There was a high level of HIV visibility and awareness at World Pride NYC in June, but probably none quite so visible as the Team Friendly contingent that marched in the parade that day. Mr. Friendly is an international grassroots movement to reduce HIV-related stigma, encourage people to get tested, and improve the quality of life for those living with HIV. “Our mission is to create opportunities to share messages of love and support,” said Dave Watt, creator of Mr. Friendly. “The World Pride parade crowd was receptive to our messages of love—Love Knows No Status, Love is HIV Stigma Free, Love is Love (with a male/female/trans symbol), and more.” Two of the six bright rainbow banners were in Spanish. Even after a long and weary day, hearing “Amor! Amor!” kept the Team Friendly crew motivated to march on and continue posing for pictures knowing they would be shared all over social media.
Stephen Bloodworth, a long-term survivor of HIV for 32 years, told POSITIVELY AWARE, “The Team Friendly message has always resonated with me. Getting the opportunity to walk in the World Pride parade with an amazing group of people only reaffirmed that. Each time the banners were hoisted up to create a message of love in the form of the rainbow I could see in the faces of parade watchers that feeling of love and acceptance, most especially me, someone who lives with HIV every day.”
“Our parade team was as diverse as the people we wanted to reach,” said Watt. “Among us were people living with HIV for many years, some in serodiscordant (poz/neg) relationships, some transgender, Latinx, and African American representation, and people of all ages. Our devoted marchers came from the West Coast, East Coast, Gulf Coast, the Midwest, and we were honored to be international with two Canadians. We gathered together to fight stigma in a creative, uplifting, and friendly way. We feel this picture captures the spirit and energy of our effort!”
Go to MrFriendly.org.