Creator and photographer of new HIV awareness campaign, Ryan Colford, shares details about why we should participate
Ryan Colford recently participated in an email interview with imstilljosh about his new HIV Smar+ campaign.
JOSH: Tell me about this new cool HIV Awareness campaign you created.
RC: The short pitch is very simple. We want to educate people about prevention methods like PrEP & PEP. The knowledge of these methods are still way too low even across medical professionals. We also want to educate and create an awareness of people living with HIV and the fact that approximately 2/3 of them suffer from depression as well. Finally we want to fight stigma that is still rampant about being HIV-positive and also stigma and shaming about getting tested. Knowing your status is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and others.
JOSH: How can ppl participate?
RC: People can participate in a number of ways. First, by going to the events and participating in the photo campaign and using their pictures all over social media. Second, by going to the web site and contacting us and letting us know that they want to volunteer either in person at the events or by writing articles and telling their very personal stories that we can feature on the website. Lastly they may have a number of skills they can offer or know of venues and sponsors who would like to help out. All they have to do is reach out to us and let us know.
JOSH: You are a new nonprofit, right? How is this funded and who are the partners? How can people help?
RC: Very brand spanking new! It is so far mostly being funded out of my own pocket as it is a cause I truly believe in. People can donate by going to www.hivsmart.org/give and we encourage any donation as they all add up (and they are tax deductible FYI). As far as partners the organization has a couple of silent partners who are listed to help with legal and accounting. Michael Marielli has been working tightly with me in an Events Coordinator capacity, Rusty McNeely as Director of Marketing and Jeff Hays Owner/CEO of Robido are responsible for the website development and hosting.
JOSH: How is this different from other HIV campaigns?
RC: One of the main differences of this campaign versus others is the focus on creating a real awareness and education about prevention methods PrEP & PEP, HIV and depression (which is largely ignored), along with HIV testing and fighting stigma. Our goals are to bring our messages and campaign physically to every single state in the United States in multiple venues per state along with our online photo campaign to reach as many virtual corners as possible. Personally I’ve already been able to connect people with mental and physical health resources that people didn’t even know existed.
JOSH: Tell me more about you?
RC: This is a tough question just because I’m never sure what people want to know but I’ll try to give a few tidbits lol. To start off I will say that my impetus for starting this non-profit is based on ignorance and fear mongering. In the year 2015 the amount of ignorance still being perpetuated completely angers me and riles me up. The ignorance and lack of true understanding about risk behaviors and how you can actually become infected or transmit the virus to the lack of knowledge still about proper ways to prevent it. The fear mongering that still runs rampant in the gay community and causes people to treat anyone who is HIV positive as a pariah and worth being treated as less than human also just makes my blood boil! On a more personal note, I’m obviously a photographer of many genres from art to fashion and that’s yet another reason for the public photo campaign. I’m not really sure where else to go to answer this to be honest. I don’t think anyone wants to know about my love of music, dark and twisted sense of humor or that I’m a crazy cat lady with 2 rescue cats. LOL.
JOSH: Who is on your dream list to add to the campaign?
RC: Ok at the top of my list is Madonna. Aside from the fact that I’m a huge fan, her staunch support of gay men and those living with HIV and her participation in the campaign would immediately bring so much more attention than I could imagine. Jack Falahee is another. Playing a character storyline that has begun a discussion about PrEP on such a successful TV series would be phenomenal. Kathy Griffin & Whoopi Goldberg. Two comedians who have also shown their support and who I have no doubt understand and feel for those who are also suffering debilitating depression.
JOSH: What are the hashtags you are using?
RC: #HIVsmart #KnowFactsNoMyths #GetEducated #NotAlone #FightStigma
Josh: Any additional information?
RC: Our first event that was held at the Eagle NYC with their full support and promotion (I can’t say enough good things about them!) and guest hosted by Barber Q Mr. Eagle 2016 NYC brought in over 100 people to be shot and 13 people HIV tested by GMHC all within 3 hours. Cacophony Daniels also came by to give a wonderful hand as MC and will be guest host of the next event at the Ritz.
Ritz Bar and Lounge
369 W. 46th Street
January 12, 2016 5 – 8PM
Grand Central Nightclub
1001 N Charles St
January 24, 2016 1-4PM