Larry Kramer, AIDS activist and artist, passed away today at 84.

Kramer was known for his books Faggots and The American People, as well as climate-changing plays like The Normal Heart. His close friend and literary executor, William Schwalbe, told CNN that Kramer died of pneumonia."Larry made a huge contribution to our world as an activist but also as a writer," said Schwalbe, who had known Kramer for 57 years. "I believe that his plays and novels, from 'The Normal Heart' to 'The American People' will more than stand the test of time."

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If you weren't aware, Frank Ocean's Blond was just ranked the number one album of the decade by Pitchfork—a well-deserved accolade.

Blond is a transcendent masterpiece, a work that is musically and lyrically innovative while also packing the kind of emotional punch that always leaves me seeing stars.

Tonight, somewhere in New York City, Frank Ocean will be hosting his first club night. If you haven't already received the event invite, you won't, as this is a super-exclusive kind of thing. I'm still waiting for my invitation, but that's probably for the best, because I think if I were in the same room as Frank Ocean, I'd pass out or dissolve into a pool of glitter and tears. I know he says, "I'm just a guy, not a god" in "Futura Free," but I'm not sure. I think if God wrote a song, it would probably sound something like that track.

Entitled PrEP+, the club will be 80s-themed. It's named after the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug used by people at risk of contracting HIV. According to the press release, the club will be a "homage to what could have been if the drug PrEP... had been invented" during the 1980s club scene. PrEP was first adapted in 2012 and is available only by prescription.

That Grape Juice

By the 1980s, HIV and AIDS had reached epidemic levels in America, and people with these illnesses were often dehumanized and refused treatment. Associated with queerness and poverty, HIV/AIDS was largely ignored and heavily stigmatized. In order for the government to allocate the funds needed to search for a cure, mass protests had to occur.

Though treatments are available today, people with HIV still face discrimination and stigma, and many don't realize that even people who have HIV have the option to become "undetectable" with treatment. That's why an event like Ocean's is so important—it emphasizes that there are ways to prevent and cure HIV, and it reminds us that no one should have to live in fear of it or of their preferences for how to love and experience joy.

NPR.org

Club life was a vital part of queer and alternative culture in the 1980s. Queer clubs were rare places where gay people and others who didn't fit into mainstream society could go to let loose and be themselves. Though many queer nightclubs have become heavily corporatized (or infiltrated by straight, often wealthy, and white people) beginning with Rudy Giuliani's moral craze around nightclubs in the 1980s, it seems that Ocean's club will be dedicated to pulling from the radical spirit of 1980s club culture while putting a futuristic and idealistic spin on the problems and struggles that plagued those years.

Among its rules, Ocean's club reads that "consent is mandatory" and says there will be "zero tolerance for racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism or any form or discrimination." Sadly, no photography will be permitted. Okay, maybe I really do want to be there. But as I listen to Nights for the thousandth time on the train home tonight, I'm going to be happy just knowing that somewhere in this city, Frank Ocean is dancing.

FILM & TV

REVIEW | “Battements Par Minute” debuts at Cannes Film Festival

FILM | An exploration of the AIDS crisis in 1990s Paris - enough to win the top prize?

When "The Normal Heart" was translated from stage to film in 2014, it sought to depict what it was like to be diagnosed and living with AIDS in New York in the 1980s, and further looked to normalize the discussion.

"Battements Par Minute" attempts to complete a similar task with the 1990s AIDS scene in Paris. Directed by Robin Campillo, the French film (originally entitled "120 Battements Par Minute" or "120 Beats Per Minute" — the average heart rate of a human) explores the AIDS activist community ACT UP at their Paris chapter, chronicling their work over the course of a year as the group of activists attempts to get answers from pharmaceutical companies, change the message of the government, and raise awareness about the illness that has complicated their lives and brought them together.

Among the group of activists is Nathan (Arnaud Valous), a newcomer who is "negative" but passionate about the cause, and Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), a radical member of the group who has been diagnosed "positive" and is slowly worsening in his symptoms. Majority of the film focuses on the romantic relationship that develops between the two men and how it is strained by the AIDS diagnosis.

COURTESY OF THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

In this group atmosphere, "BPM" works to do what few activist stories manage: show us the disagreements between people all supposedly working for the same cause. We see the leaders of the group fighting for calmer approaches to making their points and militant members standing up and arguing back that only flashy moves will make their voices heard. In today's political climate where many young people find themselves getting involved in similar causes, it can be helpful to see what previous work has been done. It was also impactful for the group to be cast so diversely and included not only gay men (the most commonly thought of group in the AIDS crisis), but also lesbians, people of color, and parents of diagnosed children.

