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Inside Story
T2's Ironman 70.3 Steelhead finisher achieves huge fitness and fundraising goals PDF Print
Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Team to End AIDS (T2) has for five years offered people who are interested in completing an endurance event the opportunity to raise significant funds toward the fight to end HIV/AIDS while getting trained for athletic success. Through its triathlon, Steelhead, half-marathon and marathon training programs and fundraising guidance, T2 athletes have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars — and crossed hurdles and finish lines.

Amanda Moswin is one of those athletes. She has been part of the T2 family for two years, On the Runand in that time she has raised nearly $8,000 to support the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s mission to serve people living with HIV and AIDS in Illinois.

This year, Moswin made T2 and herself proud by completing the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead event in Benton Harbor, Mich., and received a qualification slot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Austria in August 2015.

Why did you join T2?
In January 2013, I was bemoaning how out of shape I had become when I received an email from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago inviting me to join T2 by doing a marathon or triathlon. I'd been an on-again, off-again endurance athlete for several years (runner and commuter/leisure cyclist), and I had a dream of one day getting involved with the triathlon. I signed up for the T2 triathlon program the very next day.

And we’ve been happy to have you as part of the team! What has the T2 family experience been like for you?
What an amazing group of people! I love that we all work so hard to achieve our athletic and fundraising goals without taking ourselves too seriously.

Has T2 made an impact on your physical fitness?
A huge impact. Since I started training in May 2013, I've lost 45 pounds and I've made great improvements in my power and endurance. The coaches with T2 really have helped push me to become a better athlete than I had ever expected myself to be. More importantly, I'm pretty sure that endurance sports will be a lifelong hobby of mine rather than something I dabble in every once in a while.

For whom would you recommend T2 as an endurance training program?
Pretty much anyone. One of the most amazing things about the coaches is that they cater pretty well to people just starting out and seasoned athletes alike. I also think that the T2 staff does a great job of encouraging people in both training and fundraising; it makes the whole thing feel more important than just achieving individual goals.

Finish AngryYour husband, Art, works in the HIV field. Does that play a role in your decision to be part of T2?
While I've always admired Art because of the work he does and have been peripherally involved with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, it wasn't until I read And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts that I really knew I wanted to get personally involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Knowing the history and tragedy surrounding the early years of HIV made me understand that fighting HIV/AIDS is as much about social justice as it is about stopping a disease. I'm proud to have found a way to join my husband in supporting the cause.

What were you thinking about as you crossed the finish line at Steelhead?
How happy I was to join this team of amazing people and accomplish my goals, all while raising money for a cause I believe in! Also, I was thinking about having a beer, let's be honest.

Ha! How did you spend the day after your event?
Sharing stories and enjoying the company of my teammates, coaches and amazing TEAM manager Ali Vos!

Learn more about T2 by visiting its website.

A T-shirt represents one artist's commitment to end AIDS PDF Print
Friday, September 05, 2014

aids walk mak

Art has the powerful capacity to unite communities.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) collaborated with Chicago artist Anastasia Mak, who created a memorable T-shirt design for top fundraisers participating in AFC's upcoming event, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago. As event day approaches, participants are connecting with their communities to support vital HIV/AIDS services. Mak's painting is a stunning recognition of the top fundraisers' incredible support.

Mak1"[The art community works] to support each other. We each have something to offer," said Mak.

Growing up in the Ukraine, Mak was inspired by her father's love of art and career as a graphic designer. Mak has painted since the age of two and recalls being praised for her artistic talents. After college, she pursued her passion for painting by working as a part-time artist. Since then, Mak's talents have become mainstream and noticeable in Chicago's art scene.

Now, Mak has carved out a sustainable painting career within the Chicago artist community, showing her work locally and at art festivals around the country. Through her connections with other local artists at art festivals, Mak worked with a core group of artists to establish a nonprofit art collective for female artists working with diverse mediums called Chicago Art Girls. For Mak, her medium has always centered on acrylic paintings, which often feature paintings of cityscapes. It was Mak's unique style of creating colorful, iconic cityscapes that attracted AIDS Run & Walk Chicago organizers to her work.

