Browsing Category: m2mPower

B Poppin’ for Prevention

chris-rudisill-webby Chris Rudisill,
Director of LGBT Community Center Services
Metro Wellness and Community Centers

When we heard of making a video project based on the question of “What’s in Your HIV Toolbox?” our creative team went crazy with excitement. In the field of HIV Prevention, we constantly work to creatively reach out to the community – breaking down stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and spreading prevention messages. In addition, many of our communication to at-risk communities, especially young gay and bisexual men continues to evolve using social media, phone apps, video and texting. The video project provided a perfect platform to create a fun, yet educational video about HIV prevention.

The project also provided our staff a chance to expand on our creativity and work together. Abby Nicholson, Metro’s HIV Education & Prevention Coordinator brought me and my LGBT Community Center Services team in to brainstorm ideas. With the help of Adam Jahr, LGBT Program Manager and Ta’ri Badil-Abish, Preventino Specialist, the team of four started brainstorming on how we could shine above the rest with a unique and educational video that had some humor and viral-ability to it. Somewhere in the conversation, Mary Poppins came up. Honestly, I don’t remember now how that happened but it was the perfect answer. We remembered the magic bag scene from the Disney classic and thought “What if our Toolbox was that magic bag? We have everything in our HIV Prevention Toolbox!”

Here’s our little secret – we then took a toolbox and cut a hole in the bottom of it. Then we placed it on a table we found with a glass leaf removed from the top. With the help of a simple tablecloth, we were able to provide the illusion that the toolbox was sitting on top of a solid table. Then we placed items under the table that could be pulled through the toolbox making it seem as though the box was bottomless, just like Mary Poppins’ handbag. We tried to find unusual items that you wouldn’t expect and mix them up with the important items like a testing kit, lube, and most importantly condoms. Then we were able to include a condom demonstration as only Mary B. Poppin would do.

Adam and Ta’ri pulled in the help of Leo Gallego, Metro’s Program Navigation Specialist, to appear in the video as well as a young gay man along with Adam who would be visited by our lead star, which took the name “Mary B. Poppin” (played by Badil-Abish). The idea was sound and the original lyrics to “A Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins would work perfect – with just enough humor. “And ev’ry task you undertake, becomes a piece of cake. A lark! A spree! – It’s very clear to see…”

We really enjoyed the chance to have some fun and be creative, and really worked hard together to create a unique approach to the video project.

Once the video was complete, we navigated our way through video-editing software teaching ourselves along the way. Once the project was posted online we mobilized through our Facebook pages to spread the word about the video, asking others to share and vote daily. Several people in the community started sharing the video with their friends and the project helped spread the word about our prevention programs and this project within a few days. The efforts continued as the contest progressed and others presented their videos. Our entire staff helped share the video, along with key community members to spread the word. In addition, we highlighted the video on our website homepage.

The video remains on our page and we plan to continue posting out the video using our social media networks in the future. This video project has made a good addition to our other videos regarding HIV statistics, condom demonstrations and overall information about our agency which has been serving the community for 20 years in the Tampa Bay area. In addition, it has sparked creativity among our staff and inspired us to expand how we reach the

Since this video production, our prevention staff has also expanded our reach to “Meetup” sites, more social apps, and text messaging services to not only increase awareness but involve the community in the conversation and the work. Through group interventions, community events and social communication we are reaching more gay and bisexual men who are at risk for HIV.

One of our groups in Tampa called Healthy Men Unleashed (HMU), which is made up of high-risk negative gay and bisexual men, has started experimenting with other video outlets like Vine to expand on ways we can reach the community in fun, exciting messaging. Through these efforts we are able to continually reach young gay men and continue to evolve in our we communicate prevention messaging.

As our friend Mary B. Poppin would say “In ev’ry job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.”

The Key to the Toolbox

by Joseph Sedillo, HIV Testing Coordinator
Cascade AIDS Project

Over the years we have been able to add many tools to the HIV prevention toolbox. From advances in PrEP to being more open to sex-positive dialogue, we now have several skills to help people stay healthy (regardless of their HIV-status). But one thing that we still struggle with is the stigma around HIV. It keeps us from being open about our status, talking with our partners, and is fueling this HIV epidemic, especially among gay and bisexual men. Thirty years into this epidemic and stigma is still something that is plaguing our community.

So we were grateful to learn about AIDS United’s video contest because it gave us an opportunity to show how we plan on combating stigma in our community. We believe that knowing your HIV status, positive or negative, is the key that opens the HIV prevention toolbox. And that’s what inspired the theme of our video, “Knowing.”