However, it is the film's ability to convey and raise emotions that is its strongest attribute. There are many scenes that will make audiences uncomfortable. These scenes are the most important and plethoric. Everything from the group throwing fake blood at drug companies who refuse to release statistics for a new medication to holding political funerals involving coffins in the streets and ashes scattered at events for members of ACT UP who pass away. While some audiences may question the impact of such because "BPM" is fictional (unlike "The Normal Heart"), Campillo going for a "half-docu" sort of feeling, it is worth remembering its base in truth.

COURTESY OF THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

The work the film does to normalize the cycle of AIDS is also remarkable. It works to show every element of being in a relationship where this is a factor. We see Nathan and Sean in a dimly lit, slow sex scene — the kind of thing audiences are accustomed to seeing with heterosexual couples but not with homosexual — that is incredibly loving and intimate, but it is proof that it remains taboo in society when it caused people to walk out of the theatre. We also receive scenes as Sean becomes further ill with close ups of his blistering skin, his IV process, and ultimately his dead body that Nathan wakes up to discover and friends come to mourn over. This is the reality for people with AIDS, and "BPM" does not shy away from that. The film screams for the need for tolerance, and should make you question if you're unwilling to give it such.

Despite the emotional impact of the plot, Director Campillo does nothing interesting in the actual depiction of each scene. His camera shots are traditional and familiar. At times, they can even work to diminish the value of the plot because they take us out of the time period of the piece — one of the major elements of the story.

COURTESY OF THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Audiences may think the film is set in modern day while watching because of the coloring and clarity of the scenes, as well as the fact that there are no reminders after the beginning. Characters are dressed relatively modernly. Nothing about politics outside of AIDS-related topics is discussed. And one of the final scenes involves a large scale depiction of the Seine River being dyed red, but because of the ethereal quality of its depiction, it seems false and entirely unbelievable (perhaps because it did not happen in history). While the content of "BPM" is certainly reaching to try and break boundaries, none of the actual cinematic work comes close to doing such.

There is no doubt that there is great importance in the dark history of AIDS and that it is worth reiterating to people in a world that is arguably still quite fearful and dismissive of the issue. However, should "BPM" take home the Palme d'Or, it will be solely because of its political stance and not because of its great leaps and bounds in cinematography, for there are none. It will also throw into question if the festival is becoming a place more targeted toward social activism rather than one looking to appreciate unique artistry.

A complete list of films in competition for the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d'Or, is available on the festival's website, as is a press conference with the team behind "120 Battements Par Minute."

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Secret

Conspiracy Theory Thursday: AIDS Was Man-Made—Given To Gays Deliberately

Conspiracies have been swirling for years that HIV/AIDS was man-made and given to gay men deliberately.

This week Popdust breaks down the conspiracy theory aids man-made disease claims.

HIV/AIDS was first reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981.

It was originally believed to be a mysterious, deadly disease found among young white gay men in New York City.

Fast forward 35 years and the disease has killed 34 million people worldwide.

According to statistics, more than 36 million people globally are now living with HIV (as of the end of 2014).

In the early days, the disease was prevalent in the gay community, and believed to be transmitted by unprotected sexual contact.

However, it soon became obvious that it wasn't only homosexuals being infected.

And, it wasn't purely being passed on through sexual contact.

It was in the blood supply and heterosexuals were contracting it too.

The widely accepted scientific explanation is that HIV/AIDS originated from an African primate virus that crossed over into humans.

Scientists speculate the virus was passed on through the consumption of "bush meat" (the eating of chimpanzees by hunters.)

However there is another, more sinister theory that, on the surface at least, is really not that far-fetched.

Popdust breaks it down: conspiracy theory aids man-made disease claims:

In the early 1970s there was a huge surge in LGBT activisim and the gay pride movement flourished.

A large number of gay men came out of the closet and the government believed homosexuality to be an out of control threat to society.

The growing strength of the gay rights movement coincided with homosexuality being de-classified as a "mental disorder."

Nixon, the President at the time, warned that homosexuality had a damaging and destructive effect on society.

He blamed the downfall of both the Greek and Roman empires on homosexuality, and claimed:

Homosexuality, dope, immorality in general, these are the enemies of strong societies. That's why the communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff: they're trying to destroy us.

The Theory

A man-made disease—approved by congress—was created in a laboratory and introduced into the gay community in the mid 1970s.

