HRC Blog

HIV Activist Sean Strub Discusses Memoir “Body Counts” At HRC Headquarters

Post submitted by Chloe Stokes, HRC Digital Media Intern

Activist Sean Strub visited the Human Rights Campaign’s Washington, D.C. office this afternoon to discuss his new book, Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS and Survival.

Strub has been an active member of the HIV and LGBT movements for over twenty years, working with ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, in the 1980s, and founding POZ in 1994, a monthly magazine chronicling the lives of people affected by HIV and AIDS. In 1990, he became the first openly HIV positive person to run for federal office.

HRC has worked alongside Strub in recent years to further advocate for the HIV community, collaborating in an effort to end the fight against HIV and AIDS. His memoir recounts his involvement in the establishment of the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1980, alongside the campaign’s first Executive Director, Steve Endean.

Body Counts charts Strub’s life, beginning with his childhood in conservative Iowa, continuing through his introduction to the HIV movement, and finishing with his permanent dedication to the issues and injustices that marginalized people experience today.

“This is not a project, this is a recognition that all the injustices are intertwined,” Strub told staff.

His memoir addresses the current status of HIV in America, focusing on minority communities and those that face the greatest stigmatization. Nationally, the South is home to 43% of the population living with HIV, while 1 in 5 black men in the South are currently infected with HIV.

“When you go to communities that experience other forms of oppression, you can’t deal with AIDS in a singular way,” Strub said. “AIDS has to find its place within a hierarchy of burdens.”

Strub’s memoir examines the ways in which stigmatization contributes to the injustices experienced within the HIV and AIDS community.  It demonstrates how existing campaigns to combat stigma primarily raise awareness, and do little to effectively challenge society’s preconceptions.

“The only way to effectively combat stigma is to empower the stigmatized,” Strub said to staff.

Body Counts also explores the battles that have yet to be won in the fight against HIV, and Strub noted that one of the biggest problems in HIV prevention is “that a lot of the people responding to the epidemic are responding to an epidemic that was, not the epidemic that is today.”

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