In some ways,it’s an amazing time for people living with HIV. Yes, politics haven’t favored HIV funding this year, but science has had some remarkable breakthroughs. Two years after scientists put out a consensus statement about U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable), people, organizations, and media outlets are finally sharing the groundswell of research proving that when a person living with HIV is on effective treatment, it can reduce the level of HIV in their blood to undetectable levels, which protects their health and makes it virtually impossible to transmit the virus to sexual partners.
Years after the Prevention Access Campaign started their education initiative to “end the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma by empowering people with, and vulnerable to, HIV with accurate and meaningful information about their social, sexual, and reproductive health,” that message is finally being heard. Even better: new drugs made specifically for long-term survivors, for those with multidrug resistance, and for those newly diagnosed, have hit the shelves this year; so finding an effective form of treatment to get to U=U is easier than ever. (And for HIV-negative people in serodiscordant relationships with poz partners, PrEP has become more accessible as well, even if the uptick is still too slow).
People living with HIV have become more visible than ever with more actors, journalists, and TV stars coming out in 2018. Others have stepped up their visibility after doing so (like cover stars Karl Schmid and Mark Malkin). This now includes our newest cover star, Our Lady J, who is a writer and producer on Ryan Murphy’s breakout FX series, Pose.
After a career of making music in both the pop and classical worlds (for Sia, American Ballet Theatre, and Mark Morris Dance Group), Lady J transitioned to scriptwriting on the Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning series Transparent, where the out poz trans woman infused the show with authenticy. Lady J holds the honor of being the first out trans woman to perform at Carnegie Hall, as well as the first out transgender writer to be hired for a television writers room. She was awarded a Peabody Award for her work on Transparent, and has been nominated for two Writers Guild Awards and an NAACP Image Award.
It’s fitting, too, that we began the year with a double cover (actor Todrick Hall on one side, and two stars of Transparent — Alexandra Billings and Trace Lysette on the other) and we’re ending the year with a woman who helped make that show great, and is now bringing another groundbreaking series to millions of American TV-viewing households. That’s particularly important on Pose, a show that features more trans actors as regulars than any other in history — one that revolves around queer and trans people of color facing the early, brutal days of the AIDS epidemic, with resilience and grace.
Sure, this year had its problems, but as former president Bill Clinton (see page 20) likes to say, “Don’t worry about yesterday, embrace tomorrow.” I can’t wait to see what news (and amazing poz newsmakers) 2019 brings.