12th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Video: Susan Sarandon on her 'Deciding Moment'

Editor's note: Tune in to "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS," an AC360° beginning 9pm ET Friday.
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Hope survives, 30 years after first US AIDS diagnosis

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS
January 12th, 2011
03:00 PM ET

'Project Runway' star on life with HIV

As part of Anderson Cooper 360°'s special 'Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS' – which marks the 30th anniversary of the very first AIDS diagnosis - 'Project Runway' star Mondo Guerra will open up about living with HIV.

As part of Anderson Cooper 360°'s special 'Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS' – which marks the 30th anniversary of the very first AIDS diagnosis – 'Project Runway' star Mondo Guerra will open up about living with HIV.

Katie McLaughlin
CNN

(CNN) - As part of "Anderson Cooper 360°'s" special "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS" – which marks the 30th anniversary of the very first AIDS diagnosis – "Project Runway" star Mondo Guerra will open up about living with HIV.

Related: Hope survives, 30 years after first US AIDS diagnosis

Guerra will join guests including Sir Elton John, Sharon Stone, Mo'nique and many others for the hour-long program airing Friday, which will focus on stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS, how various methods of prevention may perhaps have ended the spread of the disease years ago and take a look at recent medical research and breakthroughs.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.

Guerra, who is HIV positive, spoke to CNN about the challenges he faces daily, his hopes for the future and, of course, fashion.

CNN: On your website, you wrote a message to your readers asking them to take time to remember the challenges of those living with HIV/AIDS. What are some of your own challenges?

Guerra: My biggest challenge is just [being] responsible and taking my meds every day.

That's the hardest thing to get into the routine of – reminding yourself religiously to take your meds. It's hard because it is just one [medication], but it's really easy to forget and once you kind of fall off the horse, it's rougher to get back on. If you miss a day or you miss two days, you take it again and then it's kind of almost like starting over again – there's going to be more side affects.

CNN: What are some of the stigmas about AIDS that bother you the most?

Guerra: A lot of people think that it’s still just a gay man's disease, which is quite bothersome. Yes, I am a gay man, but there are other people who have been infected and who are suffering from this and I think that ignorance alone lends itself to spreading the disease.

I also feel like people don't care to talk about it anymore because there has been some bit of progress in the research and I feel as if people maybe think it's been taken care of. Yes, there are meds that are keeping people alive for years upon years; but with all the side affects and opportunities for other infections – when you have an immune deficiency it can really hurt you.

Full story on the Marquee blog


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Katie McLaughlin
January 11th, 2011
11:34 AM ET

Producer’s Notebook: Hope survives, 30 years after first US AIDS diagnosis

Editor's note: Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

(CNN) - A couple of months before the new year, I read that 2011 marked the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis here in the US. Immediately, I thought this was a story we had to cover on AC360°. That day I pitched the story and this week I am happy to be working overtime to get our hour long report – called “Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS” – to air this Friday at 9pm ET on CNN.

Related on CNN's Marquee Blog: AC360 to air special on AIDS in America

Since I began to research this story, I was interested in communicating that the AIDS crisis in America is alive and well, even if we in the media and society as a whole don’t discuss it as much as we did decades ago. At the same time, as I met more and more people living with HIV or AIDS, I realized that this was also a story full of hope. It is a mixed bag because, although AIDS is no longer the killer it once was, the stigma associated with the disease still destroys individuals. Yet so many of the HIV positive men and women I met in the last few months proved to me the strength of the human spirit – they have claimed victory over HIV because it is no longer the main focus of their lives. Sure they take their medication, watch their health and protect themselves but at their core they are much more focused on achieving their goals and living out their dreams than they are on their HIV status. So many of them are heroic – activists, long-time survivors, young people determined to live long, fulfilling, happy lives. That’s also the face of HIV in America today.

Sir Elton John; Mo’Nique; Phil Wilson, the Director of the Black AIDS Institute; Dr. Anthony Fauci, who oversees HIV/AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health; and a fashion designer, with a very inspiring story, named Mondo Guerra make up our panel for this Friday night’s program. I am extremely eager to hear what they have to say. I know it will be informative and will help bring AIDS back to the public discourse. We need that since there are still about 56,000 new cases of HIV in the US each year and at least 20,000 people still die of AIDS in our country yearly.
FULL POST


Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • David Puente
December 1st, 2009
02:22 PM ET

The worst of the crisis may lie ahead

David Mixner
Author, Political Strategist

As the nation debates reforming our health care system, there is one topic I'm not hearing enough about – how the fight against HIV/AIDS will remain a national priority and how the prevention of such costly diseases such as this will become a foundational element of our health system.

Phenomenal progress has been made against HIV/AIDS since it first appeared in the United States a quarter-century ago. But this very progress has dulled our sense of urgency about preventing the disease and finding a cure. Today is World AIDS Day and we should take a moment to reflect on how we've made progress and why there is a bubbling fear that the worst of the crisis may lie ahead. To finally put a stop to the epidemic, we need to re-energize our commitment and pass smart health care reforms now.

A critical moment in the fight against HIV/AIDS occurred a decade ago, when powerful new protease inhibitor drugs showed remarkable effectiveness in treating the disease and raised hope that the epidemic's end was around the corner. Unfortunately, our progress led to overconfidence in science – a perception that the protease inhibitor regimen guarantees quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS, and thus that contracting the disease is no longer a big deal.

FULL POST

September 24th, 2009
04:19 PM ET

Learn more about HIV/AIDS

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

AIDS is a chronic, life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause disease. HIV makes you more susceptible to certain types of cancers and to infections your body would normally resist, such as pneumonia and meningitis. The virus and the infection itself are known as HIV. "Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)" is the name given to the later stages of an HIV infection.

An estimated 39.5 million people have HIV worldwide. And though the spread of the virus has slowed in some countries, it has escalated or remained unchanged in others. The best hope for stemming the spread of HIV lies in prevention, treatment and education.

Learn more about the virus here...


Filed under: AIDS
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