Keeping Our Heads Above Water


by David Waggoner

Sounds fishy to me! As we go to press, the Olympics are winding down and theDavid Waggoner suffering of tens of thousands of lives in the state of Louisiana are anything but over. As the world knows by now, the future of Olympic gold swimmers and pranksters Ryan Lochte and his fellow aquatic superstars is murky at best. After telling a whale of a lie about their supposed abduction by armed bandits, many of Lochte’s corporate sponsors are beginning to jump ship. What was fraternity-like vandalism is now turning into an international incident.

While all this is going on, doesn’t it seem odd that the news media are finally turning their attention to the dire situation in Baton Rouge and other low-lying communities in Louisiana? While millions watched as the American swim team was floundering in their own lies and innuendo, those in real distress were barely keeping their heads above water. With tens of thousands of dollars in lost endorsement money being donated to the poor citizens of Rio’s infamous favelas, there was some sort of justice served, albeit what amounted to spare change from wealthy sports endorsers like Speedo and Ralph Lauren.

Away from the Olympics, at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, ears were unclogged: The United Nations heralded the news that fifty percent of the world now had access to high quality HIV medicines and that two-thirds of the poz planet would be on antiretrovirals by the next AIDS conference in Amsterdam—a short two years away! This is truly a turnaround and a good sign that HIV is being eliminated or at least reduced as an international threat. Only if there were a cure on the horizon—not that Bill and Melinda Gates, President Obama, the WHO, and countless NGOs and thousands of scientists aren’t burning the midnight oil to give us all hope that an effective vaccine and an eventual end to AIDS might have a shot at success.

Thank goodness this is happening, but the back page coverage is literally a hush heard all over the world. Maybe major American media outlets can stop being entertainment companies and return to the good old days of covering the news. Thankfully a superstar of the 1984 and 1988 Olympics—some consider him the greatest diver of all time—and today an advocate, Greg Louganis continues to win gold in the fight against AIDS. In this month’s exclusive interview conducted by Chip Alfred, Louganis continues to make waves. By participating in Crossing the Line, he is helping newer generations of elite athletes find solid footing as they make the transition into future endeavors. As an HIV long-term survivor, someone who had not expected to live past thirty, he is also sharing what he has learned with others. HIV “was and still is only a mere part of me. It does not define me,” he says.

That sense of empowerment is infused in our features on Davina Conner, aka Pozitively Dee, who nurtures a supportive HIV community on talk radio, and the Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network, which creates a collaborative way for long-term survivors to pool their wisdom and build upon their strengths. Guest columnists Joshua Middleton and Lewis Nightingale each offer their take on what our community needs to dive back into our dreams and goals.

Hank Trout’s new column, For the Long Run, also highlights the needs of the first generation. As a long-term survivor, Trout seeks to find ways to not only keep on living but to thrive. Lifesaving medications are good, but they are not enough. All aspects of living need to be addressed, from housing to mental health. Unfair treatment is not to be countenanced. Another new column, Positive Justice, by Chip Alfred, focuses in on exactly that, through the lens of HIV criminalization and health justice.

All seem to be saying: Now that we have plunged deep into caring for our bodies and surfaced for air, what’s next? Our community might agree that the past need not be an anchor; it can motor us forward. We are not treading water; we are in the swim of life.

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