The disease was intended to scare gay men and reduce the number of practicing homosexuals in society.

At the same time, it was also introduced into Africa in order to control the poor black population there.

The 'Proof'

Within the next five to ten years, it would probably be possible to make a new infective micro-organism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organism.
  • MacArthur claimed the disease would be resistant to “the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infection and disease." And testified it would require $10 million to develop.
  • AIDS first surfaced within MacArthur's estimated “five to 10 years" and is the only disease to fulfill the definition.
  • The first cases of AIDS were traced to gay men in 1979 Manhattan—3-years before the African epidemic was recognized in 1982—countering claims it originated in there.
  • KS was labeled the "gay cancer" and reported to also originate from a primate virus jumping species in Africa.
  • A 1974 government initiative encouraged gay men in Manhattan (especially promiscuous ones) to participate in an experimental hepatitis B vaccine being developed by Merck and the National Institute of Health

  • Tens of thousands of gay men were screened and 1,083 of them were subsequently selected to test the vaccine.
  • Beginning in 1978, groups of gay men were inoculated at the New York Blood Center.
  • The hepatitis B studies extended to clinics in San Francisco in 1978.
  • By 1980 additional clinics in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and St Louis were also seeking participants for similar programs
  • The vaccine was made from the combined blood of 30 gay men who carried the hepatitis B virus.
  • During development it was injected into chimpanzees known to be infected with the simian cancer causing SV40—The same virus that contaminated the polio vaccine between 1955 and 1961
  • By December 1981, 121 people in the USA had died of AIDS with victims hailing from San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
  • The dead would have been infected at least 2-years prior, ie: 1979—none of them had ever been to Africa or eaten primates
  • No blood stored anywhere in the U.S. prior to 1978 had tested positive for HIV or the KS virus.
  • Before 1978 there were no cases of AIDS and no cases of Kaposi's Sarcoma recorded.
  • 20% of the gay men who volunteered for the experiment in NYC were found to be HIV positive in 1980—a whole year before AIDS was officially recognized in 1981
  • By 1984 over 40% of NYC gay men were found to be HIV positive.
  • 20% of samples taken in 1982 tested positive for KS2 herpes-8 when re-tested in 1999
  • The hepatitis B vaccine proved to be a success—protecting 96% of the men—however the vaccine was contaminated
  • The vaccine was introduced into Africa in 1981—leading to the first cases of HIV/AIDS being officially recorded there in 1982
  • A number of high profile doctors have carried out investigations on the origins of HIV/AIDS and concluded it was man-made and deliberately introduced;
    • Robert Strecker MD, PhD published a memorandum in 1984 confirming the virus detailed to Congress in 1969 was produced in the early '70s and spread in America via the hepatitis B vaccine trials.
    • Alan Cantwell Jr MD, a prolific cancer microbe researcher, has published two books Doctors of Death and Queer Blood concluding AIDS was man-made.
    • Dr Michele Carbone of Loyola University in Chicago, a leading expert in vaccine manufacturing, has openly admitted HIV/AIDS was spread by the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Check out this interview with Dr Maurice Hilleman, Merck's vaccine developer, during which he alleges the polio vaccine was contaminated with SV40 and that it's likely SV40 is the source of AIDS.

  • The actual number of AIDS deaths among the men in the original hepatitis B experiment has never been released.
  • Blood samples from the original patients are sealed as per order of US Department of Justice.

What we do know (or think we know) for sure:

  • The development of a man-made virus was discussed in Congress in 1969
  • The government recruited gay men in New York beginning in 1974—and later San Francisco and Los Angeles—to participate in a hep B vaccine program
  • Gay men were injected with the vaccine in 1978 through 1979.
  • The first officially recognized AIDS case in the U.S. was reported in 1980—San Francisco resident Ken Horne
  • By 1985 66% of the men in the original trial tested HIV positive

Balancing conspiracy theory aids man-made disease claims:

  • Researchers estimate the first form of SIV was transmitted from primate to human in the early 1930s
  • Analysis of blood samples taken from a man who died in the Congo in 1959 reportedly find he was infected by HIV
  • In the same year, NYC shipping clerk, Ardouin Antonio, died of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia—a disease closely associated with AIDS
  • Genetic studies reportedly find HIV first arrived in the Americas some time around the late 1960s—via Haitians who had been working in the Congo
  • Test samples taken from the remains of St. Louis teenager, Robert Rayford, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1969, reportedly find evidence of HIV
  • Reports of a mysterious wasting disease spreading throughout Africa—known as "slim disease"—start surfacing in 1975
  • Test samples taken from Norwegian sailor, Arvid Noe, who died in 1976, reportedly find he had contracted HIV/AIDS in Africa during the early 60s
  • In 1977, a prostitute in San Francisco gave birth to the first of 3 kids to later be diagnosed with AIDS. The prostitute went on to die from AIDS in May 1987
  • A baby born in 1974 to a 16-year-old intravenous drug dealer in New Jersey, died in 1979, age 5. Subsequent tests reportedly reveal she had contracted HIV at birth

That said, if you have any doubts the U.S. government could be evil enough to unleash a man-made virus onto an unsuspecting community— just google Tuskegee experiment.

