by David Waggoner
Australia was a trip and a half. It was a trek halfway around the world, but I’m glad I attended the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. It was heartening to be with “my people”—people who care. Time and again, as I introduced the magazine to new readers and welcomed old friends and acquaintances at the booth, I felt inspired to be around people who want to make a positive difference in the world.
What a sharp contrast to other goings-on in the world, one of which ended the lives of Conference-bound researchers and other AIDS workers. Those travelers, mixed in with whole families, newlyweds, and lone businesspeople, were killed when the flight they were on was shot down out of the sky by pro-Russian militants for absolutely no good reason. Then, just when you thought the situation couldn’t get any more tragic, reports filtered in about the crash site—bodies were left untended, the crime scene was tampered with, victims’ credit cards were pilfered, and fighting continued, making it near impossible to secure dignity for those we lost and allow mourners to begin to grieve.
Where’s the humanity?
That’s what I kept asking in the days after, especially every time I saw a doleful look on a Conference attendee’s face or saw impromptu memorials pop up. It’s a good thing I was surrounded by individuals who value life enough to try to make it better. But I did wonder what will ever encourage those who turn to war and violence more quickly than peace and diplomacy to change their ways. As I helped assemble A&U’s thirteenth annual Summer Reading issue, I began to have doubts that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Am I naive to think that literature—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama—could be a healing, transformative force?
No. It’s not naive. Writing by its very nature models peace. Writing says: “Please stop right there, kind people. I have created this space, this sanctuary, where we can come together. We can keep the world at bay momentarily so that we can look at this problem more closely or indulge in the sensual delight of being alive. There are no bombs or tunnels or missiles here—only understanding. Then it’s up to you to respond and to act and to live.”
So, I am proud to offer this issue of A&U to the world. Our editors and writers have brought together compatriots of compassion, all dedicated to helping us understand something about HIV/AIDS, health, community. In our cover story interview by Sean Black, Suzanne Somers has written book after book about health and well-being. Whether or not you agree with her conclusions, you will sympathize with her drive to think outside of the box when it comes to health alternatives and to ask questions of doctors until the answers make sense to you and what you are going through.
Elsewhere in this issue, AIDS activist Maria Mejia collaborated with Jason Wood to bring her story of living with HIV into the hands of readers. As Alina Oswald finds out, Mejia is all about making deep connections with others in order to expand prevention and treatment access and destigmatize HIV. Writer Chip Livingston, whose work has been published many times over the years in A&U and is included in our new anthology of literature from Black Lawrence Press, also wants to work against the stigma that seems to go hand in hand with oppression. In Chael Needle’s insightful interview with the writer, Livingston also impresses upon us the importance of community—how AIDS can bring us all together as we walk through this life.
And, finally, Brent Calderwood, A&U’s Literary Editor, and other Christopher Hewitt Award judges have found stunning examples of the power of writing to see the world with fresh eyes, whether it’s in the form of a poem, short story, or essay.
Please stop right there, kind people. In this issue, as with every issue of A&U, we’ve created a space, a sanctuary, where we can come together. Your mission? Understand. Respond. Act. Live.
David Waggoner is Editor in Chief and Publisher of A&U, the first national HIV/AIDS magazine.