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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Roadies Rock..

Dear Readers,

I'm heading out to participate in this my fourth AIDS Life Cycle event, ALC 12.  This year I'm working on gear and tent truck L loading and unloading twice a day 200 cyclist gear and tents, I can't wait.

For a glimpse of what roadies do on AIDS Life Cycle do, please click here, thank you. enjoy the show.

I will be back blogging the second week of June.   Anyone wishing to support me please visit my donor page Stephen's donor page.


Stephen A. Puibello
Consumer Advocate for both
HIV/AIDS and Mental Health
since 2004.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Extra, Extra read all about it Mental Health and HIV/AIDS. It Only gets Better

Have you ever been in a gathering where you could pretty much say what word was going to come out of the next persons mouth, I have and they happened May 8th and May 9th, this week.

I've attended two events this week, the first was on Wednesday May 8th, 2013 called Equality Care, presented by Rainbow Heights Club, their third conference.  "Over 300 mental health providers gather  for the free one-day conference to develop skills and discuss updated policy so that their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender mental health consumers could be better served."

One session I wanted to sit in on was: Providing effective and affirming services to LGBT clients with mental health diagnoses who also have substance abuse and/or alcoholism problems. Presented by Antonio Ruberto, Jr., LCSW, CASAC  and Daisy Boyd, LMSW. This workshop will offer care providers in mainstream settings an understanding of how to support all aspects of clients’ recovery.

At the beginning of the session the presenter asked for a show of hands of who's who and I paused and waited til they said anyone else at which I raised my hand and said a consumer, Antonio said nice to see you hear, I hadn't seen him in over six years.

I watched the slides, the studies, findings, they talked about substance abuse, mental health, on meth, housing, stigma, HIV, in short they were talking about me, I was one of the statistics and I at times got teary eyed.

Questions were being asked about Crystal Meth, and I raised my hand, stood up and said hello, my name is Stephen Puibello, I identify as a Gay man, living with HIV and Bipolar Disorder, in recovery 7 plus years minus two relapses, I mentioned I was working part-time, that I live in public housing, and then thanked the panel and the audience of mental health providers letting them know that all you are learning today, all that you do in the community works as I'm proof of that.  I also added that I was awarded a SAMHSA 2013 Voice Award Fellowship and wanted to share my story.   The applause from the crowd got me ready for the next day's event, that being Is This My Beautiful Life? Perspectives from Survivors of the AIDS Generation

This evenings event started with a clip of the movie How to Survive a Plague ,"HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE is the story of two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making."

I watched this alone in my studio, you see I isolate as a way to stay sober but also because I feel okay when I'm by myself, when I'm outside as a dual diagnosed HIV+ and Bipolar man I feel out of joint, disconnected from my gay community, anyway I watched it alone and was in amazement.   I had know of ACT UP and TAG, what they did, but not the history, the people, the faces, live footage and tonight I well some of the very first activist were on hand to talk with the community, I read this in an article in POZ Magazine written my Carly Sommerstein  long time friend of Spencer Cox who died last December.  I went was because I read the "community discussion  was on improving the mental health of AIDS survivors.

Again I heard talk from the panel, and from the audience on Crystal Meth, Isolation, Mental Health, words like co-morbid, suicide, people spoke about this being an election year in NYC and good time ACT UP, everyone panelists and audience and those who wanted to be heard, it was moving, for me it was the first time I heard mental illness being spoken about from others.

I waited, I said I have no questions as I'm here as a Mental Health Consumer, dual diagnosed both HIV and Bipolar and that I have resources to offer.  I spoke about organizations like Depression Bipolar Support Alliance and NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, I said all any of us have to do is start an affiliate, submit the paperwork and you now are part of a program that is Peer 2 Peer based, offers monthly talks, fellowship.  I also pointed out what the community is missing are Double Trouble in Recovery 12 Step Programs.  I added my experience when I first went to a CMA meeting, after weeks of getting the nerve up to ask for a sponsor I was told, "go deal with your Bipolar first and then come back."

I went there like I did the day before to share my story and to be able to offer my self, my story and resources for the all HIV+ and AIDS long term survivors with mental health concerns.  I added that there are 11,000 GLBT mental health consumers in NYC alone.