So, what do you think about the conspiracy theory aids man-made disease claims?

Vote in our poll!

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Conspiracy Theory Thursday—The Princess Diana Death Conspiracy

prince death overdose not aids—the official cause of death has been revealed as opiate overdose, securing that place in Hell for the National Enquirer

Prince’s cause of death has been revealed.

The singer died from an accidental opiate overdose—securing that place in Hell for the National Enquirer with their despicable salacious AIDS front cover.

And no, we are not AIDS-shaming—there should be no stigma attached to HIV and AIDS—it is a disease that should be viewed no differently to others, such as cancer, diabetes etc.

We are National Enquirer-shaming, for a bullshit, fabricated front cover story, jumping on what they perceive to be the most salacious outrageous line, designed purely to sell copies of the tabloid.

We are National Enquirer-shaming, for their relentless policy of AIDS-sensationalizing celebrity deaths at each and every opportunity—as shown earlier this year with their David Bowie “secret AIDS battle” story.

You can read that gem here, if you can stomach it.

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The prince aids national enquirer story proves the tabloid can always sink to new depths

Just when I truly believed The National Enquirer couldn’t sink any lower into the sewer, it goes and proves me wrong.

And, despite my steadfast agnostic mindset, it makes me believe there really is a special place in “hell” for this rag.

But, come on, you say...it’s just a stupid tabloid!

Why so harsh?

Well, read on….

This week’s front cover SCREAMS:

AIDS KILLED PRINCE

Then alleges:

HE DIDN’T HAVE TO DIE: Refused Medicine, Saying “GOD CAN CURE ME!”

In addition to:

AGONIZING FINAL DAYS: Seizures, chronic pain, and ADDICTED TO OPIATES

And, it doesn’t get any better inside.

According to “a music industry source” supposedly interviewed by The National Enquirer, Prince messaged friends on April 19 to inform them he had AIDS.

They quote the “source” as saying:

[Prince] was in bad shape.

Doctors told Prince his blood count was unusually low and that his body temperature had dropped dangerously below the normal 98.6 degrees to 94 degrees.

He was totally iron-deficient, very weak and often disoriented.

He rarely ate and when he did, it all came right back up.

The tabloid goes on to claim Prince contracted HIV “in the 1990s” and was diagnosed with AIDS six months ago.

They allege the 57-year-old had lost 70 pounds in weight prior to his death—and quote the “source” as saying:

His face was yellowish, the skin on his neck was hanging off and the tips of fingers were a brownish-yellow.

Then, as the front cover promises, they go on to detail Prince’s addiction to prescription drugs.

Now, the drug addiction part I believe.

I believe it because TMZ—who broke the news of Prince’s death—has written extensively about it.

Just today, TMZ posted a story about Prince’s long standing Percocet addiction.

According to TMZ, Prince developed a dependence on the painkiller after being prescribed it in 2009 when he was suffering from hip problems.

TMZ also broke the news that the singer’s plane was forced to make an emergency landing six days before his death, because Prince had OD’d on Percocet.

So, yeah, I’m going to believe TMZ’s version of events—because (in addition to a myriad of other reasons) they obviously have the inside track—and, as of now, they have yet to make one single mention of, or hint at, HIV/AIDS.

But, let’s go into the myriad of other reasons why I don’t believe one single word of the Enquirer front cover story.

First:

As a former tabloid editor myself I saw the signs—and the obvious angling at an AIDS “spin”—literally within an hour or so of news breaking that Prince had died.

Several gossip sites heavily played up the fact that Prince was suffering from “flu like symptoms” —that he had lost weight and looked frail.

They wrote about the “mysterious circumstances” of his death.

They talked about his "colorful sex life."

I remember talking to my sister about it and saying that certain outlets were gearing up for an AIDS storyline.

Second:

Tabloid industry egos dictate that if a “rival” news outlet breaks a major, huge, story then you better find some damn way to beat it.

