Rest in Peace
I got such a shock when I read that Stephen Gendin died. He had an
impact all the way around the world in New Zealand. I read his columns,
often disagreed with him and wish I could have met him. I felt as though
I knew him. Most of all, I admired him for all he did. I cannot stop
crying. Too many wonderful people are gone.
-- Michael Stevens, New Zealand
As I write this I am still in shock and despair about Stephen Gendin's
death. What shocks me most is that I don't believe the HIV community
realizes what a huge loss this is for us. No matter what you thought
of Stephen's lifestyle or opinions, you had to respect his honesty,
openness, intelligence, hard work and dedication to helping those with
HIV. We were lucky to have had him for the time that we did.
-- Kevin Craig, Fairhaven, Massachusetts
I had just written Stephen Gendin a letter thanking him for his honesty
when I saw that he had died. From his writing in POZ I had started
to feel that I had a friend. I will never forget him.
-- Celines Parra, Albion Correctional Facility, Albion,
Every month I have looked forward to POZ because of Stephen
Gendin's writings about things that most of us PWAs only think about.
He answered questions before we asked and tried things we only dreamed
of, good or bad. Stephen's articles have kept me going to the ripe old
age of 53. His spirit will always be with me.
-- José Flores, McAllen, Texas
When I tore open the wrapper of my October 2000 POZ and absorbed
the cover title, I cried for Stephen Gendin's death. Not just a sniffle
of empathy for some distant brother, but shaking sobs -- much as I cried
over the death of my own partner some years ago. I only knew Stephen
from the pages of POZ, but even from this distance I realize
that we've suffered a loss that won't be filled by epitaphs and condolences.
I was one of the readers who understood exactly why Stephen and his
partner, Hush McDowell, would knowingly expose each other to infection
for the simple sake of making love. Stephen's was a soul good and great
enough to have left an empty space in the lives of those he never knew.
I am sorry for all of us.
-- Steven Smith, Ashton, Illinois
I saw no justification for the elaborate attention to the death of
Stephen Gendin. Not to discount his good works and deeds, but good people
are dying every day. The only conclusion I drew is that his death was
covered because he was well connected and cute. That is not enough for
me. My partner, Durwin, died at home in my arms on July 4, 2000, diagnosed
with AIDS for more than 15 years. His death will garner no space in
your spotlight, nor attention from powerful, rich people like Larry
Kramer. Durwin died while covered by Missouri Medicaid, which is now
claiming the only asset we owned, our home, to repay his medical expenses.
I was a strident, radical member of ACT UP for 11 years, but Kramer's
whining and the idiots in San Francisco embarrass me. My advice to Larry:
Get out from behind the podium and do something. To ACT UP/SF: seek
psychiatric help now. You are a threat to the safety and health of every
HIV positive gay man in the world.
Do you think that we have exclusive right to pain, suffering, injustice
or unmet medical needs, including drug and research development? Don't
you realize the world is full of "manageable" diseases that are just
as deadly as AIDS?
-- Mark Chaney, Kansas City, Missouri
Big Bad Kramer?
If Larry Kramer's "Be Very Afraid" (October 2000) was supposed to make me angry, it succeeded.
What gets me is the fact that now Kramer has nothing nice to say about
the pharmaceutical companies and the medicines we have. Wasn't it he
and all his activist friends who fought for fast-tracking? That got
us medicines that are more deadly than the virus and companies that
no longer have to do all the studies and trials that used to be required.
Kramer is right: activists are sellouts. The same companies he attacks
are still treating them to lavish parties -- and making huge profits
off of HIV -- while so many people are dying. The late Stephen Gendin,
may he rest in peace, got this right in his column, "Last
Word," in the same issue.
I know the medicines I am taking are toxic, but they do help, though
no one knows for how long. We need to fight for more testing and trials
of meds before they hit the market; we need to undo the harm Kramer
and others have done by fighting for fast-tracking.
-- Jorge Rodriguez, Corona-Elmhurst, New York
Let me see if I understand this: POZ kills Stephen Gendin with
the drugs you push, puts his lifeless mug on a special "dead fag" collector's
edition to quadruple your sales and then carts out that feeble coot
Larry Kramer to call for bombs and bullets to end the mess his "drugs
into bodies" bullshit created? Make no mistake about it, you bought-off
AIDS industry motherfuckers are the truly twisted ones.
-- David Pasquarelli, ACT UP/San Francisco, San Francisco
I appreciate all that Larry Kramer has done for us, but now he's using
his own friend's death to attack the drug industry.
After 16 years of being infected with HIV, I now work at a pharmaceutical
company. I agree that a cure could be in our hands already, but these
companies are not trying to hurt everyone. Possibly they don't work
hard enough sometimes, but they strive to cure all kinds of diseases
every single day. So, this "slimebag" says, the meds have extended my
life, and I am utterly thankful.
