Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Crystal Proxmire
Positive or negative, knowing your status gives you confidence. And confidence is always sexy. That’s the theme behind the Status Sexy campaign, which features slim, muscular, aesthetically pleasing and shirtless men urging men who have sex with men to get tested for HIV/AIDS. What’s your status?is the underlying question. Status: Sexy is the answer for those who are in the know.
The campaign is partnered with “Sexy Testing Sites” in Washtenaw County, Pontiac and Detroit, including The HIV/AIDS Resource Center, Washtenaw County Health Department, EMU Wellness Center, AIDS Partnership Michigan, Detroit Community Health Connection, Horizon’s Project, Access, Detroit Health and Wellness Promotion, Teen Health Center, and APM Pontiac.
The campaign recently added bus stop billboards in Pontiac and Detroit, and will soon be doing advertising inside public buses in Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor placards are a victory in particular, as the campaign’s Washtenaw County plans had fell through last year.
“The first year of the campaign, the Ann Arbor Transit Authority approved our images and later retracted approval after we sent proofs of the website before it went live, explains Wil Bowen, Community Mobilization Project Associate with Aids Partnership Michigan. “They deemed it ‘inappropriate’ and offered no explanation or ways to fix it. This second go-round, the AATA has approved the campaign to run inside buses and we think it’ll make a huge impact on fighting HIV/AIDS in Washtenaw County.”
Despite the seemingly simple approach, much thought and effort went into designing the campaign. “The first eight months were spent building the community planning groups and getting insight into what this community wanted and needed from a prevention campaign. All of these concepts were then pulled together by a local creative boutique we partnered with for this effort, AndSoSheWrote. Of all the times sex has been used to sell something, sexual health doesn’t seem to be one of them,” says Bowen. “Fear, homophobia, racism and a top-down mentality are factors that we feel enable this epidemic, so we won’t allow those factors to guide this campaign. Any negative feedback we got early on came from 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.”
Detroit is the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in Michigan. The Status Sexy campaign’s target locations are based on the stats that come from the Center For Disease Control and the Michigan Department of Community Health. According to Michigan’s January 2010 Quarterly HIV/AIDS Report there are an estimated 18,800 men, women and children living with HIV or AIDS in the state of Michigan; 64 percent live in the proposed target area of Wayne County (9,230), Oakland County (2,250) and Washtenaw County (650). The “Male to Male Sex” risk category for African American Males is the largest in at-rick behavior group in all three of these communities, according to Bowen.
Interest continues to grow for the program, and the advertising seems to be having an effect. “We’re always getting requests to expand the campaign, to other cities across the state and as far as New York, Philadelphia and Florida,” says Bowen. “However, the most important feedback comes from the community we’re reaching. When I hear ‘this site made it easier to get tested,’ or ‘I used Status Sexy to talk about HIV with my new boyfriend,’ – that’s what lets me know we’re doing the right thing.”
Look for Status Sexy advertising around Detroit, Pontiac and Washtenaw County, and find more information about the campaign at http://www.Statussexy.com.