As a Latina born and raised in East L.A. (yes, just like the movie), I am very proud to present Plus magazine’s annual Latinx issue — in both English and Español. HIV has disproportionately affected our community since the epidemic’s beginnings in the early 1980s. Back then, as a young child, I remember seeing news stories pop up here and there about the “new gay cancer,” or GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), as it was first called. I recall my mother expressing anguish over Rock Hudson’s death due HIV-related complications. He apparently was her childhood crush.
Still, HIV and AIDS felt distant from me and didn’t strike me as anything I personally needed to worry about as a 10-year-old girl. But I was wrong. About three years later, my siblings and I were dealt a devasting blow. We lost our most beloved tío (uncle) to the virus, which at that time still had no viable treatment options.
The most heartbreaking part was the fact that he refused to let anyone see him at the end. Stigma and homophobia were so strong at that time, especially within the Latinx community. I assume he must have felt ashamed of his condition — which of course, he shouldn’t have. How was he different from someone who gets pregnant or contracts a “straight” STI like HPV (human papillomavirus)? HIV is simply a scientific and biological reality that we all must face, among others, and nothing more.
It deeply saddens me to this day that my uncle likely felt this way as he lay alone in a hospital dying in the early ’90s. Which is why it is so important to our community to have things like The Wall: Las Memorias — one of the first AIDS monuments in the U.S., which still exists at Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles. Read our interview with its amazing founder, Richard Zaldivar, on page 32.
“We’ve segmented so well over the years that we've created political fractions,” says Zaldivar. “Not good. Not good at all. It serves a purpose for a handful of activists, but in general, our community wants to be together…. I think it's about time that we unite. We [need to] accept each other and learn to love each other, so we can support each other through life.”
Community members honor lost loved ones at a Las Memorias event in East L.A.
Fast forward to 2022 and unfortunately we find that, once again, gay and bi men (and presumably, many trans and nonbinary folks) are dealing with a new health crisis that brings unwanted scrutiny and stigma along with it — the monkeypox virus, or MPV. After two and a half years of COVID, most were eager to start living and socializing again, only to discover there was another reason to be afraid and stay home. While this is a major bummer any way you slice it, writer and wellness expert Andrew Stillman, a young gay single, has some great tips for staying sane and healthy during these trying times (page 40). Also learn some basic facts about MPV on page 38.
Another crisis we are dealing with in 2022 is the far-right’s attack on women and LGBTQ+ people. After targeting trans Americans and pushing the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, conservatives have now set their sights on limiting access to PrEP (medical HIV prevention) and most likely next, HIV treatment. Their argument? In the name of religious freedom they feel they should not be forced to “condone homosexuality.” These actions are setting a dangerous precedent that could slowly erode many of our civil rights and is something we all need to pay attention to. Read Christopher Wiggins’s investigative report on the current “war on PrEP” on page 23.
I hope you enjoy this issue and find it as inspiring and educational as I have in creating it. And, like Mr. Zaldivar so eloquently expressed, it’s time for us to stand united!