Diseased Pariah News is a humor magazine by and for people with AIDS. As you might imagine, the humor is about as black as it gets: bitter, irreverent, and often hysterically funny. By its indicia's own admission, it's "patently offensive." But who has more right to give offense?
Started in 1990 by Beowulf Thorne and the late Tom Shearer, DPN declared its goal right off: "We provide a forum for infected people to share their thoughts, feelings, art, writing, and brownie recipes in an atmosphere free of teddy bears, magic rocks, and seronegative guilt."
("We don't care how you got HIV," the editors later explained, "as long as you're not a whining and hateful virgin about it.") Thorne is the art director, responsible for its sharp design and mascot: the Oncomouse, a cartoon of a breed of rat engineered to develop cancer within two years of birth. Coeditor Michael Botkin died this past August, but Thorne and Tom Ace intend to keep the magazine going.
Regular features include "Get Fat, Don't Die!" (butter- and- coconut- oil- heavy recipes) and HIV+ Page Two Boys and centerfolds. (Of course, this is a magazine where any given issue can be dedicated, as #9 was, to the memory of the previous issue's centerfold model.) One issue included a flexi-disc recording of "They're Called Diseased Pariahs," to the tune of "They Call the Wind Mariah."
The latest issue, #10, released earlier this year, has a bleakly hilarious lead article by Botkin, which advocates putting nausea from medications to good use by puking on reactionary politicians. Other features include "What To Do When You're Dead: A Practical Guide For The HIV-Positive," a reminiscence on a San Francisco VD clinic, a review of a jockstrap-fetish movie, a satirical attack on AIDS-event-circuit profiteers; and a piece on an NIH experiment involving altering fruit flies' genes to make them homosexual.
DPN also produces a line of merchandise. The latest addition is a series of"HIV Merit Badges," nicely designed buttons to announce your latest T-cell count and history of opportunistic infections. (Toxoplasmosis, for instance, is represented by a snarling cat, and Kaposi's Sarcoma by a splotchy-faced leopard.) There are also DPN postcards: "The blood of over 100,000 Americans who have died of AIDS, Mr. President? Why, you're soaking in it!" The AIDS Barbie, KS Ken and New Malibu Dream Hospice shown on the back of recent issues are, sadly, not yet available.