[Editor's note: Brad Crelia, co-founder of HIVster.com, died Wednesday Nov. 19 in Spokane, Wash. He was 29 and, according to reports, died from health complications. He attended the HIV Is Not a Crime conference in Iowa this summer and brainstormed with HIV Plus ways to help decriminalize HIV. At the time of his death, he worked with the Spokane AIDS Network and as a policy advisor for the Spokane City Council marijuana policy committee. He was also named to the Poz 100 this summer. We reprinted this 2009 story about Crelia.]
Smart, cool, young, and HIV-positive: These words don't often appear in the same sentence. But Brad Crelia and Jesse James Kendall are proving these attributes aren't mutually exclusive with their new website, HIVster.com, which is geared toward that mostly untapped audience. The website, whose name is a combination of HIV and hipster, is a biting take on news and culture, with a healthy dose of interviews and personal stories on HIV.
Lifelong friends Crelia and Kendall are both gay and both 25, but like so many people in Generation Y, they don't want their sexual orientation defining them or their website.
"Our stories are queer-centric, but we're not just reaching out to gay people. We're trying to build a site that's accessible to everyone," says Crelia, speaking from his home in Seattle. The men started the site in October, six months after Crelia tested positive. After chronicling his diagnosis in a magazine article, he knew he wanted to write regularly about life with HIV.
"Jesse and I searched the Web and couldn't find any HIV sites that fit our demographic," Crelia says. Their answer was to start their own, with Crelia overseeing the editorial content and Kendall doing the marketing for the site. HIVster recently featured an interview with Portland, Ore., mayor Sam Adams, who spoke with Crelia about being gay, working to stay HIV-negative, and his city's AIDS outreach.
There are also posts about fashion (Kendall talks up designer Marc Jacobs), music (Swedish pop star Robyn is featured heavily), and the gay-inclusive nominations for this year's Golden Globe awards. The fluffier posts are balanced out with a microsite on health, which answers frequently asked questions on STDs, symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
"There's a big disconnect between the younger population and the health information getting to them," Kendall says. Aside from HIV, Crelia has hereditary coproporphyria, a genetic condition that causes severe abdominal pain.
As he battles both diseases, the site's focus will tilt more toward health and personal stories of courage.
"A lot of people with HIV don't just have one disease, and it can be a struggle to know how to juggle it all," Crelia says. "II want to write about all the things that are to come with my disease, and I really hope it helps people."