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How the deaths of gay men became a commodity

A pile of several issues of Out magazines

Magazines require a high grade of coated paper, one that ink will lay well on. Bennett Purser/Marketplace

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During the height of the AIDS epidemic, the pages of gay lifestyle magazines were filled with advertisements for designer clothing, liquor and vacation destinations. There were also pages advertising viatical settlements, an investment that involved the life insurance policies of gay men battling HIV and AIDS. It was quick cash for the insured, who in exchange for money named the investor as beneficiary. Once the original holder died from his complications of AIDS, the investor would reap 100 percent of the policy. Then a treatment was released that dramatically increased life expectancy for those with HIV and AIDS. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke to Jack Lowery about those men and the settlements, and how they both still exist today. He wrote about the topic for The Atlantic

“One of the more gruesome parts of the industry is that, especially during the AIDS epidemic, this was not something that was regulated. Some of the brokers who were buying viatical settlements, I’m sure had the best interest in mind for these people, but there were a certain amount of pariahism,” Lowery told Ryssdal.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

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