By Mark S. King, Oct. 24, 2016.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken the unprecedented step of producing a music video to educate gay men about the many HIV prevention options available to them, and it is foot-stomping fabulous.
The song, “Collect My Love,” was released last year by The Knocks, and it features vocals by the inimitable Alex Newell, the young gender-bending singer who rose to fame by stealing season three of the television series Glee. (His rendition of “Boogie Shoes” on that show is a one-way ticket to my happy place.) The CDC invited Newell to participate in a new music video for the song, and it’s a perfect fit for their outreach to young gay men of color.
In the video, Newell performs the song in a crowded, gay-friendly dance club. The atmosphere is ebullient with diverse gay men making connections, and that’s where HIV prevention messages come in.
In various scenarios, gay couples meeting at the club are shown later, as their relationships develop. There is a condom negotiation, a man shown taking PrEP, and even a character who discloses he is HIV positive and undetectable. The CDC has filled the video with every prevention method available, and they do it in a positive atmosphere. The video was created as part of the “Start Talking. Stop HIV.” campaign that targets gay and bi men, particularly African-Americans and Latinos.
In an interview with Alberto Santana of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Manny Rodriguez, director of the creative team at agency FHI360, both men made clear that solid research was their guide.
“This is an authentic campaign,” Rodriguez said, “with gay men involved in both the campaign staff and creative team. Our goal was to marry CDC research about MSM with something that is accessible and enjoyable to watch.”
“We know that having conversations about HIV can increase the good health outcomes and strengthen relationships,” Santana said. “We also wanted to playfully connect to pop culture. We are putting out accurate information on prevention strategies, and we’re doing it outside the normal means.”
The CDC is known to be exceedingly careful about the messages they deliver, and that makes the video’s content all the more important: it incorporates PrEP and the fact people with HIV can become undetectable, two issues being heavily discussed among the gay community right this minute.
Sure, the world conjured in the CDC video does not reflect all interactions among gay men. But I wholeheartedly support this alternative, aspirational world, where gay men live joyfully and play responsibly. That’s the world I want to live in, and it models great behavior.
And put on your dancing shoes.
Mark S. King is an HIV-positive activist and writer. For more of his work, visit myfabulousdisease.com.