LGBT Detroit has just announced a new partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services aimed at ending HIV/AIDS-related stigma. The state grant award of a whopping $294,000 is supplemented by a secondary, smaller grant of $36,344 from the Detroit Department of Health.
The grants will fund LGBT Detroit’s “togethr” campaign, which promotes positive queer sexuality while seeking to neutralize HIV stigma in southeast Michigan. The campaign focuses on Black and brown men who sleep with men 18-35. Togethr will also include a social media campaign, regional anti-stigma educational tours and an educational health-focused sex-positive event, among other components.
“[The state] came to us and they said, ‘We would like for you to do an anti-HIV stigma campaign,’” explained Jerron Totten, LGBT Detroit’s social outreach coordinator and legislative advocacy specialist. “We got together internally and talked about what it is that we could offer to the state for this campaign.”
They found that all they needed to offer was a portion of their already annual programming. So they created a list of “five things we already do or have already done,” Totten said. “We took that back to the state and said, ‘This is what we can do,’ and they said yes.”
Those five things include LGBT Detroit’s winter Pride event, Cold as Hell, a leather fetish event. “This is our third year doing Cold as Hell,” said Totten. “We have leather and kink people coming from all across the nation to Detroit.”
Last year, due to COVID-19, everything was pre-recorded. “This year we were still going to pre-record and we were going to invite a live audience,” Totten said. “But because of the COVID numbers, we are not going to have a live audience.”
Other programming they already offer which the campaign will fully fund include:
- Brother To Brother Lockdown: a regular broadcast on various social media platforms with live taping and Zoom viewing options.
- Sex, Hooking Up and The Apps Tour: a regional anti-stigma tour that focuses on statewide Black, gay and bi men’s high HIV rates.
- LGBT Detroit Leadership Academy: a training program geared at developing young leaders to work within the LGBTQ+ community.
- Togethr Social Media Campaign: a social strategy that will highlight LGBTQ+ culture, education and advocacy for those impacted by HIV and AIDS with specialized programming and events.
According to Totten, the two-piece package of grants, totaling $330,344, marks the largest grant award ever received by LGBT Detroit.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” said LGBT Detroit Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb. “Our partners at both the Detroit Department of Health and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services not only understood but encouraged and supported our vision for moving our community forward into a positive, healthier sexuality, while still educating those who entertain harmful mythologies against those living with HIV.”