HIV: No Longer A Death Sentence
By NOAH C. ZUSS
Mueller, writer, presenter, and advocate, is so
full of life one might think he takes pep pills
for energy. Turns out the only medication he relies
on is the sweetness of life and a host of antiretroviral
drugs he needs to keep his T cell count up because
he is HIV positive.
The full of energy Mueller is a spark plug; he
seems to be constantly on the go. He has traveled
the entire world since being diagnosed and cycled
in more continents than most Americans have ever
Mueller's mission in life, other than biking across
Africa, is to build pride among individuals with
HIV. He wants people to know that this community
is here and not going away.
He also feels very passionately about helping
young people make good choices and has made education
"If I can help educate someone younger than me,
gay, straight or whatever about my story and help
them make healthier choices and prevent someone
from getting the virus it's all worth it," he
An avid fitness and exercise fanatic, he is also
one of between 33.4 and 46 million people currently
living with HIV. But the virus has never slowed
He has lived with this fact since the early 1980s.
Sounding somewhat incredulous he feels lucky to
"I have been very lucky," he said. "I don't know
why I am alive. It makes life more difficult,
but it also made me slow down and really start
Living in Queens for almost 20 years, Mueller
became well-known for his dedication to advocacy
work on behalf of the HIV infected. He has been
involved with the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride
Center since it opened in 1996.
To build awareness of the virus he designed and
runs a special program called "Pride not Prejudice-HIV
and Pride" that visits public schools to teach
students about safe sex and HIV education.
"The program deals with issues kids face," he
said. "These are matters of safe sex, dating real
life scenarios and other sexual issues."
He doesn't sugar coat his message as he feels
it's important to expose young people to unedited
The 90-minute program, begun in January, has been
very successful and brought much attention to
Mueller's cause. His story and the program were
recently featured on local cable station NY1,
and he was named "New Yorker of the week" for
his unorthodox approach and passionate advocacy
"It's a great program and the kids are fantastic,"
Mueller has been officially sanctioned by the
Department of Education as a program vendor. The
DOE has already bought 10 presentations from him
since he began visiting schools in January.
The school presentation begins with his sometimes
graphic, always engaging story of coming of age
in New York in the late 70s as a gay man. During
the presentation to a teenage audience he spares
few details of partying at clubs and making what
he calls "some bad choices."
Shunning a soft approach Mueller said, "I want
to be as open as I can."
The program then moves to a production of a short
play using several professional actors.
The play, titled, "A Message From Rhonda" was
written by Mueller himself and traces the paths
of three high school students that contract HIV
within the course of a school year.
The program is designed to build awareness about
HIV in all young people and is not aimed at the
lesbian, gay or bisexual community. He mentions
that the program "deals with homophobia a bit,"
but is focused on building pride in all communities.
Funding for the program comes from a grant secured
by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to the
QLGPC, which in turn provides monies to Mueller
for the program.
"My life is pretty good now," the middle-aged
writer and advocate said while relaxing on a couch
in his cozy home.
A feeling of accomplishment washing over him,
he said, "My play, I think I am going to win the
Pulitzer Prize. I have dreams, there is possibilities.
HIV is no longer a death sentence."
Coalition Calls For State Of Emergency
Emergency Response Coalition is calling on local
and State Health Departments to be more proactive
and committed to allocating resources to Men who
have Sex with Men (MSM) communities of color,
with the same level of urgency as when the HIV
epidemic first hit the white gay community in
the early 1980s. The coalitions demands local
and state Health departments and elected officials
to declare a state of emergency in the MSM of
ER knows first hand of the terrible impact HIV/AIDS
is having in MSM of color communities; however,
we also know that HIV infection does not occur
in a vacuum. Several factors contribute to an
individual's risk and a community's susceptibility
and the coalition is urging a collective response.
|The Emergency Response Coalition is calling for increased measures to prevent the spread of HIV in minority communities.
In 2006, more than 75 percent of the total new
HIV diagnoses in New York City among males were
attributed to MSM transmission. Of those new diagnoses,
more than 70 percent were among MSM of color.
Recent studies show that in 2005, of all adult
males living with HIV/AIDS in New York State,
39 percent were Black and 29 percent were Latino,
while making up 14.7 percent and 16 percent respectively
of the total adult male population in the state.
This data compares to white men who were 29 percent
of adult males living with HIV/AIDS while making
up 59 percent of New York State's population.
Asian and Pacific Islander MSM aged 30 and older
have seen a 115 percent increase in new HIV diagnoses.
According to a report released by New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in September
2007, new HIV diagnoses increased by 34 percent
among black MSM and Latino MSM in the under age
30 group over the past five years. More than 90
percent of the MSM under age 20 diagnosed with
HIV infection in NYC in 2006 were black or Hispanic.
Community-based organizations throughout New York
City work tirelessly on innovative interventions,
homegrown responses and new methods of community
involvement to slow the spread of HIV within MSM
of color communities. However, realties such as
the dearth of research on MSM of color and young
MSM of color in particular, socio-economic realities
of lives and the constant shutting down of social
spaces frequented by community members undermines
HIV prevention and treatment efforts.
This state of emergency must include dedicated
resources targeted to MSM of color communities;
targeted infrastructure and program technical
assistance to MSM of color organizations and programs
working in MSM of color communities; and a coordinated
and integrated model of HIV prevention that goes
beyond just HIV testing.
Finally, the coalition strongly urges Dr. Frieden,
New York City Health Commissioner, to take this
crisis seriously and ask that he reconsider his
refusal to meet with members of the MSM of color
communities and to work with us to come up with
new approaches to stemming the tide of the HIV/AIDS
epidemic in the communities.
Emergency Response (E.R.) Coalition is a coalition
of over 15 community based organizations and groups
across the New York City with a vested interest
in ending the epidemic among MSM of color.
For more information call Gary English of New
York State Black Gay Network at (212) 828-9393
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.