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Memories From a Different Era – POZ Nights at NYC Gay Bars

Memories From a Different Era – POZ Nights at NYC Gay Bars

Memories From a Different Era – POZ Nights at NYC Gay Bars

A New York mixer for HIV-positive men is fondly recalled, even if it may no longer be needed.

For over 10 years, patrons seeking a carefree, stigma-free zone would venture through a secret entrance on the second floor of Manhattan’s Ritz Bar & Lounge — crossing through the owner’s personal apartment — to access “POZ Night.” The happy hour event, held on Thursdays from 2006 and 2017, was a beloved institution for HIV-positive people seeking fun without judgement, Ritz owner Tommy Greco recalled recently during National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, held in September.

“It wasn’t a lot, but it was everything for some,” Greco said in a statement. Greco highlighted how, especially when POZ Night began, HIV stigma among gay and bi men was intense. “A lot of men were open about being gay, but ‘in the closet’ regarding their HIV status. To have this night where they could get together and socialize was huge… and having the ‘secret’ entrance made it accessible to so many more people.”

Greco recalled patrons of POZ Night sharing advice about doctors, meds, and co-morbidities, with many attendees leaving behind brochures so others could have the most up-to-date health information. The staff at POZ Night offered many non-alcoholic drinks to cater to those in the sober community and others worried about mixing cocktails with antiretrovirals.

Before POZ Night launched, the Ritz served as a food and beverage sponsor for the Body Positive Charity’s winter gala at the Chelsea Pier. One year, Greco was approached by a man at the HIV fundraiser. “[He] wanted to create more of a social setting environment where guys could come, socialize, network, and get information pertaining to their condition,” Greco recalls. “I’m very proud that we were able to create that safe space for 10 years,” Greco added. “My hope is that a lot of people made solid friendships, got the information they needed, and maybe even saved a life or two!”

Thanks to less ignorance about HIV and concepts like U=U, undetectable equals untransmittable, there is less of a need for segregated nights at bars and clubs. Still, some specific HIV events occur across the nation, with one of the most prominent being Red Dress WeHo, where many bars and clubs in the Boystown district of West Hollywood host fundraisers for HIV causes and patrons wear red to highlight HIV awareness. Organized by the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Red Dress Day launched in 1997 and the most recent event took place in late September.

Courtesy Red Dress WeHo

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