I turned to my friends, coworkers, and volunteers for their help. I asked how they would feel about having their status painted on their bodies and showing the world that they were okay with who they were. The reaction I got was overwhelmingly positive (no pun intended). I realized that I kind of live in a bubble, where I don’t really see my friends and coworkers as pluses and minuses. But people on the outside might not know people who are positive, and I wanted to be able to show that it is possible to live openly as a queer man with or without HIV.

Making the video was a blast! People came together and let me act as a makeup artist and director and the experience was playful and open. I was really proud of one of our models because this video was the first time that he was publicly acknowledging his HIV-positive status. How amazing that this video provided a vessel for him to come out in a big way!

When I sat down to edit the video, I realized that we had something really special. Stringing together these film clips of my queer friends with their statuses portrayed unabashedly on their bodies got me kind of emotional. What if we could all be like this? What if the world was okay with this? And then I knew that this is how it starts, one person at a time. The video became a labor of love for me. I recall the deadline was approaching —  it was 3am — , and I was almost done. “We need a narrator,” I thought. “We need words to go with this.” And then they just came out. I recorded the voiceover in a couple of takes in my dark closet (the irony is not lost on me here) so I wouldn’t wake up my roommates.  The  project was complete.

What came next was truly heartwarming. The response to the video was wonderful. Our staff members were really pleased with how it turned out and reactions from the community were even more exciting. And when people found out that the video was part of a contest with a $4000 prize it was a pretty easy sell. However, since we didn’t find out about the contest until late in the game, there were several other organizations that were way ahead of us in votes.

We set a goal of getting 1000 votes by the end of the voting period. We knew it was an ambitious goal but we wanted something that we could strive for. We thought if we could reach 1000 people with this powerful message it would be quite an accomplishment! And so the social media campaign began. We asked everyone in our agency to post the video to Facebook and to message their friends personally and speak out about why voting was important. We created some still photos from the video and made posters to put in our community center. And of course, our staff got plenty of reminders from me to vote every day.

When we found out that we won the video contest we were incredibly excited! But it was more than just about the money. We had produced something that we were proud of and that our community responded to. That was and is invaluable to us. We have since shown the video to some of our funders, to community partners, and most recently, at the United States Conference on AIDS.


We hope to continue sharing this video to queer men in our community to inspire them to take charge of their sexual health.  Ideally, it will help further the conversation around HIV and sexual relationships. Hookups, boyfriends, polyamory, it doesn’t matter. We don’t care what kind of sex you’re having or who you’re having it with but we want to destigmatize HIV and encourage you to talk about it. In a time where HIV rates are rising again in the gay community we need all the help we can get in order to get people talking, get people tested, and work to ensure wellness for all.



It’s Not a Past-time, It’s a Duty

kenny_palmer_webby Kenny Palmer,  AIDS United Public Policy Assistant

I find it rather fitting that National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day coincides with the end of my first week with AIDS United. This first week has really opened my eyes to the vast amount of individuals around the country who have dedicated their lives to defeating to this disease, and also to the great amount of work that remains to be done. The battle against HIV/AIDS is one in which I have a personal stake. As an African American and a gay male, I belong to two communities that are disproportionately affected by this disease. For me, combating this disease is not a past-time, it’s a duty.

I grew up in South Carolina and attended undergrad at Furman University. During my academic career, I undertook several internships and fellowships. It was during this time that I began my first Congressional internship in Washington, DC. Working on the Hill allowed me to observe the legislative process first hand, but it was living in DC that really opened my eyes to several issues that existed within the LGBT community; issues that I’d never been fully exposed to while living in the South. Sure I knew about the vast discrimination that existed, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be more active in both the LGBT community and the African-American community.

I look forward to working with the team at AIDS United to meet those individuals who are on the front lines of this battle and personally know the needs of individuals living with HIV/AIDS in their perspective areas. The opportunity to meet such icons as AU President/CEO President Michael Kaplan, Rep. Barbara Lee and others still has me star-struck. Furthermore, the chance to become extremely knowledgeable in healthcare and budgetary policy really excites me. I hope to accomplish a lot during my time here but above all, I would like to see a firm partnership emerge between the African-American and LGBT community, especially in the battle against HIV/AIDS.



What the Supreme Court Decisions Mean to Us

flag over SC

By Aldona Martinka, Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellow, AIDS United

Having just moved to Washington, D.C. to start my fellowship at AIDS United, I still ooh and aah at every building with grand columns and a fancy dome. I still read every statue and monument’s plaque when I walk by, even crossing the street to do so. When people walk by with nice suits and looks of intent I imagine grand and important work for them. I could barely contain my excitement when a senator walked past me in one of the tunnels below Capitol Hill. I am still amazed by Washington DC: The home of democracy in the Land of the Free.

