It’s been been more than 30 years since activist and author Sean Strub was diagnosed with HIV, and every year since that moment he’s been making a major impact in the fight for justice for people with HIV.
Strub’s recently published book Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival revisits the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, when Strub was protesting with ACT UP and covering homophobic senator Jesse Helms’s home with a giant condom, and in 1994, when he was cofounding Poz magazine, the first glossy magazine for people living with HIV or AIDS.
In the last few years, Strub has made it his mission to end the criminalization of HIV in the United States, founding the Sero Project, which fights for freedom from stigma and injustice. Today, the Sero Project is particularly focused on ending inappropriate criminal prosecutions of people with HIV for nondisclosure of their HIV status, potential or perceived HIV exposure, or transmission—and there have been many such prosecutions.
“Every person with HIV now is one disgruntled ex-partner away from finding themselves in a courtroom,” Strub told TruthOut earlier this year. “Creating a different law for people based on an immutable characteristic has created a viral underclass in the law.”
Strub and his fellow activists had big gains this year. Iowa became the first state to repeal its HIV criminalization law, and at this summer’s inaugural HIV Is Not a Crime Conference (which drew hundreds of activists, politicians, health workers, and people living with HIV or AIDS), Strub celebrated as a state senator removed the court-mandated GPS ankle monitors from Nick Rhoades and Donald Bogardus, two men who had faced decades-long sentences for nondisclosure, even though both were undetectable and no transmission ever took place. The moment was a huge win for Iowa activists like Tami Haught, and for Strub, the spiritual grandfather of the anticriminalization movement.
On the last day of the conference in Grinnell, Iowa, as the crowds thinned out and people began packing their bags, a beaming Strub stayed around to talk to every last person. At the end of the night he told those remaining, “Today was one of the best days of my life.”
Read our full list of the 20 Amazing HIV-Positive Gay Men here.