Tag Archives: AIDS

Willie Salmond’s Africa Mission

Willie Salmond is a minister, ordained by the Church of Scotland in his home country. He’s owned a house in Westport for 30 years.

But he’s spent most of his life in Africa.

There were 10 years in Ghana. Seventeen in Uganda. Three more in Zimbabwe.

Willie Salmond

Salmond worked in international development with farmers. Then he trained Peace Corps volunteers.

His life changed when he was sent to San Francisco, to learn about AIDS. He went back to a camp in Kampala, to run Uganda’s first testing and counseling through a USAID-funded program.

Salmond is retired now. He’s back in Westport, where — during his stints here — he helped coach his 2 daughters’ soccer teams. Now he’s a member of the Y’s Men.

But for 10 days last month, he made a very meaningful return to Uganda.

He met a man and woman who at age 14 had lived in his first AIDS camp. Today they lead their own program.

Recently, Salmond spoke at the Saugatuck Congregational Church. Some parishioners were surprised to learn how grateful Ugandans are for the United States’ $18 million support for antiretroviral drugs.

Learning together at an AIDS program in Uganda.

The program was begun by President George W. Bush. It was reauthorized by President Obama. It continues under President Trump.

Salmond hopes it will keep going — though no one is sure. Stopping it, he says, would be “catastrophic. Many lives have been saved. Young people are assured a healthy future.”

There is a lot in the news these days about taxes, Salmond says. He believes firmly that this program is money well spent.

Very few Americans hear about programs like this. He would like at least his fellow Westporters to know about it.

‘Sex Positive’: The Movie

Seder and safe sex.  Not the usual combination — but a winning one for Daryl Wein.

Daryl Wein

Daryl Wein

Two years ago the 2002 Staples grad — now a filmmaker — celebrated Passover with girlfriend Zoe Lister-Jones’ family.  Richard Berkowitz — a lifelong friend of Zoe’s mom — was there.  As Richard — now destitute and alone — reminisced about his life as a sex worker-turned-AIDS activist (he pioneered the concept of “safe sex”), Daryl realized he had stumbled on an important, and untold, story.

After reading Richard’s long-forgotten book, Stayin’ Alive:  The Invention of Safe Sex, the NYU grad recalled his days at Staples.

Sex education then, he says, involved “condom-on-banana antics, generally followed by chuckles of discomfort.”  He and his friends — who grew up hearing, but not really understanding, the safe-sex mantra — always thought of it as “a government-invented advocacy program.”  Researching Richard’s life, and poring through his vast print and video archives, Daryl realized safe sex actually resulted from “the tireless efforts of many fervent activists who paved the way for change.”

Today — with HIV rates again on the rise — Daryl knew this was a movie he had to make.

He spent months interviewing doctors, scientists, activists — and Richard himself.  Learning how many men died in the fight — both personal and societal — against AIDS, moved and impelled him.

The resulting documentary — “Sex Positive” — has received superb reviews at dozens of film festivals.  A Maryland reviewer wrote:

Sex Positive brings back all the horror, sadness, anger, and confusion of the early days of AIDS…. In the process, it offers a portrait of what it’s like to be a messenger burned for carrying an unpopular message — and offers a wake-up call to anyone who may, thanks to the medications that exist for checking and minimizing the symptoms of AIDS, once again live their sex lives as though immune, invincible, or just unconcerned.

“Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner called it “a beautiful and important story.”

Richard’s book was recently reissued.  “He’s been brought out of hibernation,” Daryl says proudly.  “He’s back to actively promoting the safe sex cause all over the world.”

People often ask, Daryl says, how “a 25-year-old straight filmmaker ends up telling the story of a 53-year-old gay AIDS activist-ex S&M hustler.”  Daryl calls it his “generational duty” to do so.

After 8 years of Bush-backed abstinence-only sex education, Daryl says, “there couldn’t be a more essential time.  I feel I have to challenge complacency by instilling the values of those forgotten heroes, some of whom died in the fight.  One is still standing.”

(“Sex Positive” premieres this Friday, June 12, at the Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St., NYC.  Daryl and Richard will be there opening weekend for Q&As after the film.  Advance tickets are available through www.moviefone.com or by calling 212-255-2243.  The website is www.sexpositivethemovie.com.  To view the trailer, click here.)
Sex Positive