Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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women and AIDS

A Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Krishna Stone

A Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Krishna Stone
May 16, 2020 by Victoria Noe
As you can tell by her photo, Krishna Stone possesses a joie de vivre that inspires everyone lucky enough to be around her. It was my pleasure to include her in Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. Though the personal losses have been many, she has found a way to honor her friends and keep fighting...while dancing. "It is time to dance. Who will I dance for tonight who has died of AIDS?" During the 1980s and 90s, when I was volunteering and then becoming an employee at Gay Men Health Crisis, visiting with friends who were living with AIDS and then attending memorial services for those who had died of AIDS, dancing was...

Reflections on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Rosa E. Martinez-Colon

Reflections on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Rosa E. Martinez-Colon
May 08, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Though we both live and work in Chicago, Rosa E. Martinez-Colón and I met at the US Conference on AIDS in Washington, DC in 2015. I knew right away that her AIDS work with the Latinx community in the Humboldt Park neighborhood had to be featured in my book Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. Her experience right now, though, is both familiar and very different. On March 15 the Governor of Puerto Rico decreed a new law, effective immediately, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At that time, I was wrapping up the project in Puerto Rico, where I had worked for the past year, and was getting ready to go back...

Reflections on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Nancy Duncan

Reflections on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Nancy Duncan
May 01, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Another woman in my book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, Nancy Duncan, has been living with HIV for going on 35 years, working and volunteering in the HIV field for 22 years.  She’s a New York State Certified peer worker and has been doing HIV test counseling for 13 years with Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.  Nancy also works at the Center for AIDS Research and Treatment at Northwell, where she produces a monthly newsletter and facilitates a medication adherence group.  In addition, she volunteers on the Nassau/Suffolk HIV Health Services and is involved in many other endeavors in her community to stop HIV and end the epidemic.

As a woman...

Passing on the Lessons of the AIDS Epidemic

Passing on the Lessons of the AIDS Epidemic
Apr 17, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Elizabeth Taylor, testifying before Congress

When I was writing Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, I sometimes heard the voices of the women whose stories I was sharing. It was more of a feeling that they were in the room, reading over my shoulder. I’d had something very specific in mind when I began, but that idea changed, in large part because these women guided me. They made it a much better book.

Many of the women are no longer alive, so they don’t have to face another worldwide pandemic. But I realized that they and the ones still with us have a lot to say. 

Dr. Molly Cooke, on facing...

My Second Pandemic - Part 2

My Second Pandemic - Part 2
Apr 10, 2020 by Victoria Noe
winghill.com

When I wrote my latest blog post I hoped it would be the only time I wrote about COVID-19. I certainly did not want to write anymore about how this virus triggered painful memories of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. 

I was grateful that the response to that post was immediate and positive. I heard from other members of the HIV/AIDS community who were in a similar place. Our conversations, mostly on Facebook, were emotional and oddly uplifting: we’d discovered a new connection. I figured I said my piece and I was done.

In the past couple of weeks, articles have popped up on various websites. Most have been written by long-term survivors in the HIV/AIDS...

Recommended Reading for World AIDS Day

Recommended Reading for World AIDS Day
Nov 26, 2019 by Victoria Noe
Sunday, December 1 is World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is “Ending the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community to Community”. I don’t remember a theme to the first observance in 1988. But this year I thought I’d recommend a few books from a community that isn’t always included in discussions about the epidemic: women.

All of these women have written about the epidemic, fiction and nonfiction. Luckily, more women are writing, like Rae Lewis-Thornton, whose memoir, Unprotected, is coming in 2020. In an odd bit of serendipity or karma or fate or timing, five of the seven women mentioned on this page wrote their books from the Chicago area. You’ll be hearing more about that coincidence soon.

For too long, the literature of...

Finding Grace on a Metro Platform

Finding Grace on a Metro Platform
Oct 04, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It's been quite a while since I blogged. The absence was not intentional. Two weeks of travel, the death of one of my dearest friends, and severe bronchitis have brought my daily life to a screeching halt. But in the midst of so much stress, there have been some wonderful moments. None as wonderful as this:

 

I spent the weekend after Labor Day in Washington, DC at the US Conference on AIDS. There was a lot of focus on long-term survivors, as well as how to serve the unique needs of those aging with HIV. As usual, it was an intense 3-½ days, which this year included a book signing in the A&U Magazine booth for the book I’d first started...

The Post-Book Launch Glow

The Post-Book Launch Glow
Apr 20, 2019 by Victoria Noe
I’ve had two book launch events in the last two weeks: one in Chicago, one in New York City, both at indie bookstores. Both events had delicious cakes that looked like the book cover.

This book - Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community - is very different than the Friend Grief series I wrote. It’s longer and more complicated, being published almost five years to the day after I first got the idea for it. My production team - editor, cover designer, interior designer - was different. I hired a publicist, for the first time ever. Like I said, very different.

But the biggest difference is that so many people were invested in this...

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,...

The Last Blog Post of 2017

The Last Blog Post of 2017
Dec 21, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Deposit Photos

Like many of you, I’m a bit over-committed these days: presents to wrap (assuming they’re already bought), cards to mail, travel arrangements to finalize.

I started writing this blog post last week. It included a bunch of year-end helpful hints. And then I decided I wasn’t going to do that. Social media is full of year-end helpful hints. What I really needed to do was, well, look back.

Last December I was in rehab for my broken writing hand. I was still doing things with my left hand only: not just personal care but decorating the Christmas tree. Yes, I put on the ornaments and tinsel without breaking anything else, which was kind of a miracle....