Mak was excited to create the T-shirt design for AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, explaining that several of her friends participate in the event each year. Her friends' passionate participation in the event made her realize how crucial AIDS Run & Walk Chicago was in supporting Chicagoans affected by HIV/AIDS.

"By supporting it, you are supporting the HIV/AIDS community everywhere," said Mak.

You can find Mak's work at art festivals around the country and commission a painting through her website. Check out the Chicago Art Girls project here.

Find out more about AIDS Run & Walk Chicago at! Participants who raise $500 or more will receive a T-shirt featuring Anastasia Mak's original artwork.


Through performance art, new narratives emerge about chronic illness PDF Print
Wednesday, September 03, 2014

joseph varisco 8After being diagnosed as HIV-positive two years ago, Chicago-based performance artist, multimedia producer, documentarian and teacher Joe Varisco felt an absence: Where are the narratives around HIV that reflected his story, the story and experiences of his communities and their lives?

In the months after his diagnosis, he immersed himself in media representations that told the story of life with HIV/AIDS, and while he appreciated those narratives for their historical values, they just weren’t coming close to reflecting living today with HIV.

“I wasn’t finding anything that resonated with me and my experience,” said Varisco.

He finally realized the narratives he was craving were right in front of him, in his friends and colleagues in the performance art community who were also experiencing the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness.

And so in the Fall of 2013, Varisco produced the first iteration of Queer, Ill, & Okay for Poonie’s Cabaret at Links Hall a performance series that offers artists the opportunity to “take a look at what it means to be queer and live with HIV or other chronic issues today,” explains Varisco.

tumblr n87a1bo6n21qzigkbo1 500This past July, Varisco hosted eight performers at another iteration of Queer, Ill, & Okay at Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood featuring queer youth theatre mentor and former About Face Theatre Education Director Sara Kerastas, hip hop artist and renowned author of Red Dirt Revival Tim'm West, Neo-Futurist alumna and co-host of PBS' Love of Quilting Mary Fons, Northwestern University's Queergasm featured artist Dirty Grits, biomedical engineer and artistic director of The Dance Team Christopher Knowlton, national burlesque performer Cruel Valentine, essayist Patrick Gill, as well as multidisciplinary artist and founder of queer arts collective 3rd Language NIC Kay.

Two performers, West (who laid down some emotionally charged, clever rhymes about living with HIV and growing up gay) and Fons (who delivered a silent, funny, celebratory electronic toast to her sisters, who have supported her through her illness), traveled to Chicago just to be part of this performance.

Funded by local fundraisers hosted by the Ribcage Chicago, Jyl Fehrenkamp’s BIG DADDY event at the Whistler and a successful Kickstarter campaign and at-the-door donations, the standing-room-only crowd was treated to an array of multimedia artistry from artists around Chicago and across the country.

Varisco’s stage provided a space for exploring the experience of being queer and chronically ill. Several performances focused less on the person experiencing the illness and more on the family members who stood around them through difficult medical moments.

Varisco hopes that Queer, Ill, & Okay becomes a lasting event in Chicago. Keep up with the project: Head over to to support the project, get involved and stay tuned for more performances.


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About Inside Story

Do you ever feel there are critical advances in HIV/AIDS prevention that aren't being properly covered in the mainstream media? Or that there are complex HIV/AIDS-related healthcare and funding issues not being clearly explained? Or that there are powerful HIV/AIDS stories here in Chicago just waiting for someone to tell them?
We feel that way, too!

At the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), we’re committed to changing the story of HIV/AIDS. Inside Story aims to take you inside that story, to give you an intimate look at how AFC, and other Chicago and national organizations, are fighting HIV/AIDS through medical, housing and support services; cutting-edge research into prevention and treatment methods; and advocacy for stronger HIV-AIDS public policy from legislators.

If you have questions or blog ideas, please contact Brian Solem, Communications Manager and Staff Writer, at


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