Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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Time to Carry On a Friend's Work

Time to Carry On a Friend's Work
May 18, 2019 by Victoria Noe
Peter Staley, Jim Eigo, Andy Velez, Eric Sawyer, Jay Blotcher. Photo by Jennifer Morton

I had a blog post ready for this week. Well, not quite ready, but it was getting there. Then on Tuesday, a post popped up in my Facebook newsfeed:

A man of great heart, deep conviction, and scalding wit has been taken from us. Veteran AIDS activist and ACT UP New York member Andrew Velez died today (May 14) in a Manhattan hospice. He was 80.

It stopped me cold (partly because I had no idea he was anywhere near 80). I knew Andy had had some serious health challenges last year, though I didn’t think much of it. The community was rallying around...

A Special Women's History Month

A Special Women's History Month
Mar 28, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It’s been almost five years since the idea for my next book popped into my head.

On April 1, 2014, I was at the New York Public Library for a panel discussion: “The Women of ACT UP/NY! Fight Back! Fight AIDS!” A group of accomplished women - straight and lesbians - talked about the things they’d accomplished that changed the AIDS epidemic. The most significant one was arguably a four year battle to change the definition of AIDS to include women. Until 1992, the government and insurance companies defined AIDS by how it presented in men.

I knew most of the stories they told, though many in the audience, including my 19 year old daughter, did not. I remember thinking,...

Release Day (Again) for Friend Grief and AIDS

Release Day (Again) for Friend Grief and AIDS
May 02, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I checked the calendar, so I know it’s true. It’s been four years since I published Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends. A lot has happened since then.

Some of the most recognizable people in the AIDS community, like Peter Staley and Jim Eigo, have become friends. I’ve attended AIDS conferences and meetings in New York, Chicago and Washington. I joined ACT UP/NY. I wrote freelance articles about the epidemic and won an award for one (2015 Christopher Hewitt Award for Creative Nonfiction). I make presentations about the epidemic and moral injury in long-term survivors. And I made a commitment to another, much longer book.

And though my life changed keeping the promise I made to my friend...

Women's History Month - Nancy Duncan

Women's History Month - Nancy Duncan
Mar 08, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Nancy Duncan

For Women’s History Month I’m sharing stories from women in the AIDS community. First up is Nancy Duncan, who I had the pleasure of meeting through ACT UP/NY. She is long-term survivor, an inspiration and a friend. My thanks to her for sharing her story.

 

Being a heterosexual woman in the early days of HIV/AIDS was very different than now. I’m 58 years old and have been living with HIV for going on 31 years. I was first diagnosed in 1990, infected by having unprotected sex with a man who didn’t know he was HIV+. I’d walked around for five years not knowing because I had no symptoms.

I didn't know anyone else who was living with...

Friend Grief and Men (ACT UP Edition)

Friend Grief and Men (ACT UP Edition)
Dec 15, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Jim Eigo receiving his award from Stephen Spinella

One of the men you’ll meet in the final book of my series – Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes – is Jim Eigo.

When I walked into my first ACT UP/NY meeting almost three years ago, Jim was the guy who waved me over to an empty chair in the circle. That kindness morphed into a friendship I treasure.

He has a long resume, which I’m sure was recounted when he was honored at Treatment Action Group’s (TAG) Research in Action Awards on Sunday night in New York. Playwright, editor, writer, activist: words that cannot convey the depth of his talent and commitment to fighting the epidemic that is now...

World AIDS Day - And A Big Announcement

World AIDS Day - And A Big Announcement
Dec 01, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Bus shelter poster, 1991

Dec. 1, 1988. I was in London, at a performance of The Secret of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. At the curtain call, Brett made a speech about that being the first World AIDS Day. The ushers passed around collection buckets for donations to AIDS service organizations in London. What a concept, I thought: the whole world thinking about AIDS.

Over the years I’ve spent World AIDS Day conducting fundraising events, attending religious services, discussing issues. Tonight I’m leading a conversation on women and AIDS – how women were treated at the beginning of the epidemic and where we are now - at Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago.

Today is also...

Why This Writer is Thankful

Why This Writer is Thankful
Nov 24, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Washington Square Park

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and for the first time, I’m spending it in New York. I decided to combine a research trip for my 2017 book Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community with a chance to cross something off my life goals list (sounds better than bucket list, doesn’t it?). So on Thursday morning, I’ll be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person with my family. That opportunity has me thinking about what else I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving, related to my writing.

