HIV impacts Black people more than any other racial group (followed by Latinx), which is why HIV messaging should be aimed at engaging more Black people, though it often isn’t. But a few organizations have gotten the picture — literally.
AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Chicago PrEP Working Group have developed a campaign specifically for people of color, called PrEP4Love, that uses bold images of starkly contrasting Black and brown bodies, and words written in white paint that focus on PrEP messaging.
With just one pill, taken once a day, pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) lowers one’s chances of contracting HIV by over 99 percent. (There have only been two verifiable cases of transmission between someone with HIV and someone properly using PrEP.) But for years, PrEP use among men had been synonymous with affluent gay white men.
PrEP4Love is hoping to change that by improving awareness of PrEP among those who are most vulnerable to HIV, which include young Black men (especially those who may have sex with men or are in same-gender loving relationships), transgender women of color, and heterosexual Black women.
Often HIV prevention messages revolve around sex and scare tactics — as opposed to being presented as an element of loving relationships. But the men and women pictured in PrEP4Love ads are intimately and tastefully entwined, warmly posed with phrases like “transmit love” and “catch desire” painted on their bodies (one word on either partner). The campaign also earns praise for its intentionality in depicting expressions of intimacy, body diversity, and various gender couplings.
Shot by award-winning photographer, Sandro, PrEP4Love deliberately sets out to highlight intimacy and how PrEP can play a role in developing intimacy within a relationship, while also creating a sex-positive experience for couples. Addressing fear and stigma, PrEP4Love’s tagline is “Love is contractible. Lust is transmittable. Touch is contagious. Catch feelings, not HIV.”
By reinforcing the importance of creating messages that stir emotional and diverse experiences, the campaign is an intentional representation of intimacy among Black bodies without being oversexed in their expressions exhibiting love and presence. Intimacy is presence. Intimacy is connection.
While sexuality should be addressed, humanity must be addressed in totality — and all of its many representations. Ads should aim to deliver more messages that speak to humanity, not just sexuality. An appeal that showcases Black flesh should be intended to celebrate all the diversity and humanity of the Black reality, not exploit it. PrEP4Love does that and does so for an important message: We must not allow HIV to displace the intimacy between people of color and those we love.