VIDEO: Broadway's Billy Porter and Nick Adams Among Supporters for 'HIV Equal' Campaign
In an effort to bring attention to HIV/AIDS awareness and to reduce the fear and stigma surrounding the disease and testing for it, a new social media campaign entitled "HIV Equal" has been developed by Connecticut-based World Health Clinicians (WHC), and will officially launch on October 26, 2013 as part of the organization's LGBT wellness event.
The HIV Equal campaign officially launches at the World Health Clinicians' wellness event on October 26th and includes an exhibition of the first set of photographs featuring Broadway star Nick Adams ("La Cage Aux Folles," "Priscilla Queen of the Desert"), Congressman Jim Himes, AIDS and gay rights activist Peter Staley, Tony Award winning actor/singer Billy Porter ("Kinky Boots"), and drag superstar Bianca Del Rio, among many others.
Click below to watch a promo video!
The HIV Equal photo campaign fights the stigma associated with HIV by illustrating that everyone is equally valuable regardless of HIV status. Participants who sign up to take a photo will also take an HIV test with an on-hand health professional as part of a greater effort to help end the fear around HIV testing. The test is confidential and involves a quick mouth swab with results in 20 minutes. If an individual does test positive the staff is prepared with the necessary counseling and linkage to care.
Individuals are photographed with a unique "HIV=" logo, which strategically appears on their body. As a play on the word "status," a unique caption will read 'STATUS:_______,' and every model picks a word that exemplifies one aspect of their personality. This alludes to the fact that who we are as people is much more important than an HIV status.
The concept of the campaign was designed by HIV activist Jack Mackenroth of Project Runway fame, in collaboration with renowned celebrity photographer Thomas Evans. They plan to utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to disseminate the photos until the signature magenta glow becomes nationally recognizable. After living with HIV for 24 years, Mackenroth has witnessed the effects of HIV stigma firsthand.
"Our goal is to photograph people from all walks of life who support ending HIV stigma, regardless of their personal HIV status. We launched the campaign with celebrities, politicians, artists and many recognizable faces in order to draw attention to our mission, but we plan to include everyone since HIV affects us all," Mackenroth explains. "HIV Equal goes a step further to include testing so that everyone photographed knows their status. We need to take care of ourselves and each other, as well as to reignite the global conversation about HIV to stop the spread of misinformation, fear and judgment."
Thomas Evans adds, "It's really a call to action for everyone to know their status because now we have the tools to treat HIV and to stop transmission. By getting tested these individuals are showing love for themselves and the greater community."
Heading up the testing portion of the campaign is WHC Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gary Blick, who understands the urgency of youth outreach. "It's crucial to restart the national dialogue about HIV and HIV testing since the recent CDC statistics suggest that the younger generations are the most vulnerable when it comes to new HIV infections, as data from 2010 cites that over 90% of new HIV infections are found in young men ages 13-34. HIV Equal appeals directly to that demographic. We're bringing awareness of HIV and HIV testing to the forefront, and smashing the stigma associated with HIV. The message of HIV Equal is that it is vital that we all know our HIV status but that we should not be judged because of it."
HIV Equal will soon take the photo shoot and HIV testing campaign to cities across the country.
To learn more about HIV Equal, visit www.HIVequal.org. To learn more about World Health Clinicians, visit www.worldhealthclinicians.org.
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