 

 

 

Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room, NYPL

I’m grateful for research librarians. I’ve always loved school and public librarians, but research librarians...

Straight Women in the AIDS Community

Straight Women in the AIDS Community
Sep 01, 2015 by Victoria Noe
With my assistant, Steve Showalter, at the first Chicago House gala, September, 1990

Next week I head to Washington, DC for the US Conference on AIDS, Sept. 10-13. I’ve never attended it, but it promises to be an intense few days. I’m looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues and making new ones, in part because of what I’m about to share with you.

I’ve already announced the final book in the Friend Grief series – Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes – will be out late this year (or January, depending on how it goes). While I work on that, I’ll be starting another project: bigger, more complex, and loosely related to what I’ve already written. That’s...

World AIDS Day 2014

World AIDS Day 2014
Dec 01, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Today, December 1, is the 27th annual observance of World AIDS Day.Since that first year, when I dropped a few pounds in the collection can at the curtain call of a play in London, I’ve marked the anniversary.The second year I coordinated a fundraising event. Some years I went to a special Mass or memorial service. Other years I simply made note of it and went about my business.This year I’ll be part of a reading and panel discussion at Women & Children First bookstore in Chicago about the generation gap in the AIDS community. This reflection on Huffington Post last week will give you an idea of what that means in terms of fighting the epidemic.The theme for World...

Veterans in the War...Against AIDS

Veterans in the War...Against AIDS
Sep 18, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Last night I attended an emotional event at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, in commemoration of National HIV and Aging Day (September 18). “We Aren’t Dead Yet! What Do We Do Now?” was billed as a community discussion, with an impressive panel of experts: Dr. Judith Rabkin, Columbia University Dept. of Psychiatry and Dr. Perry Halkitis, professor at NYU and author of The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience spoke along with two long-time HIV+ survivors, Jim Albaugh and Kevin Oree, and my friend Jim Eigo, long-time HIV- survivor and fellow ACT UP NY activist.The event was held in order to get feedback on the kinds of support and services needed by this often-forgotten, often-stigmatized group of people in my...

Friend Grief in New York - Part 1

Friend Grief in New York - Part 1
Jun 04, 2014 by Victoria Noe
This is the first of two posts this week recapping my experiences in New York City last week. I was primarily there to be part of the Author Hub at Book Expo America (more about that on Friday). But today I want to tell about my first NYC book signing.Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friendsgrew out of my experience in Chicago’s AIDS community in the late 80s/early 90s. I was a fundraiser, often the only straight person in the room. And though many people asked me why I involved in “that”, I felt a responsibility to do what I could.An unexpected but remarkable result of writing this book has been meeting men in ACT UP (AIDS...

"Body Counts" by Sean Strub

"Body Counts" by Sean Strub
Mar 13, 2014 by Victoria Noe
I’m not a fan of memoirs. I find a lot of them to be self-serving justifications for past behavior, spinning a fictional tale that presents the narrator as either a victim or hero. And while AIDS is an issue I’ve been involved with since the 80s, Sean Strub’s Body Counts was not a book I was excited about reading. Strub changed my mind on page 2, when he mentioned that a mutual friend, Jamie Leo, dressed as a priest at ACT UP’s controversial 1989 St. Patricks’ Cathedral demonstration. My mind flashed back to a Halloween party Jamie and I had attended in the mid-70s, and I now found myself connected to Strub’s story in a way I hadn’t anticipated.Body Counts...

Update on Friend Grief and AIDS

Update on Friend Grief and AIDS
Jan 14, 2014 by Victoria Noe
One of the benefits of self-publishing is the ability to revise your books at your discretion.The second book in my series, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends, has been well-received. It recently earned a 5-star review on Readers Favorites and continues to generate impassioned – and positive – reviews on other sites.When I wrote it a year ago, the statistics and resources in the back of the book were current. Time for an update.Around March 1, I will re-release Friend Grief and AIDS with:Updated statistics on HIV and AIDS around the worldAdditional books and films for those who are interestedMore links to organizations devoted to education, prevention, treatment and advocacyIf you have already purchased a copy,...

