Team Friendly Tennessee is our local branch of an organization dedicated to eradicating HIV stigma, through face-to-face activism. Mr Friendly is an international grassroots movement to reduce the stigma of HIV, encourage testing for HIV, and improve the quality of life for those living with HIV in friendly ways. Sometimes it utilizes creative near-nudity to get the message across, as in its stigma model auction.
The group hosts regular events, from beer busts to awareness-raising educational sessions, in the community around Nashville and across the state. They attend nearly every Pride festival in the region. These are all opportunities for the group to display its signature smiley face prominently and spark conversations about HIV, creating opportunities to share and educate.
The group’s fundraising supports these activities, and Team Friendly Tennessee has developed some creative, entertaining, and interactive ways to raise funds, from last month’s “nearly naked” car wash to this month’s Third Annual Friendly Stigma Model Auction, to be held at Stirrup on July 23, 2017.
This event combines the groups activism and education mission, while putting the fun in fundraising. An assembled group of models of all body types will be escorted through a packed crowd at Stirrup. For a modest donation, audience members can write words used to stigmatize people with HIV on the bodies of these models. This exercise raises awareness about how words such as clean, disease free, DDF, neg4neg only, dirty, and tainted are all used to stigmatize those living with HIV.
The models will then be auctioned off, and the highest bidder for each model will have the opportunity to literally wash away the stigma. It’s a truly hands-on exercise in symbolism, and might be a tad exciting for those involved.
As Team Friendly Tennessee leader Stephen Bloodworth said, “The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of those words that add to the stigma of HIV, and how the casual, or intentional, use of these words helps embed that stigma… Stigma is a barrier that discourages people to get tested. This event is meant to be a fun and friendly opportunity to help fight that.”
Last year’s auction, which included an all-you-can-eat barbecue and beer bust, raised nearly $2,000. All money raised at this event helps Team Friendly Tennessee travel across the state and to purchase and distribute merchandise that helps fight stigma in friendly ways. Team Friendly Tennessee is currently working to obtain its 501c3 non-profit status. To get involved contact [email protected]
Photos from last year's event...