Many Shades of Gay
This post originally appeared June 13, 2012, on TheHuffingtonPost.com.
June is Pride month across our country. It’s a time to celebrate the rich diversity of the LGBT community and the remarkable progress we’ve made in the gay rights movement. It’s also an important time to acknowledge the tremendous advances we’ve made in the fight against HIV/AIDS over the past 30 years. Now more than ever, we have hope that we can see an end to the disease in our lifetime.
But we still have a lot of work to do, both in the march toward full equality and in our efforts to stop HIV/AIDS. With HIV infection rates still on the rise among gay and bisexual men—the only risk group for which this is the case—we know we can do better. That’s why we are proud to launch an innovative new public health campaign to encourage gay and bisexual men to test regularly for HIV and make frequent HIV testing the social norm.
The campaign is called “Many Shades of Gay.” It honors the diversity of the gay community while focusing on one simple message: No matter what you’re into, get an HIV test every six months.
At the heart of the effort is an interactive and educational website that invites users to create a personalized avatar—a tiny, digital version of themselves. Described as “the most robust avatar generator ever built,” it contains literally billions of customization options, including wardrobe, accessories, tattoos and piercings—allowing gay and bisexual men to create an avatar as conservative or campy as they desire.
Once an avatar is created, it informs the user about the importance of regular HIV testing and helps them find the nearest testing location. The website allows users to opt in to receive reminders via email or text from their avatar when it’s time to get another HIV test. Guys who create an avatar are invited to keep the campaign going by sharing it through social media channels and inviting friends to join the effort.
The site also includes a channel for HIV-positive guys, which provides health information and resources to connect them to HIV treatment and care. Studies show that early detection and treatment of HIV can dramatically reduce a person’s chances of spreading the virus to someone else.
So as Pride celebrations across the country reach full swing, we invite you to take a moment for some campy fun. Make and share an avatar at www.manyshadesofgay.org. It’s simple and easy, and your efforts will help us change the way we think about HIV testing in our community. And that’s something in which we can all take great pride.