WHO: John Duran AGE: 45 HOME: West Hollywood, California DIAGNOSED: 1994
knew I was HIV positive from the day I got elected to West Hollywood’s
City Council in 2001. Then, in 2004, I became mayor, since council
members rotate annually into that position. I was reelected to the
council in March and was very relieved that I won. During the campaign,
another candidate e-mailed an organization that had endorsed me, saying
I might miss council meetings because I had AIDS. Even when I got sick
in 2002 and was on short-term disability, I showed up to every meeting.
Having HIV can even help—I’m used to being in hot spots.
first decided to run for city council because I’d been politically
active for 20 years and thought, “I can do this job as well as anybody
else.” I was a lawyer for ACT UP in the ’80s. I also represented needle
exchanges and medical-marijuana lobbies. I never thought I’d be the
Establishment. But having been the guy holding the big banner and
getting hauled off to jail gives me a different perspective. I’m more
open to criticism from activists. And now, when I call the sheriff or a
board, they answer.
West Hollywood has a high percentage of
HIVers and a really nasty crystal epidemic that’s leading to a lot of
new infections—so I made that my mayorial priority. I started community
crystal forums. Over 200 people came to the most recent one, about
crystal and the sex industry. I also opened a drug and alcohol recovery
center. I’ve been in meth recovery myself for eight years and know what
it’s like. It’s so frustrating to see these successful, bright gay men
in relationships with great paying jobs reduced to homeless people.
being mayor this year will actually allow more time for my crystal
projects and others—including animal cruelty and affordable housing. As
for higher office, if the opportunity arises and I’m feeling healthy,
I’ll run. People sometimes view health issues as a weakness preventing
you from optimal public service. But if a larger electorate is less
liberal, that just means more people to educate about HIV.