Status Sexy Graces Affirmations Windows
(C. Proxmire, The Ferndale 115 News, June 20, 2012)
For those who have been wondering who the muscular men in the windows of Affirmations are, the banners are part of AIDS Partnership Michigan’s Status Sexy campaign urging people to get tested for HIV and AIDS. The campaign also has advertising on bus stops and inside buses through the area.
AIDS Partnership Michigan does free and confidential testing at several Metro Detroit locations including Affirmations In 2011 they provided counseling and testing to 1,722 individuals. Though testing is available to everyone, APM tracks positivity rates for high-risk groups and has found that among MSMs (men who have sex with men) and HRH (high-risk heterosexuals) there is a rate of 5% positive test results.
Wil Bowen, Community Mobilization Project Associate with Aids Partnership Michigan explained the ‘Status Sexy’ message. “Whether positive or negative, knowing your HIV status is the ultimate sign of confidence. And confidence is always sexy”. It’s important to know your HIV status so that when the topic comes up between you and one’s partner, you’ll be ready to talk with confidence. You’ll respect yourself; and protect both of you. Also, it’s important to know your HIV status, so that if HIV positive, you can discuss options of care and treatment services.”
Despite the seemingly simple “sex sells” approach, a lot of thought and effort went into the designing of the campaign. “That first 8 months was spent building the community planning groups and getting insight into what this community wanted and needed from an HIV prevention campaign. All of those concepts were pulled together by a local creative boutique we partnered with for this effort, AndSoSheWrote. That’s when Status Sexy was giving its life. Of all the times sex is used to sell something, sexual health didn’t seem to be one of them. We didn’t want to ignore that fact anymore. Fear, homophobia, racism and a top-down mentality are factors that we felt enabled this epidemic, so we were not going to allow those things guide this campaign,” Bowen said. “Any negative feedback we got early on came from people we are not trying to reach, or people who don’t know or interact with this community. The negative feedback has been overwhelmingly outweighed by the Positive feedback. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion, but the opinions of our community are the ones that matter. We didn’t set out to make everyone happy. We’re fighting AIDS.”
AIDS Partnership Michigan offers HIV counseling & testing at Affirmations in Ferndale every Thursday 5:30pm-8:00pm and Saturday 1:00pm-3:30pm; and offers Youth-only HIV counseling & testing on the 2nd & 4th Fridays 5:30-8:00pm. To find a test site in Metro Detroit or anywhere in Michigan, visit www.aidspartnership.org or call the Michigan HIV/STD Hotline 800-872-2437.
According to Bowen, “AIDS organizations, including AIDS Partnership Michigan (APM), are currently struggling with diminishing and/or shortened funding resources. AIDS Partnership Michigan has and continues to be a central resource for HIV prevention and direct care services. The future of the Affordable Health Care Act may affect the healthcare industry, including HIV services. APM will be that central resource, the current challenge and opportunity is in the direction and framework to proceed.”
While media coverage of the AIDS epidemic has diminished, and medicines help people with HIV and AIDS live longer, there is still no cure. Learn more at www.aidsparentership.org.