-- Jim Croker, Trenton, New Jersey
I just read the October 2000 issue from front to back without putting
it down (except to wipe away some tears). "Be Very Afraid" is me to
a T. I'm 38, a single parent, taking no meds, been hospitalized three
times with pneumonia, but I will not let this disease control me. Like
Larry Kramer, I have experienced some bad doctors, and at times I feel
powerless. But I've learned to turn this disease into something positive.
We all have to keep going, fueled by our own strength and will. POZ
helps a lot, too.
-- HIV Momma, Clarksburg, West Virginia
AIDS in Wonderland
There's something in the October 2000 issue of POZ directly
for me -- but what? Is it the absurd four-color ads with muscled climbers
on mountaintops, when the HIV guys I know who take the meds in those
ads are at home with kidney stones, wearing double Pampers? Is it the
love and respect that jump off the pages for cover guy Stepen Gendin?
Or the delight I feel that Larry Kramer is still spraying his much-needed
gasoline on this 20-year-old fire? (May he never experience a gas crisis.)
You know, I think it's all of that: a rusty Brillo pad of hope, confusion,
love and hatred labeled HIV. We are all in the middle of this. HIV is
a confusing combination of No Exit plus the Mad Hatter meets
"The Man That Got Away." Onward, POZ!
-- Don Wardell, Palm Springs, California
I want to express my appreciation for Katie Szymanski's article, "The Boys in the Band" (October 2000), about the critical work of ACT
UP/San Francisco. Szymanski went to great lengths to find AIDS establishment
people whose silly, inane remarks reveal the latest desperation of the
defenders of the infectious viral theory of AIDS, telling us much about
the brittle but bloated activist structure desperately in need of major
downsizing. Dave Pasquarelli and Michael Bellefountaine of ACT UP/SF
run scientific circles around the lumbering dinosaurs of AIDS orthodoxy.
I saw this firsthand while serving as a member of South African president
Thabo Mbeki's AIDS advisory panel.
-- Charles Geshekter, PhD, Department of History, California
State University, Chico, California
I thoroughly disbelieve HIV revisionists, Peter Duesberg and ACT UP/SF.
I had seven T cells and was very sick. Then I started HAART and got
better. I didn't abuse drugs or alcohol -- the things ACT UP/SF says
cause AIDS -- and I ate well and exercised. HAART causes AIDS? What
a laugh! Michael Bellefountaine and Dave Pasquarelli should get real.
Perhaps then their activist energies would not be wasted.
-- D. Paul Reser, California Medical Facility, Vacaville,
In an otherwise informative article, I was amazed to find ACT UP/SF
described as "one of the few groups that takes to the streets against
homophobia." Given the profound homophobia that characterizes so much
of what they say and do, I can only assume Katie Szymanski made this
absurd claim in jest. One need only read ACT UP/SF's explanation of
what caused the AIDS epidemic -- in a nutshell, all us homos brought
it upon ourselves -- to know you are hardly dealing with friends of
our community. Let's be real. They are nothing more than street thugs
and brown shirts who deal in physical violence and intimidation.
-- Gustavo Suárez, Communications Director, San
Francisco AIDS Foundation, San Francisco
The story on ACT UP/SF is irresponsible and a slap in the face to those
of us who are trying to dispel their dangerous message. ACT UP/SF is
not a group that can be reasoned with; their views are not open for
discussion. They are a gang of thugs who disrupt community treatment
forums with violence.
It has been scientifically proven that HIV causes AIDS and that HIV
drugs extend life, not hasten death. The only possible outcome of Dave
Pasquarelli and Michael Bellefountaine's efforts is that at-risk people
won't get tested, HIVers won't seek treatment, and the homophobic federal
government bigots will cut AIDS funding.
-- Philip Alden, Survive AIDS, Redwood City, California
As a PWA who survived seven toxic opportunistic infections, who has
had both feet in the grave, who was resurrected by protease inhibitors
together with other medications and therapies, it was with sadness and
shock that I read about ACT UP/SF and the damage they are doing. They
say, "Don't take your HIV meds, don't take your anticancer meds." With
this logic I suppose they don't clean their teeth because of the antiplaque
and fluoride additives in toothpaste and don't use soap because it contains
antibacterial agents. They do disservice to the memories of good men
and women who have died in the fight against AIDS. These SF psychotics
are only worthy of contempt.
-- Jake Peters, Toronto
Forgive a Little
Thanks to POZ and Lisa Kennedy for the article on Nushawn Williams
("The Miseducation of Nushawn Williams," August 2000). I don't agree with
what Nushawn did, but we all make mistakes. I feel it is essential that
we learn to forgive each other and move forward. Life is so short and
precious, there's no time for hate.
-- Shelia Thomas, Sanford, Florida
Corrections: In an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning
journalist Mark Schoofs ("It Takes a Village Voice," October 2000) the surname of the doctor
who opened the first AIDS clinic in Uganda was misspelled. The correct
spelling is Katabira. Due to an editing error in the same piece, Schoofs
is quoted as saying, "In the U.S. there are particular social illnesses
that help HIV to spread." He actually said "particular cultural patterns."
POZ regrets the errors.
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