Health Fitness » Hiv Aids

This Year’s POZ 100 List Features All PLWHAs

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday December 4, 2013

For the first time ever, POZ Magazine's fourth annual POZ 100 lists features all HIV-positive heroes. With the help of individuals and organizations, who nominated HIV-positive unsung heroes in the fight against AIDS, the list includes individuals of all ages, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations from across the United States and Puerto Rico.

"The individuals on this year's list may not consider themselves to be heroes, but we do," said Oriol Gutierrez, POZ's editor-in-chief. "Each person - in his or her own unique way - is taking a brave stand against the virus. They are fighting back."

The people spotlighted on this year’s POZ 100 will inspire readers with their passion to effect change in the world. By telling their stories, POZ hopes the public at large will better understand that the fight against HIV/AIDS continues. They range from bloggers and activists to doctors and educators, and span across many diverse populations affected by the virus.

"From people who volunteer for AIDS service organizations or work as policy advocates, to those who act as educators to promote prevention and treatment, this list represents an incredibly diverse spectrum of people living with HIV and making a difference on the front lines in their communities," said Gutierrez.

Among the 100 PLWHAs featured on the list are folks like Marco Benjamin, the Condom Nation Program Manager at AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. Newly diagnosed with HIV in 2008, Benjamin now spends the better part of a year in an 18-wheeler truck, going across the nation distributing condoms and educating people about safer sex.

In Fort Lauderdale, 18-year survivor Anthony Johnson has committed his life to ending stigma by appearing in local and national campaigns and media interviews, talking about the obstacles he has overcome and his work with The PALS Project, which helps link people to care, treatment and support.

And in Joplin, Missouri, beautiful transwoman Raquel Saplen, positive since 1992, has been at the forefront fighting for the rights of transgender people living with HIV/AIDS. She serves as the Midwest rep for the Leadership Committee of the National Latino AIDS Action Network and works with the CDC’s HIV/AIDS Awareness and anti-stigma campaign, "Let’s Stop HIV Together."

"Because they are living with the virus themselves, these individuals have a unique understanding of what needs to be done and how best to do it," Gutierrez continued. "They know what it’s like to be newly diagnosed and how it feels to deal with HIV-related stigma and discrimination. They understand the challenges of accessing care, treatment and support. By sharing their stories, they are not only inspiring others living with the virus but are also empowering themselves and the entire HIV community."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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