AIDS Free Pittsburgh and True T Pgh Co-Host HIV Awareness Events
July was way too hot this year, so AIDS Free Pittsburgh brought Too Hot for July: Black AF, the initiative's annual HIV awareness event, to August. This year, Too Hot for July: Black AF was divided into three events over three days, which included a combination of physical and remote components to ensure the safety, health, and wellness of the community while still providing quality, meaningful opportunities for connection.
The first event was a HIV mini-conference, during which healthcare providers shared updates on HIV testing, prevention, and treatment, as well as transgender health care and COVID-19. Community leaders voiced some of their concerns and experiences with racial disparities in health care and housing in the region. The conference ended with a powerful presentation by Jacen Zhu, an adult entertainer and founder of the initiative #TakedownTina, which addresses the dangers of meth use in the Black gay community. Jacen is also known as "Undetectable Man" for PrEP Squad DC, a group of volunteers who promote positive sexual health for men who love and have sex with men.
As the second event, True T Pgh hosted a Queer State of the Union to address the community on components of advocacy, education, empowerment, and entertainment for the consumption of queer people of color and our allies. Speakers and performances addressed topics including Black Trans lives, Queer Black youth advocacy, HIV, and stigma in the Black community. True T Pgh Co-CEO John Easter said the vision to create opportunities for Black Queer people to connect in a safe, virtual space "inspired [True T Pgh and AIDS Free Pittsburgh] to do this whole week of events, because we felt we were creatively attached to something that could make a difference… we want to do virtual things that are meaningful. It made us all more hopeful for what we all do and what's happening."
Too Hot for July: Black AF closed out with a quarantine vogue ball. Four local DJs prerecorded their sets, and the night commenced with a contest consisting of three categories: Best Dressed, Painted Face, and a vogue dance battle judged by local ballroom legends. Due to safety, we were only able to have a few in-person participants, but joy and celebration was felt. Winners took home trophies and cash prizes.
Easter added, "The response we got back about this event has been the best response we have had in a long time, and personally this has been our favorite event we've done since we've been in our space so far, since March of 2019."
Over 6,000 people viewed the events on Facebook and Twitch. Sponsors for the events included True T Pgh, Allies for Health + Wellbeing, Central Outreach Wellness Center, Macedonia FACE, University of Pittsburgh's HIV Treatment and Prevention Research Clinic, and Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.