Smackdown

Y’all Look! It’s the first world wrestling-style smackdown HIV prevention video

The good people at Thrive Alabama has been working their butts off for years, covering twelve counties in northern Alabama with five free HIV clinics and vans that travel country roads you would never find on your GPS just to fetch clients for appointments and get them home again.

But don’t ever say that the hardworking folks at Thrive, based in Huntsville, don’t have a sense of humor.

Their hilarious new public service announcement is a World Wrestling-style smackdown that pits PrEP & Prevention against HIV & Stigma. This video has everything a campy southerner might imagine: smack talk, ripped sleeves, and macho posturing between the opponents. It’s as if extras from the set of Lucky Logan decided to make an HIV prevention video.

The folks who made this video have their tongues planted in their cheeks more firmly than a wad of chewing tobacco. Who the heck came up with this?

The brains behind the brawny video are Thrive staff members Mark Moore, director of development and marketing, and Jay Hixon, communications specialist.

Related: This daring PrEP video puts the sexy back in HIV prevention

Even though I was born in Montgomery, Alabama, I felt sheepish about telling the team that they have just produced the first redneck PrEP video. They laughed out loud and took it as a compliment.

“We wanted to do something to stand out from the pack,” Mark Moore explained. “There have been sexy PrEP videos, which we loved, but that’s not what we could do in Huntsville, Alabama. I knew I wanted to talk about stigma. If stigma is a fight, who’s fighting it? So I talked to out communications specialist Jay Hixon about it, and he went into his office and shut the door. This is what he came up with.”

“In the south when I was growing up,” Jay Hixon adds, “it was all about Hulk Hogan and WWF wrestlers. I wanted to harken back to that. And it was just plain funny to think of it as a prime time fight.”

Related: The terrifying crystal meth cautionary tale I never told until now

What is striking about the video is that there are no discernible gay men. The video, although campy around the edges, turns other gay-centric PrEP videos upside down while playing with straight stereotypes. “We have a lot of people here who are ‘men who have sex with men’ but who do not identify as gay or just don’t do labels,” Mark said.

The cast of the video includes friends and local theater actors and was produced by the local production company, 4 Mile Post. Fun fact: the actor playing “HIV Prevention” was the first openly gay Navy Seal and lives outside Huntsville. Talk about heroic!

The video’s messages are a bit more conservative than other PrEP videos, urging people on PrEP to continue to use condoms to prevent other sexually transmitted infections. Which is factual, of course, and more in line with what Jay calls “southern sensibilities” than other PrEP messages geared specifically toward people who are barebacking.

There is such a sense of joy in this video, and you can tell they are having some sly fun sending up southern stereotypes. You should really check out Thrive Alabama’s Youtube channel to see more of their work.

Organizations like Thrive Alabama are doing awesome work with very limited resources in lareas of the country that need it most. We’re happy to shine a light on their creativity and energy.

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5 Comments

  • surreal33

    The stigma should direct towards skanks who use Prep as an excuse to engage in unlimited unprotected sex with random partners. Please see the following:
    The sharp rise has prompted the city to invest in a new and provocative marketing campaign encouraging New Yorkers to get tested for STIs (formerly known as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs).

    Stats released Thursday for 2015-2016 showed these increases:

    – Syphilis: 27 percent (total of 1,939 cases in 2016)
    – Gonorrhea: 18 percent for men (19,029 cases in 2016)
    – Chlamydia: 6 percent (total of 66,748 cases in 2016)

    The health department said 94-percent of the syphilis and 3/4 of all gonorrhea cases are among men, particularly men who have sex with other men. But women continue to have the highest rates of chlamydia.
    Prep was intended as an additional tool to prevent HIV not a magic pill to justify irresponsible sexual debauchery. Condoms, home HIV test kits, (Oraquick) prep all go together for HIV and STD prevention.

    • Mark King

      a) These increases in STI’s predated the advent of PrEP, and b) being regularly tested for STI’s (and rare liver function side effects) are part of the PrEP strategy, so it is possible more STI’s are being identified sooner. In any case, PrEP benefits everyone without regard for their sexual habits (skanks are typically people having more sex than you are).

      If I’ve learned anything from 30 years of HIV prevention work, it’s that judgments about the sexual behavior of others only benefits HIV. “Debauchery” also predates PReP — by at least 5,000 years.

    • surreal33

      Mr King where are your receipts (proof) indicating the increase in STI’s predates Prep? My information is from cdc.gov. Mr King your brilliant attempt at subterfuge is problematic.
      It appears to be a ploy to absolve gay men from the mandatory changes in behavior to prevent HIV and other STI’s. To be clear I didn’t suggest gay men should have less sex, just include condoms, home HIV testing, prep. As for judgment, I (and I dare say others) will continue to shame skanks because in 2017 knowingly engaging in reckless unprotected sex in unacceptable! Please note that in the recent past smoking was acceptable anywhere gay men congregated. Now smoking is considered vile, unhealthy, and unacceptable soon so will reckless unprotected sex.

  • Doug

    No exactly an ad that makes a strong impression.

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