I wanted to say it, but forgot.  Spencer your activism lives on, I felt you in Mason Hall tonight,  RIP.


Callen-Lorde Mental Health Services

For patients receiving medical care at Callen-Lorde, our Mental Health and Social Services Department offers individual and group counseling to support your emotional and physical well-being. Callen-Lorde is committed to providing services that are affirmative, sex-positive, culturally sensitive, consistent with risk reduction principles, and that promote patient self-determination.

Friends In Deed

Friends In Deed is a crisis center providing emotional and spiritual support for anyone with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, cancer or other life-threatening physical illnesses… any caregivers, family and friends of those who are ill… and anyone dealing with grief and bereavement. All of our services are free of charge.

GMHC - Team 119 Mental Health Services

Rainbow Heights Club
Rainbow Heights Club, located in Brooklyn, New York, is an advocacy program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers requiring mental health services. We provide socialization, support, peer advocacy, and a safe place to take the next step on your road to emotional recovery and wellness.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dual Diagnosed HIV+ and Bipolar, wear a Red & Green Ribbon during May

Celebrate both HIV/AIDS and Mental Health 
Awareness each May by wearing a 
Red and Green Ribbon

Reprint from

May 3rd, 2013

Wearing Red and Green
by Stephen Puibello

An HIV-positive advocate reminds us about the need for mental health services.

Stephen Puibello
Stephen Puibello
Everyone knows that wearing a red ribbon is a sign of support for people living with HIV, and millions around the globe come together every year to raise awareness about the disease on World AIDS Day, December 1. Less well-known is the green ribbon, which supports people living with mental illness, and has its own observance each May, which is Mental Health Month. Both celebrations raise awareness, help to combat stigma, and raise funds for the populations they honor. Whether you attribute it to my brain chemistry or my Italian heritage, both the red and the green colors of the ribbons and the Italian flag apply to me.

My story begins in 1996, when I lost my mom to breast cancer and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with HIV, and then with bipolar disorder. I went through a very dark time—add substance use to the list of challenges—but managed to climb out of the abyss. I put myself on the road to recovery by seeking therapy, finding the right medications, and serving as an advocate and support to others going through similar experiences.

In the process, I realized that I am not alone. Researchers estimate that as many as 40 to 60 percent of the HIV-positive population will experience depression at some point. That's right—half. Another study looked at 200 adults living with HIV and found that 15 percent had bipolar disorder. And whether you are HIV positive, have a mental illness or both, it's quite likely you have a substance use problem as well; data shows that if you have a mental illness, your chance of having a substance use disorder also is as high as 50 percent. Any one of these issues can be incredibly difficult to manage—now imagine having two of them, or worse, all three. Talk about stigma.

Sadly, though, services for these disorders are often siloed. Many providers treat one or the other, but rarely do you see a brochure about mental health treatment in the waiting room where you get your HIV meds, or vice versa. There are bright spots, such as Positive Impact in Atlanta, a nonprofit organization that recently celebrated 20 years in fighting HIV by promoting mental health. Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood, recently received full licensing and now offers long-term mental health services for their HIV clients; the demand is so high, there's already a wait list to get in. But when have you seen an AIDS and mental health ride, or an AIDS and mental health walk? When these disorders pile up, it can be incredibly isolating—and failing to address them together makes that road to recovery a long one that is oftentimes rocky.

But it is a road that can inspire others. This year is special for me, as I was named a Voice Awards Fellow by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). I am spending 2013 telling my story and spreading the message that if you face one or more of these struggles, you are not alone. If you have HIV and find yourself depressed, don't wait—talk to your health care provider so you can get the help you need. Visit my site at and check out the resources I've compiled to help. You have to be just as proactive about your mental health treatment as you are in caring for your HIV.

Last, look for the courage to tell your story, whenever you can. The more we talk about the fact that HIV, mental illness, and substance use co-occur, the better the chance that service providers will ask the right questions and offer the right treatment. Hopefully we can chip away at the stigma that piles up as well. This May, you can help—by wearing a green ribbon and a red one too, side by side.

Stephen Puibello is an HIV/AIDS and mental health advocate. Go to for more information