Come hell or high water you just have to trump it—or at least come up with a better exclusive angle/progression/story of your own.

Third:

As the National Enquirer has proven time and time again, they're so utterly desperate to try stem their ever hemorrhaging newsstand sales, they will always take a gamble when it comes to truth and integrity.

They’ll always over-sensationalize a story and run with incredibly shaky off-the-record source quotes.

They’ll happily run photos of stars “on their deathbed” or even in their coffin.

They will run Oprah/Michael Douglas/Doris Day/Burt Lancaster dying front covers time and time again—and hey, nature dictates they will be correct in their supposed "reporting" at some point.

Hell, they'll even run "celebrity death watch" photo galleries

Anything, ANYTHING, to get the newsstand sales.

Fourth:

The Enquirer states that Prince had a raging addiction to prescription meds.

But then, they claim he refused to take AIDS meds because it went against his Jehovah Witness beliefs to take prescription meds.

Really?

Fifth:

Since managing to bully Charlie Sheen into going public with his HIV+ status, and scoring some huge newsstand sales, the Enquirer has also pinned an "AIDS battle" story line on David Bowie.

Because, well, sensationalist HIV/AIDS stories sell well it seems—oh, and the dead can't sue.

The Bowie story was also a BOMBSHELL WORLD EXCLUSIVE! (Their use of the exclamation mark—not mine)

You can read that gem of a story here

For those who feel they can't stomach it, let me treat you to this supposed "source" quote:

AIDS-ravaged David, who was also stricken with liver cancer, went to Switzerland for radical treatment. He was also taking new experimental drugs, but neither worked.

That's supposed to be an actual real undoctored/unedited quote from an actual "source".

"AIDS-ravaged David, who was also stricken with liver cancer...."

Oh, and the story kicks off with this

While fans were told the 69-year-old glam rocker secretly battled liver cancer for 18 months, sources have revealed his family deceived the world about the bisexual star’s death on Jan. 10.

"deceived the world about the bisexual star's death"

Right....

Seriously, I can’t even anymore with this fucking bullshit.

I’ve lost the energy.

This story is despicable and disgusting and deplorable.

But, above everything else—it is just desperate.

On an final note—National Enquirer:

Just because some “music source” (that you more than likely paid) tells you someone had AIDS, and died because they refused treatment, doesn’t mean you should print it.

And, just because it fits your sensationalized, bullshit, spin agenda, doesn’t mean you should print it.

And, just because it feeds into your pathetic ego by “getting a WORLD EXCLUSIVE” that supposedly beats another news outlet that scooped you with a story, doesn’t mean you should print it.

And finally, just because the subject/target of your outrageous front cover is dead—and therefore not able to sue—doesn’t mean you should print it.

But then, hey, you’re the ones who have to sleep at night.

For more entertainment, music and pop culture updates and news, follow Max Page on Twitter

ADD:

After looking through reader comments I want to make it clear that my anger and disgust at this cover story has absolutely nothing to do with AIDS, as a disease.

I do not feel they are “disparaging” Prince’s legacy or memory by linking him to AIDS—because I do not believe AIDS is a dirty disgusting shameful disease. I do not believe that at all. In fact, I’ve had numerous, very public fights, with people over that very subject—after they’ve tried to argue cancer charities are more “worthy” than AIDS charities because “you can’t help getting cancer”. And that dying of AIDS is somehow less "noble" than dying from cancer.

My disgust at this front cover has absolutely nothing to do with AIDS, in that sense ... trust me, I was equally enraged and disgusted by the Enquirer's recent sensationalist: Dying Michael Douglas The End! front cover.

My anger at the Prince story is fueled by my disgust at the Enquirer's well worn policy of attempting to "AIDS sensationalize" celebrity deaths at each and every opportunity—as just recently shown by the David Bowie "secret AIDS battle" story.

My anger is at the Enquirer painting Prince’s supposed AIDS diagnosis in such a disgusting salacious manner—complete with exclamation mark, after exclamation mark.

My anger is over the fact the Enquirer story is based purely on speculation and rumor which they have taken and then pinned on a "source".

Now, if it does turn out to be true, the Enquirer's story will STILL have been based purely on speculation and rumor—it will just be a case of them having taken a gamble and it having paid off.

And, if the official cause of death does not list AIDS as a contributing factor, then this story will live on anyway, because they built in an "autopsy cover up" angle...

All of THAT is what makes me mad.

For more entertainment, music and pop culture updates and news, follow Max Page on Twitter