Love Is All Around

by David Waggoner

image[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ometimes all you need is love. Like the Beatles song says, “All you need is love…” Love of a good man. Got that. Love of a good doctor. Got that too. But what is a little unexpected is how much the A&U reader has shown us love; in fact, your support in the form of buying copies of Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U, whether it’s from Amazon, your local bookstore, or directly from the magazine, has reinvigorated our mission to publish new fiction, poetry, drama, creative nonfiction, as well as features on AIDS advocates and living well with HIV, for the foreseeable future. I’m pleased to announce that the anthology is sold out! So a second printing is on order. (And don’t forget, if you’re in the New York City area on September 17, stop by the Linda Stein Studio at 6 p.m., to meet anthology writers and hear musings about the early years of the magazine.)

Now that we’re well into out third decade of publishing, I anticipate the need to update the contents of the anthology. For the latest voices inside A&U are now reflecting the wider spread use of PrEP, the increased coverage of antiretrovirals in developing countries, and the idea that a cure is not fiction anymore, but could actually become fact (according to the world’s largest funder of HIV vaccines, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). But before I get carried away about the success of the literary aspects of A&U, it’s worth noting that there are still 50,000 new infections every year in the United States. And close to two million unnecessary infections on this planet. So the fight is not over. We need to spread more love.

We need to blanket Capitol Hill with Love. We need to keep Congress in the loop that as Americans living with HIV—we matter! But in my twenty-five years of publishing A&U, I still see how disconnected Washington is from the epidemic. In President Obama’s five-year plan (projected out to 2020), America has reached certain ambiguous milestones; but over 167,000 Americans are estimated to be unaware of their status and, as the United States Conference on AIDS, convening this month in D.C., reminds, our communities are faced with mounting disparities when it comes to accessing healthcare.

We need to love our sexual partners enough to protect our health, whether we are positive or negative. In this month’s cover story, Dr. Rachael Ross, one of the cohosts of the popular TV show The Doctors, has much to say about combining pleasure with knowledge, assessing risk when it comes to sex, and reframing HIV prevention outreach, as well as keeping the conversation going. About the media, she notes: “What saddens me is that when it’s Black HIV Awareness Day or World AIDS Day, it’s virtually impossible to get booked on a show to talk about it. It’s become old news and nobody’s interested in the subject right now. What they’d rather have me talk about is how to give somebody a great blowjob!” But she also encourages everyone to just talk about sex because talking can lead to action.

Most importantly, we need to love ourselves. We need to find support or seek counseling to protect against the corrosive effects of stigma, discriminatory attitudes and practices, and the policing of our positive bodies. The benefits of antiretorvirals mean little if we cannot also unlock freedom through securing our basic needs, our peace of mind, our empowerment. This issue features interviews with advocates who are doing just that—living with or affected by HIV and letting their love radiate out into society. Meet Derek Canas, Joseph Rivera, Dontá Morrison, and Daniel Bauer. I’d introduce you to Phill Wilson, but I’m sure you know who he is!

Together they are working to expand treatment access, end HIV stigma, bring more services to the South, dismantle AIDS phobia, and motivate others. Let’s round up our jukebox money and head on down to the Love Shack!

David Waggoner is Editor in Chief and Publisher of A&U, the first national HIV/AIDS magazine in the U.S.