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Jack Mackenroth Launches 'HIV Equal' Campaign Aimed At Ending HIV Stigma: VIDEO


Project Runway alum Jack Mackenroth has joined with photographer Thomas Evans and Connecticut-based World Health Clinicians (WHC) to launch a new social media campaign, “HIV Equal,” aimed at fighting the stigma surrounding HIV and encouraging people to get tested and know their status.

The campaign comes at a crucial time for HIV awareness, as 90% of new HIV infections are found in young men ages 13-34. For that reason, the campaign places a strong emphasis on testing in coordination with youth outreach.

Mackenroth, who has been HIV positive for twenty-four years, spoke out about his involvement with the project:

Hiv“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.”

More than just assigning people with labels of “negative” and “positive,” “HIV Equal” highlights what people believe to be “a positive attribute that they see about themselves”:

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 campaign will officially launch this weekend at October 26, 2013 as part of World Health Clinician’s LGBT wellness event (being held from 12-5PM at 618 West Ave, Norwalk, CT).

As Evans put it, “Regardless of our HIV status we are equally valuable human beings.”

Check out a video featuring Mackenroth, Evans and other “HIV Equal” supporters AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Glad to see that they are not glamorizing being HIV positive and have included safe sex messaging to avoid becoming another statistic.

    Posted by: patrick | Oct 22, 2013 9:22:04 PM

  2. Great idea for campaign! Maybe this will take away some of the ridiculous and unnecessary stigma . . .

    Posted by: Mike | Oct 22, 2013 9:26:23 PM

  3. I get it, but I think this is a bad idea, or at least not the time for it. It will just give Teabagistan and our other enemies additional ammunition to denounce equality, and may thereby taint the idea in the minds of our allies.

    Posted by: Abel | Oct 22, 2013 9:28:23 PM

  4. Yes, lets keep discriminating against each other so that the wing nuts who would otherwise leave us alone -NOT! We have to treat each other with respect before we can expect it from anyone else. Labeling HIV positive individuals as less than clean, does not accomplish that goal. This is a great campaign and is right on time, if not a bit late.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Oct 22, 2013 9:33:31 PM

  5. Presenting HIV status as unimportant is not going to combat stigma in the intended way. There's a reason so many young men are getting infected: they already think it isn't a big deal.

    (And "We are all HIV equal" sounds a bit too close to "we all have HIV".)

    Posted by: Knock | Oct 22, 2013 9:39:35 PM

  6. @ABEL Then when is the time? Too many people put up with unbelievable and absurd shame now just because they are HIV positive. This is NOT right!

    Posted by: Mike | Oct 22, 2013 9:46:57 PM

  7. I think we should focus on ending HIV period.

    Posted by: Jay | Oct 22, 2013 10:00:49 PM

  8. This is absurd. We're not all HIV equal. Some people have it and some don't. I have plenty of positive friends, but I wouldn't rush to get HIV and pretend like it's easy to manage.

    Also, whoever Photoshopped his picture really needs to ease up.

    Posted by: Paul R | Oct 22, 2013 10:13:22 PM

  9. Stigma? The problem seems to be those with the attitude, not the virus.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Oct 22, 2013 10:14:55 PM

  10. HIV is still a deadly virus. Glamorizing a disease is not much of a campaign. People living with HIV deserve a shot at happiness as the next guy. Lets not confuse that with the illusion of false safety. Protect yourselves and be careful, your health is at stake.

    Posted by: Gast | Oct 22, 2013 10:22:38 PM

  11. Ok, first, those of you who whine that this somehow glamorizes HIV have not kept yourselves up to date on why reducing stigma is GOOD for the public Health of ALL: because if stigma can be reduced, testing will increase, and more people who are positive will find that out and take steps to not expose others.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Oct 22, 2013 10:27:42 PM

  12. I'm more amazed at the amount of Photoshopping done to this picture.

    Posted by: andypharmer | Oct 22, 2013 10:35:18 PM

  13. JUST_A_GUY Glamorizing something doesn't really fight stigma. As far as knowing one's status, there are many anonymous testing centers and home test kits (oraquick) available in just about every pharmacy.

    Posted by: Gast | Oct 22, 2013 10:38:34 PM

  14. Campaign is misguided...plus it's just about taking your money like the rest...

    Posted by: Ankerich | Oct 22, 2013 10:40:34 PM

  15. @gast:
    State and local governments have made testing FAR less effective than it could be. If it were anonymous and instant, thousands more gay men would get tested--and get their results.

    My most recent HIV test, I was required to give my name, and then return for another visit to get results. It was in an odd part of town, and I never bothered to return. Granted, I presume I'm negative, insist on condoms anyway, etc., but I don't KNOW.

