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Positively Aware to mark 25th year
by Matt Simonette
2015-10-21

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Positively Aware, the HIV/AIDS-focused publication of Chicago-based Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) is now in its 25th year, and will celebrate that milestone downtown on Oct. 29.

Editor Jeff Berry said that, even though the scope of HIV/AIDS has changed dramatically over the years, the mission of the magazine—bringing its readers up-to-date and accurate treatment information and related news—has not.

"The epidemic has changed so much since back in the late '80s or early '90s," Berry said. "People wanted desperately to have any kind of hope, any kind of information. There was no effective treatment yet for HIV until 1996. It was a very different time. I'd come to some of the weekly [TPAN] meetings Tuesday night. The meeting room was packed. And then, every week, it would always seem that someone had died. It was kind of a scary time, but at the same time, it always felt like you could get information and support from TPAN, and, by extension, the magazine."

The Oct. 29 celebration will be at Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State St., from 6-8:30 p.m. The featured speaker will be Tony Mills, MD, a Los Angeles-based clinician who is a regular contributor to Positively Aware.

Besides treatment-related topics, Positively Aware explores other issues like disclosure, adherence, stigma and resistance—"all the things related to living well with HIV," Berry added.

He began as a TPAN volunteer, answering phones for the magazine, in the early '90s after walking away from his job as a DJ. "I didn't want to stay working in the bars for the rest of my life, but I didn't know what I wanted to do."

His first full-time paid position with Positively Aware came when he got a job running its distribution. "I've always worked on the magazine in one capacity or another [while at TPAN]," he noted. "That's how it started—you never know where a volunteer position is going to lead."

Among the changes in the HIV/AIDS landscape that Berry noted were that young gay men of color now disproportionately account for new infections, and that effective treatments are more widely available. "People are living longer," he added. "It's more of a chronic, manageable disease. You see a lot of people aging with the disease, so that's one area where we'll see a lot of attention in coming years. By 2020, over 70 percent of people with HIV will be over the age of 50."

Positively Aware has published issues focused on pre-exposure prophylaxis ( PrEP ), and featured a drug guide for medications fighting hepatitis C as well. Its annual HIV drug guide is the most popular issue.

"For me it's a great privilege to do this work," added Associate Editor Enid V�zquez, who has been working at the magazine for 20 years. She remembered writing a short article about a new drug for cryptosporidiosis, then getting a note from a reader sometime later, saying that he'd first read about the drug in Positively Aware, and that it had saved his life.

"He went to the doctor and showed him that magazine," she said. "The doctor pushed it away. He pushed it back. The doctor said, 'We can try this,' and that drug saved his life. I knew then that that was the most satisfying feeling in the world, to save someone's life. We save people's lives and people's health. I know that for sure."

"I also know that this magazine saves lives because it saved mine," said Creative Director Rick Guasco. "When I tested positive 25 years ago, I was handed three publications—all of them came from TPAN and one of them was Positively Aware."

All are invited to the Oct. 29 celebration, but guests must RSVP in advance at the link: pa25.kintera.org/RSVP . For more information, call 773-989-9400 or visit tpan.com .


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