Nothing I had experienced in my first ten days here, though, or even really in my life, had prepared me for my favorite DC experience so far. Standing in the sweltering heat, jostled by the jubilant crowd in front of the Supreme Court as news of DOMA’s demise exploded through the many supporters of marriage equality. I am so happy for our sometimes misguided, but usually well-meaning country. This decision reaffirms a commitment to equality that I sometimes question, and shows that, even here, you can’t halt progress toward the right thing, you can only delay it. On June 26, the Supreme Court chose to embrace it, and led us by the hand (some of us kicking and screaming) into a, still imperfect, but undeniably better country. I feel so lucky to have been there.

By Melissa Donze, Policy Assistant, AIDS United

On March 26, 2013, I found myself standing near the steps of the Supreme Court. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people had gathered to celebrate and show support for the LGBT community on the day the Supreme Court was to hear oral arguments in the Prop 8 case. That day, I stood, shouted and cheered in support of equality for all.

Exactly three months later, I found myself again at the Supreme Court steps waiting to hear the decisions on DOMA and Prop 8. I’d been nervous for days leading up to this moment. I’d been poring over law blogs and news articles trying desperately to understand the possible decisions that the Supreme Court could make. How could they deny certain rights and privileges to people just because they loved someone of the same gender? For me, this has always been a non-issue. My best friends are gay. Some of my family members and close family friends are gay. Why should they be treated any different than me just because of who they love?

Despite the blistering heat and sweat, when I heard the Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, I got goosebumps. Finally, I thought. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. I thought of my friends and loved ones. This is progress. This is love. This is history. At the end of the day, this is what really matters.

By Liam Cabal, Program Manager, AIDS United

This week, I had the great privilege of standing outside the Supreme Court when they overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. It was incredible to be there when the announcement of the opinion was made. The crowd cheered and clapped; there were tears, hugs, hoots of excitement. I thought back to when DOMA was enacted. I was still struggling with my own sexuality and that piece of legislation convinced me that I would NEVER be able to get married—at least not to someone I truly loved—and NEVER get the recognition from the government that my love equally deserved. It was hopeless. Thankfully, my melodramatic teenage self was wrong and I couldn’t be happier about it.

This huge step affords LGBTQ couples the same government benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Let’s use this excitement and momentum to further address issues of discrimination and stigma. Stigma and homophobia, both external and internal, impact perceptions around HIV transmission and willingness to be tested. Overturning DOMA moves us in the right direction in reducing that stigma. Sure, we have still have a long way to go, but this gives me so much hope.

Now. Then. Now.

AIDSWatch-KhalidNaji-Allah -75-3By Rob Banaszak, Director of Communications, AIDS United

“This is really happening…”

That’s what I was thinking as I stood on the sunsoaked steps of the Supreme Court on June 26, as SCOTUS’ ruling striking down DOMA came down. The air in front of the Court was thick with hope, and I was in awe of the hundreds of people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations (one of my companions was a straight friend), who were utterly committed to standing in mind-numbing, body-drenching heat to be a part of history. I marveled at everyone who was furiously scouring the SCOTUS Blog on their smartphones (dripping with sweat as they did so), or who were eavesdropping on others reading out loud from the blog for news of the decision. I cheered with the crowd when the ruling came out. I must confess, however, that I was a little numb.

Of course I am overjoyed that the Supremes got it right this time! I am thrilled that LGBTQ people are one step closer to being treated as equal citizens under the law. I am excited that the term “gay marriage” is one step closer to being obsolete, as our society begins to recognize “marriage” as the union of two people — regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation — who love each other and want to get married.

But I didn’t cry tears of joy as many of my friends – both gay and straight – did. I felt more relief than anything.

“This is really happening…”

AU at SCOTUS-webYou see that’s also what I was thinking in 1996 when DOMA was created. I worked for the national office of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), during a time when lawsuit in Hawaii, Baehr v. Miike, in which three same-sex couples argued that Hawaii’s prohibition of same-sex marriage violated the state constitution, had caused cultural firestorm and was the impetus for dozens of statutes and constitutional amendments banning same-sex unions at the state level. Baehr v. Miike, and the avalanche of state anti-marriage legislation that followed also led to the enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). At the Congressional hearings held before DOMA was passed, I sat in on the testimony of one of our PFLAG members — a mom from Oklahoma, who simply told her truth. She talked about how precious her lesbian daughter was. She spoke of how she wanted her daughter to be able to marry the person she loved. She proclaimed that she wanted her daughter to have the same rights that her straight children had.