    As it is, scary numbers of gay men don't want to give their names or go to the trouble of ordering their own test, wait, etc.

    It seems to me like NOT having instant and anonymous tests in every major city--and even minor ones--all easy to get to...likely infects millions of gay men with HIV. Negligence in the part of public health officials, no?

    See https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/hiv-surveillance-and-name-reporting-public-health-case-protecting-civil-liber

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Oct 22, 2013 10:50:44 PM

  16. Not gonna lie: I couldn't bring myself to buy an HIV test at a store or have it appear in the mail. I just couldn't sorry, and I don't need to explain myself. I don't think I'm the only one. And I'm even owning that stigma of the IDEA affects me--and isn't good for anyone. But I'm not going to not say it, because it has GOT to be a far more common experience than others let on.

    But how to solve? I dunno, but I'm not gonna discount this campaign, and these people standing up for what's right.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Oct 22, 2013 11:07:58 PM

  17. JUST_A_GUY I get that it isn't easy. I've been in that situation too. It is hard to face up to something like this. I opted to get the test from Amazon, but that's just me. It is also available from their site: oraquick.com/where-to-buy

    Posted by: Gast | Oct 22, 2013 11:23:39 PM

  18. After hearing a young man describe his earnest desire to "Turn Positive" so he could be "more accepted as a gay man" by his positive friends, I believe any attempt to glamorize or minimize HIV+ status is totally inappropriate and beyond misguided. While this campaign may be well intentioned, it inevitably serves to minimize the very real health consequences of a serious disease and sends the wrong message to vulnerable, poorly informed young people. We are not all HIV equal. This campaign is evil and deceptive.

    Posted by: Joe in Ct | Oct 22, 2013 11:55:30 PM

  19. Joe In CT, not saying I'm a fan of this campaign but the young man you speak of sounds a little off. He should probably get help.

    Posted by: Billy | Oct 23, 2013 12:09:49 AM


    Posted by: James | Oct 23, 2013 12:09:57 AM

  21. As a physician specializing in HIV, I have very mixed feelings about this campaign. I agree that stigma against HIV-positive individuals is definitely a bad thing, but so is becoming HIV infected in the first place. We need to find a balance where we let go of the stigma without dropping our defenses against this very preventable infection. It's easier said than done. I'm not sure I have any bright ideas on this, but an "HIV equal" campaign doesn't seem to help the prevention aspect.

    Posted by: Josh | Oct 23, 2013 12:15:00 AM

  22. I'm neg, but I'd still have all of the sexes with Jack. All. Day. Long.

    Get tested you simpering wusses. Are you scared of the dentist, too?

    Posted by: FFS | Oct 23, 2013 12:33:49 AM

  23. Dr. Spinelli in the video actually said, "People are living with this disease. There's nothing to be feared [sic] about." Really? What about those not-so-glamorous folks all over the world who don't respond well to the HIV medications we now have? His statement is so ethically challenged that I think the project is nothing more than an AIDS-denial glitz and glamour fest from some of the New York City "in-crowd" who seek any limelight, and that can do great harm to our younger LGBTI generation. Certainly, there should be no stigma associated with contracting a disease, but "nothing to be feared [sic] about?" Maybe I didn't get the New York City in-crowd's "bubble" memo endorsed by the NIH that HIV has been cured in the villages of Africa or the inner cities of the USA. Maybe my last of many, many friends who spent months with uncontrollable diarrhea before they passed on just weren't glamorous enough to overcome their exhausted immune systems. Outrageously in denial are these well-funded "camera-shy" poseurs about the percentage of miserable souls for whom medicine is fruitless. Shameful. Never, in the 60 years of my life have I ever seen such selfish self-promotion than that portrayed about these two designers (NOT MD's) who so proudly claim their exclusive rights to "their" design while making sure everyone's hair gel is "perfect, darling!"
    Now, let the vicious hipster venom come my way because I have a different perspective on the global HIV Epidemic, a perspective that finds me at the age of 60 knowing and loving many more people dead from HIV than living.

    Posted by: Thomas Cardellino | Oct 23, 2013 12:47:03 AM

  24. Unless you are attacked or get it from a blood infusion, HIV is 100% preventable. There is no need to stigmatize people, because it isn't "contagious" unless you want you get it.

    Posted by: stevetalbert | Oct 23, 2013 12:48:56 AM

  25. Actually, Thomas Cardellino, I'm young (and Poz) and I completely agree with 100 percent of what you said. It's wrongheaded, self-indulgent, and as someone else mentioned it will probably be more effective at monetarily compensating the people involved than accomplishing anything worthwhile.

    Posted by: T.s. | Oct 23, 2013 2:26:40 AM

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