DEEPTHROAT W/ HIV SMART!!!

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by Matty Glitterati No Comments

Matty Glitterati

I recently read somewhere that we are currently in an age that is surrounded by information. This truly is an amazing thing, however, we cannot confuse information with knowledge. They are two vastly different things. We have the world at our finger tips, and can discover anything from how long to boil an egg to the most effective way to douche with a few mere strokes of the hand on our nearest technological crutch. Again, this doesn’t mean we actually know anything. When it comes to the gay community, there is one topic that we continually lack the fundamental knowledge about. A topic that can bring a party to an icy halt with three single letters. A topic that, until recently, has been so taboo society would rather brush it under the rug than fight it head on. That topic? HIV.

There have been so many myths and stories thrown around about HIV/AIDS since its emergence on the scene in the early 80s, it can prove difficult to separate fact from fiction. While it is not longer the death sentence that it previously was, we still have so much to learn and teach each other. This age of information, along with extreme advances in medical research, such as Prep and Pep, have gotten people to start a whole new conversation. A conversation that is changing the entire way we look at HIV/AIDS, once such group is the newly formed non-profit HIV Smart.

If you are in the NYC-area you have probably seen their new campaign popping up around your social media, and more than likely seen your friends in the photos. Blue shirts, smiles, and thick framed black glasses and a message that gets right to the point, knowledge is power when it comes to HIV. Education and raising awareness are crucial to this fight and right now we have the ability to educate like never before. With more education, the entire stigma around HIV changes. That is what HIV Smart is all about. 

I got the chance to sit down with Ryan Colford, the President and Founder of HIV Smart, and chat about their collaboration with GMHC and what is lays ahead for this amazing organization. From underwear to their official campaign launch on the 13th of this month at the NYC Eagle, I left the conversation with a sense of excitement, hope, and knowledge. This has been a year of change, and with HIV Smart now officially in the race, I don’t see that changed anytime soon. And that is AMAZING NEWS!!!

HIV Smart: “Know facts, No myths.”

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MG: How long has HIV Smart been in the works?

RC: It’s been officially established as of November but it’s been in the works for about a year. During that time, I contemplated the right concept and approach I wanted to take for the campaign.

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MG: This new non-profit is teamed up with GMHC, how did that come about?

RC: They were the first organization I contacted to form a partnership. They’ve been around from the beginning and I thought they would have a lot to offer in guidance. There are many non-profits that are trying to help with various aspects of HIV issues and I’m glad to partner with them too. It’s important to reach as wide an audience as possible using all available methods, such as social media, to get our message out there.

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MG: The pictures are really great and have a very strong message. What do you tell your models to capture such great shots?

RC: One of the main aspects of the campaign is to acknowledge and address the connection between HIV and depression. I wanted to get away from showing the stereotypical depressed person crying on the floor.

Depression isn’t like that, it’s usually hidden behind a smile and laughter. So in contrast to that imagery, I tell everyone to have fun with their picture. Be goofy. Smile or laugh; just have fun with it. You know, project a “positive” attitude! LOL. 

This also shows that being HIV-positive or knowing those who are positive doesn’t mean you need to give up being happy for anyone or for any reason.

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MG: Your models have to be wearing a blue shirt, but why the glasses?

RC: Another key aspect of the campaign is education in prevention methods such as PrEP or PEP as well as against stigma. Education is the best defense against all ignorance.  I wanted something symbolic of being smart. Sooo – Nerd glasses!! 🙂 They get the message across loud and clear in a fun and easy to understand way.

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MG: Your website says that you will be launching campaigns in the 5 states most affected by HIV-Infection, starting in NYC on the 13th. What should we expect at this event at the NYC Eagle?

RC: Well, this is our official first event, so I’m sure it will be interesting.

HIV Smart will be doing photos for everyone who shows up in a blue shirt of any sort. We will also be providing informational handouts on PrEP/PEP as part of our educational initiative.

The Eagle NYC has been so fantastic about offering their space and really getting behind this campaign. They will be offering some giveaways of course. And hey, it’s the Eagle, so those will be fun giveaways.

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GMHC will be there too offering onsite HIV testing to anyone who wants to get tested. Now that is what I call smart.

There will also be an amusing emcee and perhaps a drag queen or two to keep things fun and lively. Oh, and condoms too, of course!

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MG: What are the events going to be like in the other areas of the country? Texas? Florida?
RC: Well that’s a good question. Each event will have a slightly different flavor based on the venues that we are in as well as who is available to help with the crowd. So two words that will describe the events are “fun” and “educational.”

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MG: How can we get involved with HIV Smart? Where can we donate?

RC: We love and encourage all involvement. The more people who share the event and tell everyone they know to show up and participate the better. When the pictures are up on the website if everyone uses them for their social media like their Facebook profile pictures and Instagram and twitter, etc., that will get people talking and learning to not be afraid of the unfair HIV stigma.

I encourage anyone who wants to volunteer, by offering spaces to run events or any service that they think could help with the campaign, to contact me directly at ryan@hivsmart.org.

To donate you can go to www.hivsmart.com/give. All donations are tax-deductible as we are a registered non-profit organization.

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MG: If we wanna be a model can we just wear blue underwear?

RC: Absolutely!!! You can even bring a prop too to personalize it more.  Whatever it takes to promote education and create awareness!

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MG: What made you start up this entire project? What happened to make you go “something needs to be done”?

RC: The amount of ignorance out there was a major driving force to start this. First, people need to be educated about the risks involved for contracting HIV. Second, they need to know about what preventative methods exist and their effectiveness.

What happened to get me involved in the campaign wasn’t any one thing. There was so much disinformation still being spread creating more fear than anything else. Add to that the blatant and subtle stigma I’ve seen directed to people who have a disease is so horrible to me. Everyone needs to be treated with dignity and not shamed or made to feel guilty.

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MG: Besides the event on the 13th, are there any other events we can plan on attending?

RC: The next 2 events coming up will be in January at the Ritz in Hell’s Kitchen and the other will be in New Jersey at Paradise. All events will be listed on the website as they are finalized as well as on Facebook!

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For more information about how to get involved with HIV Smart, you can contact Ryan Colford directly at ryan@hivsmart.org.

Make sure you visit the campaign’s website

Make a donation to support the campaign!!! 

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY SAVE THE DATE TO ATTEND THE FIRST SMART PHOTO EVENT DECEMBER 13th!!! 

Connect with HIV Smart on Facebook, Instagram: @HIVSmart, and Twitter: @HIVSmartOrg

HIV Smart: “Know facts, No myths.”

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Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by Matty Glitterati No Comments

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