During that hearing, she was vilified by Members of Congress who were pro-DOMA and clearly anti-gay. She was treated as if there were something wrong with her because she supported her daughter. She was addressed by these elected officials with shocking disrespect. I was appalled and sickened. Soon after, DOMA was enacted.

“This is really happening…”

I had moved to DC about two years before experiencing my DOMA disillusionment. Just prior to my move, my husband, who had AIDS, passed away. While we had gotten “married” in the mass wedding demonstration at 1993’s March on Washington, we never would have imagined that we could have gotten legally married in our lifetimes. When his health began a rapid decline, however, I was always allowed to be with him during treatments, in his hospital room, and at his side as he died – as any married spouse would be. When the fight against DOMA began and the gay community compiled stories of couples in long-term relationships that had experienced awful discrimination within that relationship, I knew I had been blessed.

I never really believed that DOMA would be overturned, despite the groundswell of support for same sex marriage that we have been seeing over the last several years. And yet, on June 26, 2013, I was standing in the blazing sun with my community — many of whom were only toddlers when DOMA was enacted – as this cynical and hate-driven legislation came to its end.

Since that day my relief has turned to a quiet elation, along with a cautious optimism about where we are headed and how fast we are getting there. Sooner than I thought it would happen, marriage will be marriage and love will be love. Well, actually, love IS love.

This is really happening.

What’s In YOUR HIV Prevention Toolbox?


Attention U.S. (incl. the territories)-based organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning people!

Did you know that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States?

What can you do to help? 

You can help spread the word about HIV prevention to the young gay and bisexual men that your organizations serve —  and have fun doing it!  Participate in AIDS United’s Facebook video contest, “What’s in YOUR HIV Prevention Toolbox?”  You could win up to $4000!

Work with your U.S. (incl.the territories)-based LGBTQ organization’s staff and/or volunteers to produce a one-minute video that promotes HIV prevention tools and fits the theme, “What’s in your HIV Prevention Toolbox?”  Entry submissions will be accepted via AIDS United’s Facebook page  June 1 – 30, 2013.  The videos from the three organizations with the greatest number of votes at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2013 will  receive up to $4000 as an incentive to begin addressing HIV in their regular work.

The “What’s in Your HIV Prevention Toolbox?” video contest is part of our m2MPower initiative, which seeks to halt the rising rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.  The official contest rules and regulations are below, and if you have questions you can email

What are you waiting for?  Start producing your video now!

Rules and Regulations:

  • Must be 18+ to participate and an authorized representative of a LGBTQ organization.
  • Must submit content via Woobox App and agree to the rules and regulations of the contest.
  • All content must conform to Facebook rules, regulations, and guidelines.
  • The contest will run from June 1 through June 30.
  • Winning organizations will be determined by the number of votes within the Woobox App at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2013 : 1st place $4,000, 2nd place $3000, 3rd place $2000
  • Winning organizations will be contacted via the provided email address in their Woobox contest application.
  • Videos are encouraged to be longer than 1 minute.
  • Entrants must have the rights to distribute and authorize the distribution of any and all content contained within their submissions.
  • By entering the contest, you agree to grant AIDS United the right to promote, share, and redistribute your entry as it sees fit.
  • AIDS United is not liable or responsible for the accuracy, quality, and legality of the content submitted.
  • This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook.

How to Enter:

  1. Read the rules and regulations for the contest above
  2. Visit the CDC’s website for resources on HIV prevention at:
  3. Produce a video, maximum of 1 minute in length, that promotes HIV prevention tools reaching gay and bisexual and other men who have sex with men and fits the theme, “What’s in your HIV prevention toolbox?”
  4. Ensure that your organization has the rights to distribute and authorize the distribution of any and all content contained within your submission and ensure that the content of your video adheres to Facebook’s rules and guidelines.
  5. Submit your video via the Woobox App on the AIDS United Facebook page (available from June 1 to June 30), agreeing to the rules and regulations of the contest and providing your contact information.
  6. Share the link to your video with your friends and fans, encouraging them to vote for the video that best explains HIV prevention tools or that most persuasively encourages use of one’s HIV prevention toolbox.

Sample messages for your video:

•    You can prevent the spread of HIV.
•    Knowing your HIV status helps you take control of your health
•    Taking an HIV test can be simple and easy.
•    If you are negative, use a condom every time.
•    If you are positive and on treatment, you reduce the chance of transmitting HIV by up to 96%
•    Alcohol and drugs cloud judgment and can lead to risky behavior