PA throws itself an anniversary party
By Enid Vázquez @ENIDVAZQUEZPA PHOTOS BY JOHN GRESS AND JULIE SUPPLE

For more than 25 years, POSITIVELY AWARE has brought information and support to hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV. In October, more than 200 friends joined PA at the Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications to celebrate our anniversary—and all that we have accomplished, not the least of which is survival.

Covers of milestone issues were blown up and on display during the event, alongside images from A Day with HIV, POSITIVELY AWARE’s anti-stigma photo campaign. A mock photo shoot allowed guests to pose for their own PA cover.

Editor-in-Chief Jeff Berry talked about the campiness of the early issues, and how that made everything less scary as he dealt with the deaths of his friends and his own newly discovered diagnosis.

“I loved that we covered every little bit of people’s lives—stress, spirituality, sexuality, and all in an approachable way,” said Jeff.

The event’s program book featured a safer sex ad from Positively Aware with a retro image of a suggestively smiling woman in a bath full of bubbles declaring, “She really loves her water-based lube!”

Former International Mr. Leather Tony Mills, MD, flew in from Los Angeles to talk about the place POSITIVELY AWARE holds in the history of the epidemic. Mills recalled seeing the magazine when he was newly diagnosed in Atlanta in the early ’90s and thought, “This is for us.” Today, he is the medical director of the Tony Mills medical practice and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at UCLA.

While POSITIVELY AWARE still maintains a heavy focus on medical treatment, it is the personal stories that speak best to the spirit of the struggle.

Former editor Bob Hultz, now in Los Angeles, wrote us: “Thinking back to the 1980’s, it was hard for TPA’s earliest members to imagine we’d still be alive in 2015, let alone celebrating 25 years of POSITIVELY AWARE. Although many of those earliest members have passed on, the publication has survived and grown. In its earliest days, we’d go from one printing store to another, asking them to donate free copies of our newsletter. It was an enormous breakthrough the day a huge, clunky Xerox machine was moved into [founder] Chris Clason’s apartment. Years later, another giant milestone was reached when we began printing POSITIVELY AWARE on a web-press, providing HIV treatment and prevention information and support to tens of thousands of readers nationwide.

“Throughout the epidemic, our magazine has been lovingly and carefully nurtured by scores of volunteers and dedicated staff. I’m deeply grateful to be alive and thriving, thanks in great measure to TPA Network and POSITIVELY AWARE. I celebrate with you in continuing our earliest motto, ‘Committed to Living.’”