HIV Equal is an all-inclusive anti-stigma and HIV testing initiative sponsored by Norwalk, CT-based World Health Clinicians that recently photographed many familiar faces in Los Angeles. The campaign and health initiative are acutely aware that HIV affects everyone, and its aim is to photograph people from all walks of life, in cities across the country, to illustrate that fact.
Initially, in order to gain media attention, the HIV Equal crew photographed and tested fabulous New York celebrities, artists and politicians throughout the course of a week. To date, HIV Equal has photographed and tested over 300 people in the last two months, in NYC, Connecticut and Los Angeles, and the campaign is taking off like wildfire.
HIV Equal co-founders Jack Mackenroth and celebrity photographer Thomas Evans are particularly excited to be supported by NOH8 co-founder Adam Bouska, who has effectively illustrated what a social media campaign like this can do to change public opinion.
Since the launch on October 14, 2013, HIV Equal has received more than 2,600 Twitter followers @HIVEqual and over 2,500 Facebook "Likes", and a rapidly growing fan base on Instagram (HIVequal). They were even awarded the title of "Best new HIV campaign" for 2013 by Healthline after less than 60 days in operation.
"All the buzz and excitement is extremely promising,” noted World Health Clinicians’ Executive Director, Scott Gretz. "We know that stigma is a huge hurdle we need to overcome in order to get people tested for HIV and to dramatically decrease transmission rates. We look forward to taking HIV Equal all over the country and reigniting the national conversation about HIV. The epidemic is NOT over."
According to the latest statistical data reported by the County of Los Angeles in its 2012 Annual HIV Surveillance Report, there were more than 2,000 new diagnoses of HIV infection in 2010, with a total of 45,474 persons currently living with HIV by December 31, 2012. Men accounted for 1,816 (88%) of such cases, and the age demographic that saw the highest number of infections (60%) was between the ages of 20-39.
The HIV Equal photo campaign fights the stigma associated with HIV by illustrating that everyone is equally valuable regardless of HIV status. Participants photographed 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. In the event that 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."
Recently added to its list of supporters is Todrick Hall, Deven Green, Ann Walker, Ben Patrick Johnson, Greg Louganis, Chad Staffa, Amy Paffrath and husband Drew Seeley, Selene Luna, Tony Tripoli, Jackie Beat, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, Mayor Pro Tempore John D'amico and dozens of other amazing individuals.