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Author comes to Bulls Head to fight social stigmas surrounding HIV, AIDs

Sean Strub, a writer and long-time activist who has been HIV-positive for more than 33 years, is coming to UNC today to read and sign his new book, “Body Counts: A Memoir on Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival.” The reading and signing will be followed by a roundtable discussion on the politics of HIV and AIDS. 

Strub, the first openly HIV-positive candidate for U.S. Con­gress, said he works to fight social stigmas and injustice surrounding those with HIV and AIDS, who he said are affected by outdated laws. 

“The most important thing is to engage people in these conversations,” Strub said. “It has kind of fallen off the radar screen for a lot of people and they don’t understand how the stigma has changed and how much worse the stigma is and the role that it’s playing in driving the epidemic.”

Strub said his book is a personal and historical memoir, telling the story of his struggle with HIV and his journey of activism. It covers the history of the LGBTQ movement and HIV/AIDS activism during the last 35 years, which he said is more fun than it sounds.

“There’s lots of sex and celebrities in the book,” Strub said.” There’s stories about getting Tennessee Williams to sign the first fundraising letter, about Yoko Ono, about John Lennon.” 

The book even includes a story about putting a giant, inflatable condom over Jesse Helms's house. 

The roundtable discussion will feature Strub alongside Karen Booth, UNC professor in women's and gender studies; Carolyn McAllaster, law professor at Duke University and director of the Duke AIDS Legal Project; and Richard Cante, a communications studies professor at UNC. 

McAllaster said she hopes to talk about HIV and the law.

“Several states have laws on the books that criminalize behaviors of people living with HIV that pose little or no risk to other people,” McAllaster said. “Many of these laws criminalize behavior like spitting. There’s no risk of HIV transmission by being spit upon.”

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