|Jack Mackenroth Does It Clean|
I've got a barrel of this, What do I do with it
I do it clean" - "Do It Clean" Echo & The Bunnymen
His latest campaign in the fight against HIV stigma is "The HIV Shower Selfie Challenge" with hashtag #weareALLclean bit.ly/CUREAIDS and it’s going viral and has already been translated into 7 different languages and counting.
It's a sexy, selfie crusade of sorts. You contribute an image of yourself in the shower or bath—and hopefully donating to an amazing cause.
So grab your bar of soap and let's be clean and show that we are all equal regardless of our HIV status!!
MS: You've had HIV for a long time; at what age did you contract it?
JM: I was diagnosed when I was twenty-one, but my sero-conversion happened when I was nineteen or twenty. I've had it my whole adult life.
MS: Does the length of time you've had it inform the way you present yourself as an activist to people? It's not flippant in any way, but you have a sense of humor, also your videos are very friendly and accessible.
JM: Yeah, I've been through enough of shaming and discrimination, all of that BS. Negativity doesn't really work and certainly doesn’t make people feel good. Critics have gotten on my case saying: You're trying to glamorize HIV, or that I’m not taking it seriously enough. Well you know what? I know my truth and fear-based education does not work. What do you tell these kids today? I'm like, listen, you don't want it, above all protect yourself, but try not to live in shame and denial if you do become HIV positive. For EVERYONE the priority is to get educated and get tested because now we have PrEP, which is a great tool against HIV. There is also PEP (like the morning after pill for HIV if you think you have been exposed in the last 48 hours. There's tons of promising information out there, but if were not talking about HIV and the stigma, fear and discrimination are going to keep people from not doing what they need to do to keep themselves and the community healthy.
There are a lot of HIV positive people who reach out to me that are freaking out and I always tell them "You're probably going to be fine, just go to the doctor and get on a treatment that works for you." If you catch HIV early and you take your medication like you are supposed to, statistically you prognosis is excellent. The other good news is we now know that if you do take your meds and your viral load is undetectable, or you are virally suppressed, that you are also not contagious.
MS: Early detection and taking your medication is important. If you do both everything will be fine.
JM: Well I credit my long-term survival to luck and intuition and taking early action. I come from a medical family. My dad was a doctor and my mom was a nurse and we always had a pill for every malady. When I was first diagnosed there was only AZT, which was fairly toxic for many people, but I liked the feeling and empowerment of taking something that might work. Back then a lot of people were waiting and not taking the meds available because they thought they were poison - the doctors recommended that you wait until your T-cells fell below 250 and then you would go on the meds. They now know in retrospect that was a bad idea. When your immune system is that depleted it’s very difficult to rebound. Where as if you catch it quickly and go on effective medication you can expect to live a normal life span.
MS: What your doing is great; it really is designed to make people feel comfortable.
JM: Thanks I appreciate that. I think the HIV community gets enough negative messaging from others. We here things like "Shame on you. You should know better. How can you get HIV at your age? Use a condom!” and I think, "Fuck you!" We haven't done anything you probably haven’t done. I’d like to shake the hand of someone who has used a condom EVERY SINGLE TIME they had ANY kind of sexual contact. Keep your stones to yourself.
MS: There seems to be less of a stigma than there used to be.
JM: I disagree. In some communities/areas I think that may be true, But HIV stigma is alive and well. Often it depends on where you live and whom you are around. It’s very easy to live with HIV in secrecy now. Only visibility changes public opinion. I could never keep it in. It felt like I was in the closet all over again. That's just not me I'm horrible at keeping a personal secret anyway. So I went big and told everyone on national TV when I did it on Project Runway. (laughs) Now I don’t ever have to have that awkward conversation ever again.
JM: I literally just launched Monday - that's why I said OMG I need a break and called you. I'm working with this gay social media app called MOOVZ and they're very big in Asia and Latin America. It's sort of like Twitter meets Facebook though I'm not very good at it yet. It’s fairly new in the US but growing quickly. Their corporate offices are six hours ahead of me, and the other promoter involved is a model actor and singer, Chris Salvatore. He lives in Los Angeles so he is three hours ahead of me, so putting this all together is challenging. A bit of a cluster fuck. Please don’t print that! (laughs).
MS: Yeah I know about those cluster fuck type things. (laughs)
JM: So I had this idea, I thought: why isn't there an ALS ice bucket challenge for HIV? There should be. I've worked in non-profits and HIV activism for a long time and have done different fundraisers; it's really hard to raise money for HIV/AIDS now because nobody sees the urgency anymore. People are not getting sick like they used to and unfortunately that is what really motivated people in the 80s and 90s. I decided to figure out an HIV challenge that was media savvy and celebrities would be like: Another excuse for KK to show her ass, and would possibly have the legs to catch on. I posted my photo at noon on Monday and it's blown up already, my twitter feed is exploding! Queerty, Instinct Magazine, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, FrontiersLA, Towleroad, PinkNewsUK, TheBody.com have all covered it. That's in the first 48 hours so I am hoping that's a good sign.
MS: Taking a shower selfie and using it to fund a cure for HIV is a fun idea! I saw some negative comments already on Queerty about using sex to raise money. Fuck that, there is nothing wrong with it, it sells and it works.
JM: Queerty is notorious for their negative commenters. I don't listen to the negativity unless it is really a constructive suggestion. I just keep trying to out good work. I always wonder what the haters are doing to help their community. Very little I suspect. Unless you are a sex addict and it becomes a problem in your life, having sex is healthy. We all know sex sells. Why not leverage it for a good cause?
MS: Where is the money going that you raise from the HIV Shower Selfie Challenge?
JM: Right now the beneficiary is Housing Works—a New York based agency that combats HIV/AIDS and homelessness but has global influence. I approached—and am still working on getting some larger, global organizations involved, which I think would help the campaign a lot.
So far the fundraising call to action has not really taken off. There are now over 2000 #weareALLclean shower selfies online but less than one percent of those people have actually donated money. And I want to reiterate that 100% of the proceeds go to charity. A commenter on Queerty implied that some of the money was going to line my pockets. That’s insulting and ludicrous. The money goes directly to non-profits. I don’t see a penny. That’s not what this is about. If I wanted to get rich I wouldn’t be working in HIV activism. It’s not a lucrative field.
Regardless if you are male or female, young or old, straight or LGBTQ—please join Jack and thousands of others from around the world and be one of the first to take the HIV Shower Selfie Challenge. And if you don't want to soap up in the shower you can always just donate to show support. I did!
Find out how to participate or donate at the link below:
Find out more about Jack at: http://www.jackmackenroth.com/