I had the pleasure of running into a personal hero of mine, former Project Runway and Volttage co-founder Jack Mackenroth, at the gym we both go to. We got to talking and above being an amazing guy and inspiration he further introduced me to the work that he was doing in HIV awareness both locally and nationally. I was delighted when he invited me to his event called “HIV Equal”. This was part of the LGBT Health and Wellness event that took place specifically at the World Health Clinicians headquarters in Norwalk, Connecticut. This event was designed to bring awareness to HIV and HIV testing, specifically in younger generations. During this event, we saw the “HIV Equal” photo campaign be launched, where several celebrities and gay icons had their photos on display in support of this amazing cause. Some of the celebrities in the photos included AIDS activist Peter Staley, legendary drag queen Bianca Del Rio and Tony Award winner Billy Porter from “Kinky Boots”.
You couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to have an event like this. I was fortunate enough to meet a ton of men and women from all sorts of backgrounds be it gay, bisexual, straight, transgender and so on and so forth who came together to help this fantastic cause. We were all photographed by legendary photographer Thomas Evans, holding up signs that give us a unique spin on what our status is. My status. Writer. You can be anything you want in this situation, but as long as it is something that describes your support for this cause, it makes it a great thing.
“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.”
I can’t forget about the amazing host for the day, drag superstar Titania and DJ T-Boy who kept playing some of my personal favorites on top of the great food that was provided. The whole mission of the day wasn’t about campy fun, food and drink and dancing though, it was about a cause for a disease that more people need to educate themselves about. We are living in a world today where this disease is treatable, and I hope that at the young age of 27 that we are able to conquer this disease and find a cure for this in my lifetime. For more information on this cause, hit up HIV Equal.