World AIDS Day

These Five Incredible Activists Are The Reason We Will Defeat HIV

They are here, they are queer, and they have had an amazing year of HIV activism.

These five gay activists have wildly different playing fields, from the board room to street protests, from national agendas to musical comedies. And we are bracing for your feedback, considering how impossible it is to select five men from the thousands working to improve our world every day. With more than half of the estimated 50,000 new HIV infections each year occurring among gay men, we’re proud to have these advocates on our side.

On the eve of World AIDS Day, Queerty hereby applauds the efforts of…

Marco Castro-Bojorquez

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Activists don’t get much busier than Marco Castro-Bojorquez. The Los Angeles resident (and Mexican immigrant) fights daily for the civil rights of LGBTQ people as a community educator for Lambda Legal Defense Fund, while serving on the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus and fighting for the repeal of HIV criminalization laws. Meanwhile, Marco’s artsy side just produced El Canto del Colibri (“The Hummingbird Song”), a documentary about Latino fathers accepting a gay family member.

“Latinos are disproportionaly affected by HIV/AIDS at alarming rates and we are underrepresented in the field,” Marco told Queerty. He is working to level that field by creating The Network of Latin Immigrants Living with HIV, and by starting a bi-coastal pilot program to educate Latin youth on HIV prevention and PrEP.

Noël Gordon

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No one has had to fulfill tougher expectations more than Noël Gordon, 24, the HIV prevention specialist hired by the Human Rights Campaign two years ago. Noël has had the eyes of many HRC critics on him, many of whom doubted HRC’s commitment to its own HIV platform.

Noël has responded with a youthful vitality and a laser focus on the most vulnerable population in our community: young gay and bisexual men of color. It has also become his personal quest to make pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) a household name. An out and proud PrEP user himself, Noël has grabbed every opportunity – HRC events, magazine covers and even his own Grindr profile – to highlight the benefits of the once-daily pill to prevent HIV infection.

Charles Sanchez

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Living with HIV without fear or shame is no small feat. Charles Sanchez has gone several steps further; he took his own life with HIV and added musical numbers and backup dancers. The result is Merce, his likable and loopy web series starring Charles as an HIV-positive gay man looking for love in New York.

Charles scraped together the funding for the first season of Merce through friends and an online funding campaign, and the “let’s put on a show!” low-budget ingenuity shines through each episode like a goofy grin. Comedy might be our most subversive activism tool, and no one is using it more effectively than Charles Sanchez. Never underestimate the transformative power of a hearty laugh.

Matt Ebert

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Do not mess with longtime ACT UP New York members. They will come for you.

When Matt Ebert and his fellow ACT UP members learned that the Chelsea Clinic, located in the epicenter of The Big Apple’s gayborhood, was being closed earlier this year by the New York Department of Health, the instincts that founded ACT UP nearly thirty years ago sprang into action. Matt knew the data: the drastic budget cuts in New York were not only crippling our best weapon to halt the epidemic – HIV and STI testing – but the Chelsea Clinic closure was denying testing and treatment to the very population most at risk, and during a time when sexually transmitted infections are on the rise.

Matt and his ACT UP cohorts organized protests, wrote articles and challenged the city at every turn. “Without our community climbing up that clinic, nobody wins,” Matt told us in reference to his climbing the walls of the doomed Chelsea Clinic, above. Although the clinic has not yet reopened (renovations may be complete in 2017), Matt and his ACT UP cohorts made significant gains by getting city officials to agree to more widespread STI testing, which will now become routine rather than based on self-reporting (often, people have no symptoms of syphilis and would not request a test, but getting one would identify the infection). “Our sexual health matters,” said Matt. And so does street activism.

David Ernesto Munar

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Activists aren’t always on the outside, waving signs and demanding needed attention. When we’re lucky, they are doing the work from the inside, too. That is the case with David Ernesto Munar, the President and CEO of the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, who has spent the last year transforming the beleaguered agency into something the Chicago community can cheer about. This, after David devoted more than twenty years advocating for sound HIV policy at AIDS Foundation Chicago.

David’s changes have been sweeping and immediate: securing the agency financially after mountains of debt over the years, expanding clinic hours and staff for thousands of people with HIV, and becoming one of the nation’s leading prescribers of PrEP with more than 700 patients provided access to the prevention pill. On the immediate horizon are increased services for transgender people and homeless youth.

Well, we warned you. It’s clearly impossible to narrow the field of gay activists devoted to the cause of HIV in our community.

By all means, tell us who would be on your list in Comments…