Can Selfies in the Shower Fight HIV Stigma? Lather, Rinse, Snap, Repeat!

If you're looking for HIV's answer to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over US$100 million for the ALS Association, Jack Mackenroth just may have it: the HIV Shower Selfie Challenge. Mackenroth, a famous HIV-positive activist and prior contestant on Project Runway, has partnered with Moovz, a global gay social networking app, to launch the project. Playing to a culture that loves a good selfie, Mackenroth is urging everyone to fight HIV stigma by simply taking a special kind of selfie.

Jack Mackenroth
Jack Mackenroth

"I was inspired by the use of the word 'clean,' especially common in gay culture, to describe oneself as STI/STD free. Indirectly this implies that HIV-positive people are somehow 'dirty,'" says Mackenroth. "I thought a PG or PG-13 shower selfie or Vine video would be a fun way that everyone could easily show their support for finding a cure on social media by using the hashtag #weareALLclean when they post their photo with the link. They then nominate 3 other people to participate and hopefully donate to the project as well."

HIV Shower Selfie Challenge

Encouraged by the amount raised by the ALS Association during its Ice Bucket Challenge, the goal of Mackenroth's selfie campaign is to raise US$1 million to stop the epidemic and help find a cure. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are currently 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV and over 35 million people living with HIV around the world. The campaign will be ongoing indefinitely and all donations received will go to Housing Works, a nonprofit organization fighting on the front lines to end HIV and homelessness in New York and around the world. You can donate here.

HIV Shower Selfie Challenge

"As someone who has been living with HIV for 25 years this is very personal to me," said Mackenroth. He added, "There is current urgency for funding as we have new treatments that maintain viral suppression and render HIV-positive individuals virtually non-transmissible. Those same treatments can be given to HIV-negative individuals and protect them from infection. Essentially we already have the tools to stop the epidemic from spreading. Exciting new research is bringing us closer to a real cure for AIDS every day."

HIV Shower Selfie Challenge

Housing Works' President and CEO Charles King added, "My hope is that this campaign inspires conversation, action and a reinvigorated commitment to end AIDS."

The campaign will launch via Moovz, which has a history of high engagement with successful international LGBT social media campaigns. Mackenroth is no stranger to social campaigns -- or to working with Housing Works. His fundraising campaign for BRAKING AIDS Ride earlier this year raised eyebrows and blood pressures. He has enlisted a few "social media superstars" to get this latest campaign off the ground.

Chris Salvatore
Chris Salvatore

Actor, model, singer and social media maven Chris Salvatore is helping spread the word about the campaign in Los Angeles in collaboration with Moovz, as well. "It's time to erase the stigma and unite as a global community. Regardless of your gender or sexual identity -- no matter what age, color, size or shape you are, you should be a part of this project! Let's all be one loud, united voice in support of awareness, education, treatment and research for a cure," said Salvatore. "And have fun with it. Be funny, sexy or silly. Who doesn't want to see people in the shower soaping up for a good cause?"

"I truly hope this campaign goes viral -- no pun intended," Mackenroth quipped.

The campaign is launching this year just prior to World AIDS Day. The hope is that there will be traction in the following weeks.

Do you want to get involved? Here's how:

  1. Take a selfie or Vine video of yourself in the shower. No explicit nudity, please.
  2. Post your photo now on Moovs and all social media platforms with the caption "Take HIV Shower Selfie Challenge raise $$ for AIDS Cure bit.ly/CUREAIDS #weareALLclean"
  3. Challenge three or more other people to participate!
  4. Donate! Please consider a small donation if you are able. Every penny counts!
  5. On (or before) World AIDS Day, Monday, Dec. 1, please change all your social media profile pix to your shower selfie photo and spread the word!

Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.