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing
Jun 22, 2017 by Victoria Noe
                   lovingonme.com

If you've read this blog for any length of time,  you know I've spent almost two years working on a new book. Fag Hags. Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community has taken on a life of its own. What started as a nagging idea turned into what I fully admit is an obsession to share important, previously-unknown stories of straight women around the world throughout the history of the epidemic.

Big project, right? I knew from the beginning it would be, but with each passing month it seemed to grow in scope and importance. Strangers around the world offered assistance. Interviewees laughed...

Women's History Month - AIDSWatch

Women's History Month - AIDSWatch
Mar 28, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I planned to turn over my blog again this week to another straight woman in the AIDS community. That particular post will have to wait a bit. Instead I thought it would be better to report on my day (the first of two) in Washington, DC at AIDSWatch. It's no accident, in my mind, that the conference is presented by the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, named for once of the fiercest advocates in the history of the epidemic.

I went last year, joining a few hundred people from around the country to advocate for funding and legislation important to people living with HIV and AIDS. It was my first time lobbying in the capitol since 1989, when I advocated for the...

AIDS and Women's History Month

AIDS and Women's History Month
Feb 22, 2017 by Victoria Noe
ohio.edu

It’s no secret that I’m writing another book. What began as a nagging thought turned into an idea that has taken on a life of its own. Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community overwhelms me occasionally – if you define ‘occasionally’ as ‘at least once a day’.

I’ve always felt these were stories that needed to be told: how straight women around the world have been an important part of the AIDS community since the beginning of the epidemic. But a random comment from a colleague a few weeks ago opened my eyes to something much bigger.

I was telling her about the book and she said “It’s like Hidden...

The Next Stage for My Next Book

The Next Stage for My Next Book
Oct 26, 2016 by Victoria Noe
I'll be there this week interviewing women for the book.

I’m back…in New York, that is. The last couple trips here I was doing research for my next book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. I’m on a first-name basis with the research librarians at the New York Public Library (5th Avenue and Lincoln Center). They’ve been a great help to me: “That tape is out for digitization, but I took the liberty of pulling the transcript for you.”

This trip marks the next stage for the book. I’m not done with the research; not by a long shot. But between previous visits here, research online and at the U...

"Are You Straight?" - Researching My Next Book

"Are You Straight?" - Researching My Next Book
Aug 10, 2016 by Victoria Noe
NYPL Library for the Performing Arts

All of the Friend Grief books required research. I knew I couldn’t rely only on personal interviews because there were some celebrities I wanted to include, as well as people I could not travel to meet. Truth be told, I like doing research. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I find what I’m looking for. I get really jazzed when I uncover a gem.

 

But this next book…well, the research is on a whole different level.

Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community looks at the contributions of these women through the 35 years of the epidemic. I made a few decisions early on that...

Women's History Month - Andrea Johnson

Women's History Month - Andrea Johnson
Mar 29, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Andrea Johnson

My final guest blogger for Women’s History Month is Andrea Johnson. As is often the case, we’ve never met IRL (in real life) but our paths have crossed. She found out she was HIV positive in 2007, when she was tested after learning of her ex-husband’s affair. Isolated and depressed, she made the decision to devote her life to reaching out to women most at risk or living with HIV. You will not find a more passionate advocate.

 

“How do I LOVE a woman living with HIV without acquiring HIV?”

It’s a question I get all too often from men that are HIV negative that find out a woman he may be interested in is HIV positive,...

Women's History Month - Eileen Dreyer

Women's History Month - Eileen Dreyer
Mar 22, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Eileen Dreyer

I’ve known Eileen Dreyer since the Beatles were still together, so that’s a long time; in fact, we saw them perform. While I was raising money for AIDS organizations in the late 80s and early 90s in Chicago, she was on the front lines in St. Louis. The anger is still there, as it is for many of us. Her story continues Women’s History Month:

 

I hadn't realized how angry I still was until I watched The Normal Heart. Seething angry, unresolved angry. Wishing there were someone I could scream at angry. Because I was there. I saw the beginning of the epidemic. And I'm not sure I'll forgive us for how we faced it.

I worked...

Women’s History Month – Rosa E. Martinez Colon

Women’s History Month – Rosa E. Martinez Colon
Mar 15, 2016 by Victoria Noe
I had to go Washington, DC for the US Conference on AIDS last September to meet the amazing Rosa E. Martinez-Colon. If she looks familiar, it’s because we led a lively discussion on women and AIDS on World AIDS Day at Women & Children First bookstore in Chicago. This is her story:

I remember the first time I heard about AIDS was around 1984 or so; I was still living in Puerto Rico. A neighborhood friend who was an injection drug user died after a short stay in the hospital. The rumor spread rapidly that he had “died of AIDS” – “se murió de SIDA”. Soon after, a couple other neighbors died as well; coincidentally they were either sexual partners or...

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...

Women's History Month

Women's History Month
Mar 01, 2016 by Victoria Noe
With ETAF Ambassador Kate Burton at AIDS Watch

March is Women’s History Month and I decided to turn over my blog to a few women who will be in my book Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community.

During the next four weeks (because there are five Tuesdays in March) you’ll meet four women. Some of them worked in the AIDS community in the early days. Some are active now in a variety of roles. Some are HIV+, some are not.

What you’ll learn may surprise you, because the role of straight women in the history of the epidemic is not one that’s widely known. In fact, “role” is a bit misleading.

They/we stepped...