The Positive Side

Fall 2016 

Editor’s Letter

By Debbie Koenig

Most of us have either struggled with an addiction of some kind or know someone who has. The object of desire might be alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, the Internet, you name it—compulsions come in all shapes and sizes. And many of them have a long history of crossing paths with HIV.

Certainly, being drunk or high can increase the chances of HIV transmission. And an addiction can make it a whole lot harder to take your HIV meds every day. But an addiction can also be a coping strategy—a way of relieving stress, soothing pain, feeling in control, connecting or disconnecting.

As HIV activist Christian Hui, whose handsome face graces the cover of this issue, explains in his profile, using substances was for him a way to deal with his HIV diagnosis and not feeling accepted by society. Today, while he energetically counters stigma and builds coalitions for people with HIV, he acknowledges that recovery is an ongoing and lifelong endeavor.

So what’s the key to moving through it to a better place? Some would say, understanding what fuels one’s addiction. In Ask the Experts, neuroscientist Marc Lewis challenges the dominant view of addiction as a disease; Angela Thomson shares her personal story and reflects on her work as a peer navigator; and psychoanalyst Marco Posadas makes the case that we need to stop pathologizing people’s substance use and address the root causes.

While the failed “war on drugs” has made it clear that demonizing and criminalizing drug users is both inhumane and ineffective, programs that adopt a harm reduction approach continue to treat people who use drugs with respect and without stigma. In From the Front Lines we shine a light on programs that do just that.

Also in this issue: In “Let’s Talk About Sex,” we explore how treatment as prevention and PrEP affect people’s sex lives and sense of identity. In Chatty CATIE and “Show and Tell,” we take an in-depth look at positive parenting. Last but not least, in Art Posi+ive we speak to the talented Margarite Sanchez, for whom art and life form a seamless whole.

We hope you enjoy this fall issue of the magazine! We always want to hear what you think, so please drop me a line at