Reading Is Fundamental
by David Waggoner

Describe what World AIDS Day means to you. That was our prompt to activists (in a feature written and photographed by Arts Editor Alina Oswald) and to artists (in this month’s Gallery by Managing Editor Chael Needle). We received a diverse array of responses, from Ron B and Victoria Noe to Richard Renaldi and Hector Toscano. While each has their own take, many circled back to common themes: remembering of those we have lost; fighting to create a better future for those who are living. Each person has been touched——this is not an abstract cause.

Indeed, our empathy has been forged first-hand. We all have names of those friends, lovers, and family members for whom we light our candles. Let’s say them aloud right now. I will go first:

Mark Labrecque. Mark Galbraith.
Patrick. Tommy. (Chael)
Robert B. Harrell. (Candy)
Peter. David. Don. (John)
Nickie. Brenden. John. (Jeannie)
John. (Alina)
Jack Fennell. Samuel Edwards. (Raymond)
Jim “Stella” Duquette. Ned Pocengal. (Hank)
Chris. Ron. Doug. (Dann)
Riyadh. (Jay)
Martin. Donald. Steven. Melvin. (Noah)
Michael. (Timothy)

We will all be thinking of our loved ones this World AIDS Day. Indeed, we think of them all year round. Our editors and contributors do this work of advocacy in a very connected way. Like others in the HIV community, they are ambassadors who represent a larger constituency. And like all forms of representation, political and cultural, they strive to be attuned to think outside of themselves.

That’s the task that actor Max Greenfield set for himself to play a gay character living with HIV in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, part of an anthology series.

The cover story subject and star of TV’s The Neighborhood tells Senior Editor Dann Dulin that he knows very well when to pass the baton of advocacy: “When it comes to speaking about the series and this role, I always preface it by saying that AIDS did not affect me personally. What did affect me and was the most striking comments that night came from Ricky Martin, who is gay and who came up closeted in this era. When I listened to Ricky, who was so directly impacted by this disease, as were others, it is these people who fully understand it.”

We do fully understand it, or a lot of it, and this knowledge compels us to speak out. It is what compels Blossom Brown, a healthcare navigator and person living with HIV featured in this issue, to speak out. It is what compels writer Philip Dean Walker, whose short story is featured this month, to speak out. The list goes on: Alacias Enger, who writes Money Matters, and Larry Buhl, who writes Hep Talk. We all seek to expand the conversation around HIV/AIDS because we know this helps to dismantle barriers to care and to improve health outcomes and quality of life.

People always talk about the end of AIDS, but that will never mean the end of people with HIV/AIDS. AIDS will always have happened. Some bodies will always have withered. Hearts will always have doubted if the world had any compassion. Brains will have always wondered where relief and healing might be found. Nervous systems will have always been set quaking by shame and stigma. Some bodies will have always laid down on the front lines. Some bodies will have always toiled at home. Some bodies will have always recovered their strength. Some bodies will have always died and some will have always lived. The end of AIDS does not mean our bodies will disappear, shuttled to some Hart Island of history. No, our lives mattered/matter. We will say their names. Their names are our names. Whose name will you read?

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