When HIV was first identified in the early 1980s, it was a public health crisis mired in urgent scientific questions: How was it transmitted? What were the symptoms? Could it be treated? But alongside that, and equally challenging to public health, was the stigma attached to the virus. Homophobia, racism, and shame around sex combined with a woefully inadequate response from our government made the epidemic even more deadly. Today, we know how to treat HIV/AIDS and help prevent transmission. Still, thousands of Americans contract HIV every year, millions of people around the world do not receive treatment, and stigma remains dangerous, even deadly.
In this debut episode, you’ll hear from activist Peter Staley about his experience as a member of the group ACT UP back in the 1980s, and his work today to fight stigma, and help people get the education and care they deserve. Then Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness shares his journey through fear and stigma after being diagnosed as HIV-positive to becoming a fierce advocate and inspiration for other. And finally, Dr. Oni Blackstock, an HIV physician and advocate working in New York City, shares her experience treating patients on the front-lines amid a pandemic and the ongoing fight for equity in healthcare access and quality for all.