AIDS Free Pittsburgh Takes to the Streets for Annual Too Hot for July Community Celebration

AIDS Free Pittsburgh’s Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Hazell Azzer takes center stage during THFJ. (Photo courtesy of Chad Isaiah)

Too Hot For July, AIDS Free Pittsburgh's (AFP) annual biomedical awareness event, gathered 1,500 community members on June 1 in block party style to recognize, commemorate, and celebrate the communities affected by HIV and raise awareness about advancements in prevention and care that can end the epidemic.

Established in 2015, AFP is a public health movement to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Allegheny County. AFP is comprised of government agencies, healthcare systems, and community organizations collectively focused on education, outreach, and advocacy work to reach AFP's goals to reduce new HIV infections by 75% and declare Allegheny County AIDS-free. JHF serves as the fiscal agent for AFP.

Organized by True T PGH and AFP, Too Hot For July, held on Hamilton Street in the Larimer and Homewood area, was a spectacle of celebration and solidarity. DreamDoll, a New York-based rapper and musician, gave an electrifying headlining performance. Event hosts included local figures Wadria Taylor, Naheen Binion, and Pissy. Attendees were treated to a street dance party featuring premier Pittsburgh DJs, musical performances, and artists, including Pillz, Auntie Chanel, Huny, Joshua Orange, Manny Dibachi, 412Step, Lexa Terrestrial, and Alumni Theatre Company. The festivities included a vogue dance battle and a twerk-off with cash prizes and trophies, organized and judged by Pittsburgh Ballroom leaders.

The event provided resources and services to the community, including multiple local food trucks, a vendor marketplace that showcased local small businesses, and a health fair with partnering health care and community-based organizations. Free HIV and STD testing, as well as other wellness services, were offered by Allegheny Health Network's Center for Inclusion Health and Allies for Health + Wellbeing. Healthcare professionals and staff from partnering organizations were available to answer questions about HIV prevention, treatment, and more.

JHF staff attend THFJ to support AIDS Free Pittsburgh and take part in the day’s festivities.

While local HIV infections have decreased, there remain health disparities, particularly among Black men who have sex with men and with late diagnoses. This event was a powerful platform to address this public health crisis and emphasized getting tested and participating in preventive care that can end the HIV epidemic.

AIDS Free Pittsburgh's Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Hazell Azzer helped curate part of the programming with participants from a series of combo sexual health and vogue workshops at True T. Their vogue workshops provided participants with a platform to refine their dance skills and discuss sexual health topics by creating a supportive environment and empowering participants to express themselves freely. The workshops fostered a sense of community and instilled a powerful sense of self-confidence in one's health and wellbeing. The group named themselves the Ghey-navy and their vogue performances at the event showcased incredible talent and creativity, captivating the audience.

According to Luis, a student of the workshop, "Hazell is an incredible instructor, their impact must be witnessed firsthand to truly comprehend." Another student, Shy'Ann, reflected on the experience, saying, "Hazell's presence makes me believe in my ability to achieve anything, to embrace any identity, and to embody the essence of greatness."

The event's resounding success was made possible by the collaboration of True T PGH, Klvn Coffee Lab, Spirit, Goodlander Cocktail Brewery, Flyspace Productions, and Honcho. This event was generously supported by Allegheny Singer Research Institute (AHN), UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Allies for Health + Wellbeing, Highmark WholeCare, Pittsburgh Area Center for Treatment, Metro Community Health Center, Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, Prevention Point Pittsburgh, Southwest Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center, The Open Door, University of Pittsburgh Research, Coordinated Care Network, Shepherd Wellness Community, and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

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