HIV incidence among Black men who have sex with men is roughly twice that of young White MSM and young Hispanic MSM in the 13- to 29-year age group.
This is one of several statistics featured in the 2011 Prevention Calendar being released on Jan. 9 at the Shadow Lounge. The calendar, created by Rev. Terry Fluker, an organizer with the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition, is designed to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and testing.
|AMIR CLEMONS (Photos by Chris Chapman)
“We’re trying to get more education and information out to the African-American community which is still needed after all these years,” Fluker said. “I wanted to keep it brief and simple, but I wanted to implement education in it as people mark their calendar. I wanted there to be education on each page.”
The calendars include a list of free testing sites as well as important awareness dates such as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, juxtaposed primarily with photographs of some of Pittsburgh’s male models. With the support of the Positive Health Clinic, the Central Outreach Center, and Operation Better Block, more than 1000 people will receive free calendars.
“It’s diverse to appeal to the straight as well as the gay individuals. To use these guys I think will encourage more women to get tested,” Fluker said. “It’s also a way of addressing the stigma and fear and the homophobia. The problem with Pittsburgh is people thinking just because I walk up to a table and get some condoms and education it means I have HIV.”
The calendar portrays the ABCs of prevention: A= Abstain. B= Be faithful. C= use Condoms. Fluker said he expected to receive more support from other HIV/AIDS organizations throughout the city, but was disappointed to find many disproved of the calendar’s somewhat racy imagery, featuring several half-clothed male models.
“Some organizations didn’t want to fund it because of the bareness of the skin. We know that sex does sell, but the body is art when you look at it in an artistic way and not a lustful way,” Fluker said. “I’m a firm believer that to get people involved you have to stay creative because we get bored very easily.”
The project gained the attention of several local African-American men who stepped up to help bring the calendar to life. Villa, an urban clothing retailer with several locations around Pittsburgh is featured prominently in the calendar as well.
“A lot of (the young men) model as a hobby. They saw it as a good way to give back to the community and to be educated,” Fluker said. “(Villa) has a project called Join the Movement so this is a way to show how they are involved.”
Some of the male models were already active in HIV/AIDS organizations prior to participating in the calendar. Others were interested in becoming involved because they had been impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in some way, either through their family or friends.
“I have a lot of people I know who have been affected by HIV and AIDS and it’s a bad situation. This is a population of people who need help,” said Amir Clemons, 26, an outreach worker with the Allegheny County Health Department. “If you look at today’s media a lot more attention is being brought to the AIDS and HIV awareness campaign. It’s a very quiet thing because there’s still so much negative stigma.”
“I feel like AIDS awareness is very important especially in my community and I thought it was a really creative way to get it out there,” said Michael Lindsey, 21. “I think the calendar will bring light to a lot of things people my age don’t really know about.”
Calendars will be available for purchase for $10. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.