Prevention? With Pleasure! As a longtime advocate for microbicides, I wanted to tell you how thrilled I was to read your cover story “Kiss & Gel” [June 2002]. It is exciting to see this prevention option not only finally getting the attention it deserves but portrayed as a sexy product—the “must-have purse item of the coming decade.” Feedback from trial participants thus far is that the gels can actually enhance pleasure during sex!
Hats off to POZ, too, for distributing the article to all 15,000 people attending the opening ceremony of the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona. Four years ago, we launched the Global Campaign for Microbicides by collecting petition signatures from women waiting in line for the restrooms at the Geneva AIDS conference. Seeing literally thousands of people reading your cover story in Barcelona reminded me how far we have come.
-Lori Heise Global Campaign for Microbicides www.global-campaign.org Washington, DC
I commend your excellent article on the promise of microbicides. This essential resource presents an important opportunity for everyone—women and men, gay and straight, here and abroad—and we should all work together to bring it to market. Short of a vaccine, female-controlled prevention such as microbicides and the female condom offer the best hope for containing the AIDS epidemic.
But microbicides cannot live up to their potential unless and until they are fully accessible to all those who need them. So it’s also critical to ensure that they are available in convenient locations at affordable prices, that communities find them acceptable and that women and girls know how to use them properly. We have learned that inadequate community participation and education, stigma and, of course, high prices can greatly reduce the use of products even when they are locally available. We must advocate now to create a conducive environment so that when microbicides are ready, we are ready for them.
-Geeta Rao Gupta President, International Center for Research on Women Washington, DC
Your article on microbicides served as an excellent overview for readers. While the focus of much of the HIV-prevention research we do at the Population Council is aimed at providing an option for women in developing countries, this work is also important for those in the developed world.
We and other microbicide researchers continue to try to communicate the importance of this research to colleagues, policymakers, potential donors and others. We all hope that the growing awareness of microbicides will result in the greater financial and intellectual investment needed to drive the development of an effective product. We also hope POZ will continue to write about this important field.
-The Population Council Microbicides Team New York City
The Good Fight I am a peer educator at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. We at ACE (AIDS Counseling and Education) want to let you know that we are surely going to miss Belynda Dunn and Marsha Burnett [“Obits,” June 2002].
I am also a long-term survivor. When I read of the things they were doing to educate and advocate for PWAs, I was truly inspired and given hope. They fought a good fight. When we lose two warriors such as Burnett and Dunn, I wonder who will pick up the banner that fell due to their deaths.
We need more educators such as these ladies. We salute them in life and in death. I will always be thankful for POZ—it gave me the opportunity to learn of two great women. May they rest in peace.
-Rosemary Thompson Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Bedford Hills, New York
Grasping At Straws The Educational Alert [which was not published in POZ but was mailed to subscribers] from POZ publisher Brad Peebles promoting Viread was the last straw. A literary infomercial à la Cher and shampoo. You’re supposed to be a journalist—selling this crap through the magazine’s mailing list is disreputable at best. If you can’t run this magazine without fully half of the magazine comprised of those ridiculous ads showing mountain climbers, then maybe you should rethink the rag and send a newsletter—facts only. Save the color and glam for Vanity Fair.
-James Tempio New York City
POZresponds: The Educational Alert may be the last straw for you, but we have been mailing them for over five years—originally through the Community Prescription Service (CPS, which also published InfoPack), more recently through our renamed parent company, Smart + Strong. Educational Alerts are a frankly commercial product, not a journalistic enterprise like POZ magazine. However, we are in no sense ashamed of them. They contain accurate, up-to-date information as well as the personal opinions of writers—all of which most recipients want, value and appreciate. (You can download recent Educational Alerts by visiting www.smartstrong.com/edalert.) Sponsored programs like the Educational Alert, ComboCards and InfoPack (see “Follow Your Heart” in this issue) help us cover the steep expenses involved in publishing and providing free copies of POZ. Color and glam don’t come cheap, but we think our readers are worth it.
Make a Wish I am compelled to write this letter in light of events unfolding in Boston. The WISH (With Integrity She Heals) House offers mothers with HIV and their children a place to call home. Now it may be forced to close its doors because of state budget cuts. I encourage any assistance in the form of donations (call 617.298.2604) or letters of support to the Massachusetts state Senate and governor’s office to keep the WISH House open.
-Derek Hall #W47096 Old Colony Correctional Center Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Correction: In “Oh, God!” [June 2002], Macky Alston’s documentary Questioning Faith: Confessions of a Seminarian was inaccurately listed as appearing on HBO on June 27. It actually aired on Cinemax on the same date.