World AIDS Day 2013

World AIDS Day 2013
Dec 01, 2013 by Victoria Noe
In his November 4 review of Time Line Theatre’s revival of The Normal Heart, the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones attempts to put the play in historical context: “AIDS is no longer a death sentence.” If only.While it is true that those newly diagnosed are not given a prognosis of, say, thirty days (like Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club), in the fourth decade of the epidemic, there is still no cure and no vaccine. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), new infections are on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: 13% since 2006. In the past 12 years, new HIV infections have doubled in North African and the Middle East. Worldwide, 1.6 million people...

Letting Your Friend Die

Letting Your Friend Die
Oct 25, 2013 by Victoria Noe
benawyn.wordpress.comI think most people agree that everyone has the right to make decisions about their health. No one wants to be forced to have medical procedures they don’t want. And who wouldn’t want to decide their own end-of-life care? But theory can be very different from practice, especially when it comes to our friends.I remember when my friend, Delle Chatman, announced she was discontinuing treatment for yet another recurrence of ovarian cancer. Before that, she’d led us to expect miracles each time it came back. But after a month of treatments, she emailed her friends to say her body couldn’t take anymore. Everyone agreed in theory that the decision was her right. But that didn’t mean we weren’t angry....

AIDS: Mad as Hell. Again.

AIDS: Mad as Hell. Again.
Jul 05, 2013 by Victoria Noe
(This is a little long, so bear with me) I planned to walk in Chicago’s Gay Pride parade last Sunday. But by the time I got near the staging area to join my group, the pain in my hip was growing worse by the minute. I knew I couldn’t walk, and even riding in the truck would be more than uncomfortable; forget about standing for a couple hours. I bailed just before it started. But before I did, I got mad.It wasn’t my first Pride parade. I rode on the Chicago House float in 1990, when I was on staff there and the AIDS epidemic was going full force. I’d attended the parade, lived on the route, got caught...

ACT UP/NY’s Non-Reunion Reunion

ACT UP/NY’s Non-Reunion Reunion
Jun 18, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Few things get your attention like hearing the news a friend has died. For many of the original members of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the death of Spencer Cox was just such a wake-up call.Keep in mind that these were men and women who lost dozens, if not hundreds, of friends to AIDS. They were on the front lines of the epidemic: educating, advocating, demonstrating, demanding. Some of them carry the AIDS virus themselves, saved by the ‘cocktail’ developed in 1996.So you could forgive them if the numbness of experiencing so many losses would affect their ability to grieve. Similar to the military, you have to put your grief aside because the deaths just keep on coming....

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Jun 04, 2013 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been fortunate to meet a few of my heroes recently, founders of ACT UP. While there were times when I disagreed with their tactics, I never questioned their passion or results.They’ve been there since the beginning, as caregivers and advocates. They’ve been through the wars and now face something just as dangerous as AIDS itself: complacency.AIDS is simply not on the radar for a lot of people anymore. It’s no big deal. So what if you get infected? There are drugs to take. You’ll be fine. If only it were that simple.When the epidemic first began, the arts community suffered a disproportionate number of losses. That was certainly because many gay men were involved in theatre, design, music, dance...

AIDS: Everything Old is New Again

AIDS: Everything Old is New Again
May 02, 2013 by Victoria Noe
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana There is perhaps no more perfect quote to describe the current state of the AIDS epidemic. A close second would be “out of sight, out of mind.”Last week I found myself at a fundraiser for the West Hollywood Public Library Foundation and the proposed AIDS memorial. It was a benefit screening of How to Survive A Plague, the Academy-Award nominated and much-honored 2012 documentary about ACT UP New York and the AIDS epidemic.I spent time with Jim Eigo, a founder of ACT UP NY, who I’d met at their meeting in New York earlier in the month. He participated in a panel discussion that followed the film.What...

Friend Grief and AIDS

Friend Grief and AIDS
Apr 23, 2013 by Victoria Noe
I always knew that one of the books in the Friend Grief series would address the AIDS epidemic. Like many who lived through those early years, it was something that shaped my life. It was, I believe, close to the experience of being in in a war. At least, that’s how it felt.I wasn’t sure what my focus would be for the book. There are already many incredible books about AIDS and ACT UP and the Names Project and other aspects of that time. But I quickly realized that the role friends played, especially in the early years, was critical.We knew we were needed, that we were depended upon to take up the slack for disapproving families and an indifferent...